Posts Tagged ‘civil scoiety’

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Attempts to legalise prostitution and the effect of human trafficking

March 6, 2013

Well, this entry is likely to get a lot of reading over the coming months – not because of ruminations it contains, but because it will contain those SEO magnetic key words of Ukraine, women, prostitution, sex, escorts and the like.

One look at my blog statistics and it is clear to see that many posts, some years old, are still frequently read because the search engines will bring them to the attention of those seeking fun and frolics, sexual adventures, girlfriends, wives etc from Ukraine – I cannot vet my readership, and to be fair, there will be some historical entries here that may be of some use to those seeking such things.

This entry may or may not fall into that category – but it is not my intention to glorify or undermine the sex industry, whether that which exists within Ukraine or that without that effects Ukraine.  Working with an Odessa NGO that deals with domestic violence, prostitution, human trafficking etc – and having worked for 8 years within the drugs and prostitution agencies in the UK – regardless of whichever side of the “moral line” you sit on regarding the sex industry, the reality is that it exists, has always existed and always will.

The issue for governments, society, NGOs and those employed illegally within that industry, is how to deal with it.

In some nations, prostitution is illegal – it is that simple.  In others it is legal.  In many it sits in a grey area where parts of it are legal and others illegal.  In some nations, a prostitute (or two) can work from a domestic dwelling selling sex and remain within the law.  Three working from that dwelling then makes it a brothel – and thus illegal.  In other nations, brothels are legal, taxed and employees subject to regular medical checks.

Then there are the massage parlours, visiting masseuses, escorts, gentleman’s clubs, entertainment centres et al, which whilst offering services within the law, also infer (correctly) that services outside the law are also available.

All rather complex shades of legal right and wrong – and no degree of legality or otherwise seems to have much effect on those trafficked to nations to enter the sex trade.

As much as I intensely dislike generalisations, it would be fair to say that in Asia most human trafficking has more to do with forced labour than sex.  Across Europe it is the other way around, with more human trafficking aimed towards the sex trade than slave labour.

Ukraine is not only a source of pretty women and children for trafficking into the sex industry, but also a trafficking route of some significants.

It is with interest then, that I note a third attempt is under way within the Czech Republic to legalise prostitution and brothels.

You can understand that through legalisation there is probably not only a significant revenue from taxation to collect, but also some form of inferred additional safety for those currently having to hide what they do from the authorities – not to mention a significant chance to reduce sexually transmitted disease – if handled correctly.

It is unlikely however, to reduce the amount of human trafficking through and from Ukraine to the Czech Republic.  I have yet to see any academic study that has shown a significant reduction in human trafficking to Germany or The Netherlands where prostitution and brothels are legal.  Women are still trafficked there for the sex trade in fairly significant numbers.

Also it has to be said, that more legal places to work as a prostitute outside Ukraine has little effect in the internal trafficking of women to the major cities from the provinces by the criminal elements.

What I have noticed over my (now many) years here, is that more women are working for themselves in Ukraine and are advertising their services for free on social media sites such as VK or Mamba.

For how long that keeps them free from the clutches of criminal underworld, or if indeed this modem operandi keeps them any safer, well, I can find no Ukrainian statistics on the issue – despite working with a Ukrainian NGO of 15 years standing in this arena.  However I do know self-employed prostitutes and escorts who only use these sites to advertise their services – thus there must be some benefit to working this way and avoiding not only the law enforcement agencies but also the criminal underworld – if nothing other than for a little longer than would otherwise be the case.

That said of course, statistics on prostitution where it is illegal, and human trafficking,  is naturally far harder to gauge.  Much has to be based upon guess-work no differently that estimating the size of the black economy in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Czech Republic will, for the third time, try to legalise prostitution very soon, as if there are any semi-reliable statistics for human trafficking relating specifically to the Czech Republic and the sex trade, then if legalisation is successful, it should be possible to note any increase or decrease in trafficking rates as a result.

One hopes that somebody will have the sense to try and assess any such outcomes.

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Stephan Fulle, EaP strategy and civil society

November 30, 2011

These days “civil society” doesn’t really mean “society” at all.  We should be quite honest and state that “civil society” is  defined as NGOs, academics, dissidents and everything else that is not “State” or the “hoy polloy” that constitutes the vast majority of society.

For some reason, established international political institutions in particular, have come to think of “civil society” as representing the “hoy polloy” when their voice is not being recognised by domestic politics, despite “civil society” having no democratic mandate and therefore representative of whom and how many exactly, is sometimes difficult to identify.

It is quite easy to make a case, whether it is a strong case or not, that “civil society” in a great many cases are often no more than lobby groups with narrow interests dressed up something they are not, namely representative of the unheard voice of the masses and acting on their behalf with some form of inferred majority democratic mandate and legitimacy.

Of course there is no problem with engaging with such lobby groups, even those with extremely narrow interests, as they will continue to push domestic governments in those particular areas where the EU has common interest with theirs.  Maybe my dislike for the expression “civil society” is simply based on the fact it is on occasion not civil and often  not representative of much of society either.  Maybe I am being pedantic relating to the label such groups are given, but in politics words and perception matters.

Anyway, Stephan Fulle gave a speech two days ago in Poland to “civil society” from the EaP nations.  Such was the reach of this speech to the “hoy polloy”, that there is no mention of it in the Ukrainian press, despite the fact he didn’t mention Ukraine in a good or bad way other than acknowledging it as an EaP nation!

EU politicians criticising Ukraine are often shown on Ukrainian TV, covered in the press and of course are all over the Internet on Russian and Ukrainian websites.  Ukraine has not got to the point where such things are removed from reaching the masses via State intervention.  Indeed Ukraine is a long way from that point as watching any political debate programme on TV would underline.  Such programmes are live, feisty, attract large national audiences and feature guests from political parties large and small debating with each other, questioned by the press and also by the live audience on occasion.  One could even call it vibrant.

However, returning to Mr Fulle’s speech, whilst he quite rightly identifies Belarus as the current EaP “bad boy” and in particular draws attention to the plight of Ales Byalyatski, again quite rightly, is it not strange in a speech of this kind, he fails to mention Yulia Tymoshenko, particularly as her 51st birthday was the day before and spent in a cell that the EU say she should not be in?

Was she omitted because she is classed as a politician (despite not having held a seat in the RADA for almost 2 years)?  If so then that is fair enough.  She certainly doesn’t qualify as academia or an intellectual, nor NGO or dissident which seems to be the broad definition of “civil society”.  One has to suppose that being the leader of a political party, whilst not being an MP herself, keeps her within the “political class” rather than being a civil activist or just another member of the hoy polloy.

He calls for more talking platforms, promises of another Euro 22 million on top of the last Euro 9 million would seem to once again be building more structures within structures within structures within the EU.  Yet further promises of further funding when yet another internal EU platform is created as well.

All of this whilst he is speaking from an existing platform that managed to gather EaP “civil society” from numerous nations to Poland.  So that platform obviously works!  Why make it more complicated and more costly?  How many platforms does there need to be to engage with “civil society” in any EaP nation?  Do there need to be so many platforms that it becomes deliberately opaque?  How to account fot the Euro millions then?

The EU should be quite relieved that supra-structures are not measured by Transparency International.  One wonders where the EU would sit when their next report is published on 1st December if it did.  Talking of said report, I will be sure to bring you news of Ukraine’s anticipated sliding down the league.

In summary, the EU EaP strategy with regard to “civil society” appears to be delivering a far more complex structure than currently exists and then throwing money at it, in broad terms as highlighted by Mr Fulle.  I suppose that is at least consistent with every other EU policy.

It should be noted that the Ukrainian Tax Code initially outlined by the government was not modified due to Ukrainian political opposition or indeed a formal NGO or civil society group.  Change to the proposed Code came from the biggest Ukrainian demonstration by the public since 2004 (about 10,000 people).

Such demonstrations would suggest that society as a whole has little faith in political opposition, civil society or others (EU) to change matters and that large scale bottom up peaceful protest is the best way for reform.  Fortunately when Ukrainians take to the streets over something they believe in it has been both peaceful and with a narrative that provides alternative solutions.

Great song, wonderful parody, no real alternative solutions or mechanisms for any proposed reforms that are forcefully narrated.  Nevertheless, the link to the video was forwarded by Bianca Jagger and obligingly I will re-post as requested although that does not necessarily infer my personal views on the matter.

Nevertheless, Mr Fulle and civil society should take note that Ukrainian politics takes note of bottom up protest that is A-political by society far more than civil society, regardless of how complex the EU makes any communications systems or the amount of cash the EU throws at civil society.

Maybe civil society should engage the Ukrainian public a lot more actively than it does?  Sitting aloof from the hoy polloy and engaging with Ukrainian and EU politicians alone is no way to garner the support in the numbers necessary to avoid being easily dismissed.  Despite the lack of pointed narrative the Occupy movement manages to convey, they have at least managed to gain support in huge numbers who realise that what they want to be heard is not being heard well enough by the politicians, whatever that is.

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