Playing into the hands of the underworld

Rosianne Cutajar, Ms Dimplechin, aka Nuxellina, she of Catania hostess fame, wants to decriminalise prostitution. There’s a small but vociferous group of women, and quite a few men, that support her initiative, framing it as “a woman’s choice” and slamming the criminalisation of the sex trade as “fascist and misogynistic”.

Reports yesterday cited the preliminary results of a survey commissioned by the Malta Women’s Lobby and carried out by MISCO looking into the Maltese perception of prostitution. More details of the findings will be announced today, but the reason for the study is telling in itself: concern for the vulnerable people caught up in prostitution and the fear that decriminalisation would spark an increase in sex trafficking.

This is not a worry of Cutajar’s or her crusading army’s: women, these individuals claim, should not be told what to do, and the criminalisation of prostitution means their sacrosanct right to do as they please is being ridden over roughshod by religious nuts, controlling men and jealous women too unattractive to have the “choice” in the first place.

The basement-level quality of their debating style does them no favours, of course, but neither does the dangerous snake oil they’re desperately trying to sell to the Maltese public.

I’m sure there are some women who do it from “choice” – clearly, Ms Dimplechin and her supporters can’t be making it up entirely. However, if you weigh up the odd “hostess” here and the odd “escort” there who really are doing sex work because they like the lifestyle, against the 4.8 million victims trafficked for sex around the world in 2016 alone, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for those clamouring about “choice”.

The UN International Labour Organisation’s study, published in 2017, found that 3.8 million of that total were women and one million were children. Indeed, 99% of the total number were women and girls, most of whom were snatched, conned or seduced into giving up their passports and signing impossible contracts that keep them enslaved to their kidnappers for years.

They’re moved across multiple borders, installed in massage parlours, clubs, illicit brothels, sent out to solicit on the streets, and kept in apartments, some beaten.

massage parlours 2

Whatsapp chats on massage parlours in Malta infiltrated by The Shift.

That is what tolerating prostitution leads to. Each one of those of 4.8 million people sex trafficked in 2016 will have had multiple clients, men who paid to use the bodies of women and children as tools, very likely in full knowledge of what the reality of the situation was.

Interestingly, according to the ILO and a 2016 European Parliament Briefing, a large number of the sex traffickers were themselves women, as many as 30% in the EU, though it was much higher in Eastern European countries.

Cutajar herself is an airhead, a self-obsessed cretin who appears to spend her free time pouting and simpering into her own camera and posting the resultant cringe-making photographs on social media.

But Ms Dimplechin’s much-publicised relationship with Yorgen Fenech, the accused killer of trail-blazing journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a casino boss suspected also of money laundering and corruption, doesn’t fill me with confidence as to the provenance of her determination to force Malta to embrace the sex trade as “just another job”.

The financial rewards for those involved in the sex trade are huge. According to a 2014 ILO study, profits from forced sexual labour were estimated to top $99 billion. That’s profits, not revenue. In Malta, an investigation by The Shift revealed that over €16 million a year is generated out of illicit services offered in brothels thinly veiled as massage parlours. The human cost, though, is unquantifiable and extends far beyond the individual lives ruined by enslavement and exploitation.

We know already that millions of men buy the services these traffickers offer. Each one that does so is another man expressing contempt for women. Each one is a man who has stopped recognising the humanity in the women he uses, and this inevitably and naturally translates to scorn for the humanity in any woman he has dealings with.

massage parlours 3

Whatsapp chats on massage parlours in Malta infiltrated by The Shift.

Malta has become awash with sex clubs, massage rooms and secret brothels staffed with women who are moved from one place to the next, in a bid to stay ahead of the police. The island is becoming known as a sex trafficking hub, with women from all over the world shunted through Malta on their way to whatever temporary destination will become their next prison.

But even before that, we had our own, home-grown underworld sub-culture; families made up of pimp fathers and brothers and prostitute daughters. They live in a world totally divorced from the society most of us consider normal.

For a series of articles I did in the mid-90s, I met a lot of young prostitutes, very young in some cases, who were eager to talk to me about how precarious and frightening their lives were, how miserable and trapped they felt.

Yet when I provided the names of organisations that could help them, they’d shrink back. They could barely read or write, how could they do any kind of vocational course? They were too stupid to learn, they would say, they weren’t bright enough to do anything but what they were forced by their pimps to do.

One of the girls I met was 14 years old. She was in Corradino prison, where she’d been sent by an exasperated judge after having been charged with soliciting so many times, he’d given up on asking her to please be good. Leaving that little girl behind in prison after my time with her was up felt like abandoning my own child to the wolves.

I walked out of that cell feeling like I wanted to grab her hand and run, get her out of there and hide her away somewhere. Yet she too, despite weeping about how she hated her life, felt that she was too sullied, too hateful, to ever be able to have a different, happier life. No amount of reassurance could persuade her that she deserved a better future.

I have yet to meet a single woman who is happy, fulfilled and proud of being a sex worker.

Decriminalising prostitution would be akin to confirming to the men who use such children, and the women they grow up to be, that the female gender is there for their convenience, to use when and as they please, to service them, satisfy them and then be kicked out into the cold.

Prostitution dehumanises women. It takes a grotesque distortion of reason to try to present this as something any healthy, self-respecting woman would choose to do. Those barking voices demanding decriminalisation – along with their pet poodle Ms Dimplechin – are not lobbying out of thin air.

There’s an agenda behind it, and we’d do well to understand what it is. It could be disastrous for those most vulnerable in our society.

Read the results of the survey published showing that the majority do not want prostitution legalised.

                           
                               
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
4 months ago

The government sees it as another niche market for tourism.
A female government member, in an interview by a journalist around 4 years ago, had also justified it as a means to paying for one’s tertiary education when financial means were lacking.
Hotels have embraced it for years. I remember my first call for service as a member of the jury, around 55 years ago. The case was about a woman who got to the Hilton Hotel by taxi, to render the service requested by a guest at the reception, as was normal practice.

viv
viv
4 months ago

‘Pimp My Country’ series 12 – how to transform a Mediterranean island into Bangkok.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
4 months ago

Ms Gatt is, unfortunately, mixing things up.
First prostitution and human sex trafficking. These are related but not interchangeable. Still she makes it sound like decriminalization of prostitution equals or, at least, has a similar effect as decriminalization of human sex trafficking. There is no indication of this being true and a good argument for the opposite can be made because trafficked prostitutes can hardly be expected to go to the police if the first thing that happens is being arrested for prostitution.
Second prohibition and actual use/consumption. There are some unsavory sides to prostitution but, as experience has shown, prostitution is not eliminated or even substantially reduced by prohibition. In this it is very similar to drug use. We are starting to realize that ‘the war on drugs’ has claimed more victims than drug use.
A strong case can be made that the best way to deal with prostitution, as with other ‘social sins’, is legalization or at least decriminalization, coupled with strict regulation.
Emotional reactions to specific horrible situations do not necessarily lead to good policies.

Blanche Gatt
Blanche Gatt
4 months ago

No, I did not mix things up. The decriminalization of anything makes it more socially acceptable, which in turn encourages it to expand. For obvious reasons. And borne out by experiences elsewhere. As the report on the survey mentioned above showed https://theshiftnews.com/2021/06/08/pm-fails-to-meet-womens-lobby-on-survey-that-shows-majority-against-legalising-prostitution/ mine isn’t a “mixed up” opinion, but one shared by women’s lobby groups across Europe.

In addition, your statement that prostitution and sex trafficking are related but not interchangeable is disingenuous. There may be a handful of prostitutes who choose the lifestyle willingly, but most do not. The vast majority are coerced or manipulated into prostitution either close to home, by their families, their boyfriends, their pimps, or kidnapped or tricked by sex traffickers and then enslaved, exploited and abused. This naive idea that the first doesn’t feed the second is dangerous. To women and children especially. If you clicked on the links to the EP briefing in my article, you’d have seen that 53% of all trafficked people are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 97% of those are female.

That’s 53% of 4.8 million, by the way.

And let me explain the inclusion of the “emotional reactions” to specific horrible situations. The girls I spoke to in Malta were not “trafficked” in the literal sense. But they were all totally stripped of any self-esteem or sense of worth. They saw themselves purely through the lenses of those with an interest in keeping them feeling insecure, self-hating, and feeling that they had no way out. These were young girls, like your daughters or mine. Not some separate species, somehow inferior to the rest, as they’d been brought up to believe.

Decriminalisation would simply confirm what they’ve been told by their pimps: no one cares about them.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
4 months ago
Reply to  Blanche Gatt

“The decriminalization of anything makes it more socially acceptable, which in turn encourages it to expand.” Really? Is abortion more wide-spread in the Netherlands for instance than in Malta? Are they smoking more marijuana there? Is there more prostitution and human sex trafficking in European countries where prostitution is legal than in the USA or Malta?
The fact that your opinions are shared by some lobby groups does not make them true. (See doctors for life versus doctors for choice.)
Your statements on why women go into prostitution are unsubstantiated. Personally, I believe that for most it is their least bad option but I cannot substantiate that either.
My statement that prostitution and sex trafficking are related but not interchangeable is nothing but factual. Legalization of one has absolutely no effect on the legal status of the other.
I think that you, having been confronted with the harm prostitution has done to people you know, feel you can make it go away or minimize it by prohibiting it, just like people that are confronted with the harm of drug use. However, that has been shown not to be true. Criminality lives by prohibition. Drug lords fight legalization. The foreign prostitutes in Northern Europe are kept under control because they are in the country illegally. The local ones are free and form unions that fight for their rights.
Your empathy is commendable but does not necessarily lead to good policies.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
4 months ago

Empathy for the down trodden is dead. If St. Paul were to land on these shores today, we would imprison him then give him the most precarious low paid job possible, while dishing out racist abuse and kick him to the curb at the first sign of trouble. Let’s face it, the majority of Maltese have become corrupt, greedy, self-serving, ethical half wits who only care about themselves and their immediate families. To them monetary value is the one and only value. Prostitution, cannabis or senseless construction there’s money to be made, so who cares!

Isle of corruption
Isle of corruption
4 months ago
Reply to  Winston Smith

Excellent, well said and so true

Reality
Reality
4 months ago
Reply to  Winston Smith

Very true unfortunately. But you cannot expect any better when we had the most corrupt pm in Europe managing a den of thieves.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
4 months ago

Decadence and degeneracy are the hallmarks of a sick society. Should legislators foment them or attempt to eradicate them?

The first is simpler – and, in a way, increases the circulation of money in the country. Is this what a sick society needs to be cured?

Richard Slater
Richard Slater
4 months ago

I can’t remember the book, it wasn’t scimitar and sword, but something of the ilk. The Knights before they did the bug move sent a vanguard…the words of the first captain when he saw Malta was ‘ What are the men going to do here, either hunt or whore’. Looks like history does repeat itself helas.

Related Stories

Is Angelo Gafa above the law?
Former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar threw away the rule
Malta’s child cruelty
The United Nations Committee on the rights of the
Support investigative journalism that speaks truth to power.