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.
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.
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.