Why Legalising Prostitution Does NOT Protect Women: Greece Arrests and Publicly Shames HIV+ Prostitutes

I first heard of this case via @AlexpolisTigers. Frankly, it’s exactly why I think “legalising” prostitution is nothing more than a pretence at caring about women and is really just about protecting men’s rights and access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This particular case covers the whole gamut of abuse of women’s bodily autonomy, right to privacy and basic human rights. These 17 women have been accused of “intentionally causing serious bodily harm;” 12 of these women suffered the further indignity of having their names and photographs published on the Greek Police website. What is that if not a disbelief in the basic humanity of women? It is not yet clear that these women even knew they were HIV+ before being arrested. It’s also pretty clear that this “crackdown” on the possible transmission sources due to the increase in HIV infection in Greece is only targeting the “bad”: that would be female prostitutes and IV drug users. Who, precisely, the Athens police think are infecting these women with HIV is clearly open to debate since it’s obviously not the misogynists who believe they are entitled to purchase women’s bodies to abuse. It’s also not in the least bit surprising that the women being arrested are women from Eastern Europe, most of whom will have been victims of sex trafficking [no doubt by the same criminal organisation responsible for the availability of illegal narcotics]. It’s that lovely combination of race, sex and class rearing its head. Again.

I am not sure what we can do to help these particular women but this is precisely why we need to fight against the normalisation and legalisation of prostitution. Legalisation does not “help” the women involved; it does not increase their protection and, frankly, it just ignores the structural inequalities of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, substance misuse and mental health problems that result in women ending up prostitution. After all, prostitution is legal in Greece and these 17 women were all arrested working in “illegal brothels” which far outweigh the number of “legal brothels”. If we gave a shit about these women, we wouldn’t be legalising prostitution. We would be building a real safety net to protect all vulnerable people: like the one the lying, despicable ConDems have just eradicated. 

Prostitution is torture and we need to stop pretending it isn’t.


Some resources on the harm caused by prostitution:

Rebecca Mott: The Men Inside of Me

Not For Sale: Survivors in Revolt Blog

Our Voices Matter Blog

Feminism in London Website

Helena Kennedy: Eve Was Framed’s Women and British Justice [2005, 1992]

Christine Stark & Rebecca Whisnant’s Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography [2004]

Trine Rogg Korsvik & Ane Sto’s The Nordic Approach [2011]

2 thoughts on “Why Legalising Prostitution Does NOT Protect Women: Greece Arrests and Publicly Shames HIV+ Prostitutes”

  1. I shall repeat the words of a Greek commentator, also posted on Mumsnet: “And what happens now? These women were screened for HIV and subsequently arrested. So they have found a handful of women. How many more women now will simply hide away and avoid seeking medical attention for fear of arrest?”

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