Offline Reginald Hudlin

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« on: September 05, 2015, 10:42:47 am »
SEPT 052015

Because Nip/Tuck: Colombia is a real thing.

By day, Jenoba S. catches the occasional movie and sometimes recalls how she used to dream of being a doctor. By night — well, you already guessed that part. Several times a week, the curvy 24-year-old shimmies into a suggestive dress, straps on high heels and goes to work at a nondescript brothel in a commercial Bogotá neighborhood.

She has been doing this for three years now and longs for a change — though not from prostitution at the moment. Three months ago, she ponied up $4,000 for breast implants, an investment that she hoped would pay off quickly. And apparently it did — she says she’s already earning roughly five times more than before the surgery. “I feel more confident now, and when I have confidence I make more money,” explains Jenoba, who says the money will help her eventually move to another line of work.

It might not be the first place you’d think of for this, but Colombia is emerging as a plastic-surgery capital of the developing world, where cosmetic work is so popular that even sex workers are lining up for it. Last year, plastic surgeons in the country performed 357,000 procedures — everything from Botox to boob jobs — according to an annual survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That may not sound like a lot, but it amounts to more than seven of every 1,000 people, higher than any other developing nation included in the ISAPS survey. There isn’t much reliable data about cosmetic surgery among Colombian sex workers, although interviews with a half-dozen other prostitutes in brothels in Bogotá and Medellín suggest that breast and buttocks augmentation are increasingly common among those who can afford them. Many see the surgeries as a competitive weapon, one that will give them an edge over rivals by virtue of the bigger-is-better mentality that permeates the machista culture here.

Cosmetic surgery is just part of a larger explosion in medical tourism, in which poorer nations offer relatively inexpensive medical care to bargain hunters from the industrialized world. Nearly 50 million people indulge in medical tourism every year, according to the OECD; there isn’t much data about the demand for cosmetic tourism, although one small online survey by a medical-tourism association estimated that plastic surgery accounted for 38 percent of demand.

Looked at another way, of course, the boom in bustlines is merely the latest instance of the various tortures women have endured throughout history to ensure their economic well-being by pleasing men. Think corsets, like the one Kate Winslet’s character wore in Titanic, or the Chinese custom of foot-binding, which maimed women for centuries until it was banned in 1911. Some women in Renaissance Italy used a poisonous, pupil-dilating extract from the belladonna plant to make themselves look like wide-eyed manga characters — a sign of desirability then and now.

Experts like Lina Triana, president of the Colombian Plastic Surgery Society, say plastic surgery is popular given the country’s open and tropical culture, a place where people, especially women, show off their shapely bodies. Cosmetic work is also relatively inexpensive in Colombia; some surgeons offer packages that include several surgeries, an apartment and a housekeeper who prepares your meals, all for $10,000 — roughly what breast implants alone can cost at high-end U.S. clinics. But unrealistic expectations are common, Triana says: “Some women think their husbands will come back if they get a breast lift. It doesn’t work that way.”

Julieth Restrepo, a Medellín tour guide whose male clients often want to meet girls, says the implant explosion among professional escorts dates back to the days of Pablo Escobar, when narcotraffickers used their vast wealth to sculpt women to their liking, sometimes after plucking them out of the country’s poorer neighborhoods. That enhanced look remains popular among locals, Restrepo says; “the foreigners, not as much.”

While common in Colombia, prostitution remains illegal and can lead to trouble, something a few U.S. Secret Service agents know all too well. It’s a hard life for the women, between the threat of disease and fears that clients might turn violent amid a combustible mix of alcohol and hormones. Surgery, however, can improve the risk-benefit calculation. Jenoba, who grew up in a single-parent home near the Caribbean coast, can now make $500 on a good night at this no-name brothel tucked away above a snack shop, low-lit like a bohemian hostel and heavy with the mingled smells of sweat, cologne and perfume. High-end prostitutes who’ve made a significant investment in their natural assets sometimes make more than $1,000 a day. (Things are very different at the other end of the spectrum, where women who can’t afford surgery earn as little as $40 a day in low-end, and often dangerous, locales.)

Jenoba, who has striking brown eyes and long, straight dark hair, insists she’s doing all right. Sitting in the brothel’s common room — a loungelike area with a TV — she fiddles with the spaghetti straps of her midthigh-length dress as she speaks. It’s not as though she has many options at the moment in a country where the minimum wage sits slightly below $200 a month and unemployment hovers near 9 percent. She says she’d still like to go to college and land a better job, possibly as a civil engineer, and figures the money she saves will help make that happen.

The odds aren’t in her favor, though; a 1998 study of 850 sex workers in nine countries, including Colombia, found that 89 percent of them wanted to leave the profession but couldn’t. “I’d say that’s a conservative estimate today, considering what has happened with the economy around the world,” says Melissa Farley, executive director of Prostitution Research & Education, the California nonprofit that conducted the study. On a recent evening, Jenoba didn’t have much time to think about all that. It was 6 p.m. on a Thursday. She was expecting company.

Offline Battle

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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2019, 05:37:20 am »
Tuesday, February 19th 2019
It’s Legal to Sell Sex in Amsterdam, But Don’t Expect the Same Rights As Other Workers
by Geneva Abdul

(AMSTERDAM) — For decades, Amsterdam’s red-light district has lured millions of tourists, sex workers, and business owners.

Yet the infamous alleys of the De Wallen neighborhood—lined with coffee shops and windows featuring scantily clad sex workers—could soon face a transformation as local government officials strive to implement a new policy, set to increase the number of sex-work permits beyond De Wallen in an attempt to provide sex workers with opportunities elsewhere.

Since legalizing prostitution in 2000, the Netherlands has been increasingly vigilant in combating human trafficking and other forms of criminal activity.

But critics say the current government has failed to tie the sex trade to increased crime.

In 2009, a set of measures intent on preserving the central Amsterdam neighborhood of De Wallen and curbing crime rates resulted in Project 1012—a decadelong urban development plan named after the area’s postal code.

The project notably limited sex work to two streets:

Oude Nieuwstraat and Oudezijds Achterburgwal.

This shut down many coffee shops and 112 sex-worker windows, resulting in a sort of gentrification of the sex trade—pushing many sex workers towards illegal work or abroad to Brussels.

Though the Netherlands has been a global leader in decriminalizing sex work, the stigma surrounding the profession remains.
As the neighborhood revitalization project pushed sex workers further away, it’s often no longer in the interest of many independent workers to be registered under Amsterdam’s Municipal Ordinance, as required by law to be considered legal.

That’s because sex workers often face safety concerns, worries that their line of work might be made public, and fears of losing their homes, children, and other methods of income.

To tackle this problem, the local city council members Alexander Hammelburg of the center-left D66 party and Femke Roosma of the GroenLinks (GreenLeft) party are looking at implementing a new policy to increase the number of permits beyond the red-light district, in hopes of establishing more anonymous hotels, brothels, or “anything different from the standard windows,” equipped with external surveillance and emergency buttons, according to Hammelburg.

But that approach clashes with what many sex workers are increasingly demanding:
the ability to book clients online and work from home.

For many sex workers who have built a community in the area and for whom tourists are clients, the potential changes are seen as an attempt to make up for the window closures, rather than an adjustment to the modern sex industry in the digital age and an effort to grant them similar rights to those enjoyed by other independent workers.

As the development plan came to a close this year, the chasm between Amsterdam’s sex workers and the city council has only widened.

“Sex work is constantly conflated with human trafficking,” said Velvet December, the advocacy coordinator for Proud, a sex worker-led organization based in Amsterdam.

“This, and the dichotomy attached to it for categories of sex workers — the ‘happy hooker’ and the ‘poor victim’—leaves no room for the realities we face and to address the problems we see,” she added.

December, who works for De Stoute Vrouw (The Naughty Woman), the only lesbian escort agency in the country, echoes concerns that have long plagued the sex work industry.

Sex workers are mostly seen as objects of desire or cause for criminal activity, and the industry is blamed for sexualizing women for profit, but in reality their calls for change are no different from those of non-sex workers.

They just want a right to economic and moral autonomy.

Although the Netherlands is often lauded for integrating the sex industry into its labor market, the work itself remains on the periphery of the informal economy, which December said is often referred to as “criminalization through the back door.”

The problem for governments is not just seeking to improve the lives of sex workers but also ensuring that sex workers’ needs and priorities are considered and included in future policies.

Since Femke Halsema became Amsterdam’s first female mayor in July 2018—having previously served as a member of the House of Representatives for GroenLinks and as the party’s parliamentary leader — Proud has been included in more discussions concerning prostitution policy.

However, other sex workers and business owners are concerned they are being blamed for criminal activity and forced out as a result of excessive tourism, as city councilors have considered setting a maximum on the number of people in the area, and restricting or regulating group tours, in response to the city’s increase from 26 million to 34 million tourists from 2013 to 2017.

At a time when online ads for sex work are increasingly taking precedence over walking the streets or renting a window, and with market changes allowing more sex workers to work from home—or in private, anonymous spaces—policymakers are considering increasing the number of permits beyond the red-light district.

But they have yet to consider enabling sex workers to book customers online—a practice currently prohibited for sex workers by a General Municipal Ordinance.

“We want to create extra opportunities outside of the tourist area,” explained Hammelburg, the city council member, suggesting that a transition into the digital sphere would only go so far as taking customers to permitted windows and brothels beyond De Wallen, reducing the tourist crowds in the area.

“You could still say that booking customers online, working from home would be illegal,” he said,

“yet if you would do it from an official sex work space with a permit, it would be legal.”

Offline Battle

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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2019, 05:48:47 am »
Wednesday, 12th June 2019
Bills to Decriminalize Prostitution Are Introduced. Is New York Ready?
by Jesse McKinley

New York took a significant step toward expanding the national conversation about sex and crime when a collection of lawmakers on Monday introduced bills to decriminalize prostitution.

Described as the first decriminalization bills ever in the state, and the most comprehensive decriminalization effort ever initiated in the United States, the bills expand upon recent attempts in several other states and the District of Columbia.

If passed, the bills would allow paid sex between consenting adults — decriminalizing both the buying and the selling of sex, as well as promotion of prostitution — while maintaining prohibitions on trafficking, coercion and sexual abuse of minors.

There is no assurance that the measures will pass anytime soon; the legislative session is scheduled to end next Wednesday, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not endorsed the effort.

The legislation introduced in Albany makes clear that the sponsors view centuries of criminalizing prostitution as failed public policy that has done far more harm than good, driving it “into the shadows in an underground illegal environment where sex workers face increased violence, abuse and exploitation, and are more vulnerable to trafficking.”

The bills would also allow for those convicted of prostitution-related offenses to potentially vacate such convictions.

Such arguments echo those made by some of those who have worked in the sex trade, several of whom expressed satisfaction that their concerns were finally being heard by state politicians.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for 30 years,” said Cecilia Gentili, a transgender woman who did sex work and is now a member of Decrim NY, the coalition behind the decriminalization push in New York.

“We are trying to change the lives of many New Yorkers who have historically been criminalized for using their bodies to survive. And it’s time we change that.”

In some ways, the push to decriminalize came about as a result of last fall’s Democratic wins in the State Legislature.

The bill’s two sponsors in the State Senate were both newly elected in November:

Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, and Senator Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat, whose campaign for office last year included an endorsement of decriminalization.

Ms. Salazar said she had been impressed by how rapidly decriminalization has become more mainstream to discuss, both nationally and in New York, where Democrats unseated eight Republican incumbents in the Senate in November.

“It’s only been in the last several months that this issue got more attention and has gained more popular support,” Ms. Salazar said, adding, however, that “it took years of sex workers fighting, having to face stigma, discrimination and abuse in trying to advocate for their rights.”

The idea has long had a prominent supporter in the Assembly in Albany, where the health committee chairman, Richard N. Gottfried, argued that “trying to stop sex work between consenting adults should not be the business of the criminal justice system.”

“It has not worked in a couple of thousand years,” he said.

“And requiring sex workers to work in an underground, illegal environment, promotes abuse and exploitation.”

Prostitution is legal only in a few counties in Nevada, and few supporters believe any state will soon fully decriminalize prostitution.

Opponents of the decriminalization movement say that efforts such as the one being undertaken in New York are misguided, arguing that full decriminalization will create a demand that encourages underground sex trafficking.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the decriminalization effort, if successful, would effectively set up a new industry and give legitimacy to existing brothels and pimps.

“Pimps would now just be promoters,” she said, adding “you can’t protect the exploited by protecting the exploiters.”

Like some other opponents of full legalization, Ms. Ossorio said she supports a form of partial decriminalization known as the “Nordic model,” which emphasizes the prosecution of people who buy sex, but not the prostitutes themselves.

“It is the wise policy solution,” said Dorchen A. Leidholdt, the director of Sanctuary for Families legal center and a chairwoman of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, saying such modified plan would “shrink demand, shrink the market and shrink the industry.”

Full decriminalization, however, would be a “public-policy disaster for New York” that would “increase the size of this predatory industry,” Ms. Leidholdt said.

“And prostitution is always predatory,” she added.

Mr. Cuomo’s record on liberalizing once-forbidden activities is somewhat uneven:

He has recently backed legalizing marijuana, for example, not long after calling it a “gateway drug.”

He expanded gambling in the state, but has balked at backing mobile sports betting.

And on Tuesday, he said he had not read the decriminalization bill and had no opinion on it yet.

“This is going to be a controversial issue,” said Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

But for activists like Ms. Gentili, after years of waiting to have their issue taken seriously, now is the time to demand action from their lawmakers.

“Are we really progressive or are we not?” asked Ms. Gentili.

“I guess we are about to find out.”