Home » Gender and Sex » Girls of Paradise - a fake escort website is changing France's sex trade
 
SPEED NEWS

Girls of Paradise - a fake escort website is changing France's sex trade

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 2 October 2016, 20:48 IST

It was a regular day of business for Ines when she ran into the wrong sort of people. Far from paying for sex, as was her trade, they killed her by stabbing her 53 times. And this happened in the relatively safe environment of her own apartment, where she regularly served clients.

Ines' story, though her own, is a shared living nightmare for thousands of prostitutes around the world.

For a profession that is often casually touted as the oldest in the world, the sex trade offers prostitutes almost zero security. And that is precisely the argument used by those who want it to remain illegal.

Also read - Can prostitution be voluntary? A brutal new book says no

However, that argument couldn't be further from reality. Countries like New Zealand and Germany which have licensed brothels, health insurance and employment schemes for sex workers are also the safest locations for them to practise their trade.

Where prostitutes hide

It doesn't help that they are voiceless members of society. Historically taboo, and yet sought after by clients from every strata of society, prostitutes hide between the folds of morally acceptable behavior. A quick search on Google would tell you that all associations for the words 'safety' and 'prostitution' point to the safety of the men seeking them, completely ignoring the safety of sex workers.

The search results fail yet again when dealing with keywords 'best countries for prostitution'. The sex worker is simply the object, s/he doesn't speak, doesn't question, doesn't look for better opportunities, and absolutely doesn't have a voice on the internet.

It is fundamentally flawed to put the onus of sex work on the prostitute alone

Perhaps, therein lies the answer. If the experience of buying sex, ideologically, belongs to the client and not the prostitute, then responsibility for the act must also lie with the client. It is fundamentally flawed to put the onus of sex work on the prostitute and let the clients go scot free in the case of any legal complication.

France has, by shifting the gaze towards the client, managed to curb crimes against sex workers. That they are now responsible for the sex that they've purchased and their conduct during it has established, at the primary level, fear of law, but on a larger scale, social reform.

Also read - Would prostitutes' lives be easier if their trade was legal in India?

Another French revolution

On 6 April this year, France voted for the first national law that penalises clients for prostitution. By making payment for sex illegal France has successfully provided a third alternative to the legalisation of prostitution debate.

Interestingly, this debate was raked up by an advertisement. Or so the advertisers, McCann Paris who collaborated with French NGO Le Mouvement du Nid, claim.

Ines, mentioned earlier in this article, and scores of other women like her who were brutalised and killed on the job, got representation on a fake escort website created by the advertisers.

The website - http://girlsofparadise.sex/ - looks exactly like any escort service seeker's ideal find. However, clicking on the ads for the website would lead the client to gory details of the deaths of the sex workers featured in the ad.

Undeniably hard-hitting and instantly effective, the website opened up the debate for penalising clients of prostitution. The week the ad was launched, over 600 calls and thousands of chat messages were received by the 'escort website'. Each of these clients were informed about the death of the escort they were seeking.Also read - Policy to de-criminalise sex trade approved by Amnesty International

In a recent interview to National Public Radio (NPR), McCann Paris Executive Creative Director Riccardo Fregoso spoke about the two kinds of (very telling) reactions they received from these callers.

"Most of them were surprised, scandalized and just wanted to end the conversation," he said, adding, "But then we have two very important minorities."

"Most of them were surprised, scandalized and just wanted to end the conversation."

"One minority of reactions is violent, reaction [is] aggressive. Or also, like, making jokes. A person answering that if the prostitute was at the hospital, maybe her friend was available.

"And there is another minority that is showing compassion, showing interest for the story."

Fregoso's observation, if anything, proves the need for such a campaign to be carried out everywhere. That there are men, even after hearing or watching disturbing details about how the woman they wanted to have sex with were killed, want to pursue another immediately ishorrifying to say the least. Furthermore, their statements solidify the argument in favour of this law.

What's phenomenal here though is that an ad campaign, not only pushed for a successful change in the law, but that the effects are showing just six short months later.

First published: 2 October 2016, 20:48 IST
 
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.

PREVIOUS STORY
NEXT STORY