My Work With Women in Prostitution
When I mention my profession as a case worker with women in prostitution, all I get are clear question marks on people’s faces. Exclamation marks follow when I mention my regular visits to Hbeish police station in Beirut and my continuous conversations with women detained for prostitution.
Spoken and unspoken questions follow their wondering and surprise.
I write today to answer some of these questions.
I started exploring this topic when I was a teenager seeing women standing by the side of the roads in my area. Back then, I looked at them and wondered what they were waiting for. Later, I realized that they were in prostitution.
Thoughts and questions came on my mind:
What makes a woman reach this situation?
How can she bear being touched by a large number of men?
How can she accept those dirty looks they have on her?
What I found is that what is unbearable is the reality of these women. I discovered the severity of it when I looked deeper in this industry.
Then, I decided to learn about each woman's life, listen to her story and tackle her sufferings. The reality ended up being more difficult than I could imagine. These women are the most marginalized and vulnerable in a society that considers women to be a product and that men are unable to control their sexual desires.
Sex buyers’ requests go beyond having sex with woman. They use her to prove "manhood" and to vent anger. She is used by sex buyers to express their instincts. Listening to the testimonies of women in prostitution, I see how the subject goes beyond sex to become a session of beatings, torture and humiliation.
Just like many people, I wondered sometimes why women remain in prostitution despite all the humiliation, violence and exploitation they suffer from.
But the real issue is more complex than this so ask yourself:
Why are sex buyers mostly men? As if a woman had no sexual desire.
Why are most women in prostitution victims of early marriage or other sexual violence?
Why is their sexual identity broken in advance?
"But she wants that!" they say.
No woman enjoys sitting in a room waiting for a man she knows nothing about but that he’s coming to her with requests she needs to do.
Every time I hear the story of a woman in prostitution, I think that it’s the toughest but then another hits me harder.
I once asked a lady what lead her to prostitution. She answered me with an Arabic proverb that I would never forget meaning: what leads you to the bad is what’s worse.
Even when some women have the opportunity to escape this cycle of exploitation and violence, their image of themselves and in society remains broken!
Scared to come across a sex buyer or to show her legal record, not finding job opportunities, absence of support and many other reasons lead the woman back to prostitution.
Finally, I’d like you to know that studies showed that the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among prostituted women is higher than that among veterans.
These women aren’t only not protected, but also considered guilty in the Lebanese law.
The prostituted woman is a victim. She is the victim of patriarchy, society, laws, and her life circumstances. The victim needs support.
We cannot mention prostitution without mentioning abuse and exploitation. For that I decided to work with women in prostitution and study its effects on them.