The conference day “Commodity Human” was held at Clarion Post Hotel on Friday. RealStars has had a good collaboration with the hotel for a while and we are happy that Clarion keeps on being open for bigger collaborations. A couple of different participants gathered to shine a light on the question of human trafficking and prostitution in Gothenburg, and the program of the day was filled with different speakers.
During the day we got to know about many different human fates. The organisation Talita, which runs a home for victims of trafficking in Stockholm, talks about women who have been saved from prostitution and that through Talita, have gotten to live a life in peace. Caroline Casco from The Rescue Mission of Gothenburg also told us stories from what she has seen from working against prostitution in Gothenburg. But the important, she says, is to not let the invisible things pass unnoticed.
– It’s about peoples lives, people made from flesh and blood. Not stacks in statistics, she says.
Today, the street prostitution has minimised, and instead we see, amongst other things, people begging. The last couple of years, begging had been discussed frequently, and the reason behind it is clear: we care about having a good “street view”. And what you can’t see, doesn’t disturb us. It’s easy to forget that there are others also living in vulnerability.
– Women who are locked in apartments, being driven around and kept inside hotel rooms. They are hard to find, but that does mean they don’t exist, says Caroline Casco.
“We need to get men to stop buying sex”
The “request”, the problematic word which in many ways suggests that it’s a product somebody is buying, was discussed a lot during the day. Zanna Johansson from the Stockholm police’s prostitution group told us that their main task is to get rid of those who buy themselves access to other peoples sexuality.
– Using the word request sounds so “nice”. It is first and foremost men who wants to buy other peoples bodies, and they are the ones we need to get to.
A common argument that Zanna Johansson often hears is that girls sell sex voluntarily. In newspapers, sometimes girls talk about how they are studying and selling sex on the side to extend their student economy. But a girl like that has Zanna Johansson never met during her time.
– We need to take our Swedish glasses off. These women are extremely exposed, and are being recruited from marginalised groups from poor countries. Often they come from poverty, addiction and have previously been sexually abused. Compulsion of different kinds are the most common reason for them becoming prostitutes. There is no free will.
Few resources against prostitution in Gothenburg.
That we need to work hard to remove those who want to buy sex was something that everyone agreed on. But still, there are only a few organisations who have that as a main task. RealStars is the organisation which clearly has their main focus on working against the request. Many work to help those women who are being forced to become prostitutes, but few pulls are being put on removing the people who are the problem. In Gothenburg the police’s resources has, for the past few years, mostly gone towards working against gang criminality. Today there is no prostitution group, instead the focus is on all kinds of trafficking and smuggling. This means that there isn’t enough time to spend on dealing with the tips they receive about prostitution.
Compared to Stockholm, street prostitution is low in Gothenburg. But online it’s very spread out, even if its hard to know to what extent, since there isn’t enough recourses to make a complete mapping of the activity. Mats Paulsson, a police in the human trafficking group in Gothenburg, talked about how they sometimes succeed in saving women from pimps. It’s a hard reality that’s revealed when they tap calls between the pimps.
– The calls usually start with the pimps being nervous that the woman is going to talk to the police, but most of all they are upset about losing the money. After a few days they have replaced the missing woman with a new one. Women are only being seen as products, and it’s no problem getting a new one.
“It is changeable”
Malin had, during the day, a good talk with the local government commissioner Marina Johansson about, amongst other things, continuing to develop larger collaborations between RealStars and the tourism industry, at least with Göteborg & Co. It is no coincidence that the conference takes place at Clarion Post Hotel: they have in recent times shown their front feet and are willing to keep on developing the collaboration. Earlier they have also hosted a charity even where the money has gone to RealStars.
During Malins lecture she asks the question “do you think Gothenburg should be a model in the work against prostitution”. The audience answered with a chiming “yes”. In spite of the serious theme of the day it’s still a fighting spirit that puts color on the conference. It’s like the last speaker of the day, the Chancellor of Justice, Anna Skarhed put it:
– During today, we have seen that there is a an incredibly strong will to fight against prostitution. And there are many of us. There is hope, and we just need to get more people to commit so that they understand how important this is.
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