Funding for EWL anti-prostitution campaign challenged in parliament

Recently I wrote about a man-licking-women video that supposedly depicts a man who does sex for money and feels oppressed by the job. The only sex we are shown, though, is oral, with the man kneeling on a floor between the outspread knees of women on their backs on a bed. The video, part of a campaign by the non-democratic European Women’s Lobby, has provoked interesting comments on my blog, not least from men who say the video’s message is not easy to grasp.

It seems the actual subtext of the video is that older and fat woman are disgusting and undeserving of sexual pleasure. matt

He seems more bored than disgusted. Alex

What the creator of this video did not realize was that clients love to lick women including the mature providers. Pohaku

It is a big boost for a man’s ego if so many women want to have sex with him, even if they are older women. Kris

The depiction of women who are older or a little bit curvy as disgusting? Talk about misogynistic. Erik

Oh, please. A job described as Help Wanted: male to lick anonymous pussies for $xx per hour, supply your own toothpaste and kneepads would have applicants lined up out the door. There would be plenty of candidates if it was a volunteer gig. ewaffle

Okay, bizarre choice of ad. That turned me on. Randy

These are just extracts; go to the comments directly if you are interested. The point is, the video itself, as opposed to the propaganda surrounding it, is open to a myriad of interpretations – some of them quite the opposite of what the EWL intended. Which is good.

The European sex worker rights movement objects to the characterisation of their lives in this way, of course, calling it anti-sex, woman-hating, sexist, discriminatory. But even more importantly, everyone asks how a campaign can be called Together for a Europe Free From Prostitution when several EU member states permit some sorts of sex work and prostitution (see this example from Italy’s Comitato per il Diritti Civili delle Prostitute). The issue is that the EWL receives public money – your taxes – from an EU programme called Progress, established to support financially the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in employment, social affairs and equal opportunities. I first questioned this use of public funds in April, so I am glad to see that the following question was submitted to the European Parliament on 1 July (note the EU’s executive body is called the European Commission):

Can the Commission explain if EU funds have been used directly or indirectly to finance an abolitionist “Campaign to put an end to prostitution in Europe” and “Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution”, promoting a “Europe free from prostitution” and calling on “individuals, national governments and the European Union to take concrete actions”, substantially on the basis of the Swedish model of legislation on the issue and with the aim of abolishing prostitution, which is presented as a form of violence against women? Have notably Progress funds been used for this? If so, can it explain how EU funds can be used to promote a certain legislative model, notably on a matter where Member States have different policies and sensitivities on the matter? If EU funds have been directly or indirectly used, if a campaign is launched to legalize prostitution and sex work or to promote a different legislative model, would the same EU funds be eligible for it? If not, why? Will the Commission request that EU funds are given back, if the campaign is funded without the Commission knowledge?

I edited a couple of words to make the English more understandable to an international audience; see the original form submitted at the bottom of this entry.

The current commissioner for Home Affairs is Cecilia Malmström (Swedish), and although she has not said anything publicly so far about the EWL campaign, she is getting close with recent pronouncements on sexual exploitation of children and modern slavery (where she mentions someone who was forced to have sex with 65-70 men a day, every day during five years, just as though it was the most typical story). I will keep my eye on her, both as an anthropologist of Europe and an anthropologist of Bureaucracy. Speaking of which, here is the original form submitted to parliament.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

6 thoughts on “Funding for EWL anti-prostitution campaign challenged in parliament

  1. Andres Lekanger

    Okay. I am a sexworker activist. But let me take the role of the devils advocate:
    1) there is no law saying an organisation must be built up democraticly. So yes, it might be a source of concerne and ciritque since they depict themself as representing all women in Europe, but hardly an argument against the EWL in itself.
    2) Why shouldn`t the EU fund money for people and organizations wanting to change laws in the EU? Isn`t that what democrazy is about – that everything is changeable?

    As a sexworker activist in Norway, I am glad that my organization is gettign funding allso form the state. So that we can campaign agains the anti-prostitution laws we are against. And I wouldn`t wish anything else for my enemies, as that would fall back on me.

    I don`t raly see the problem?

  2. Laura Agustín

    That’s right, I was using non-democratic as a neutral adjective. No problem, as long as everyone understands. It impedes such understanding seriously to imply that all women are ‘represented’, however, when instead members are carefully selected.

    Democracy is one thing, public funding is another. Everyone can have a group, association, ngo that promotes and lobbies for anything they want, but not with funds that come from public taxes from states in a federation that have different laws. I think you are confusing things by making the in-country comparison.

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