International Whores’ Day – Discrimination remains an issue in Austria

International Whores’ Day, or International Sex Workers’ Day, is June 2nd. This day serves as a reminder of the discrimination and exploitation of prostitutes. Unfortunately, this also exists in Austria.

International Whores’ Day – The start of the whores’ movement 

International Whores‘ Day began in France on June 2, 1975, the day that more than 100 prostitutes occupied the Saint-Nizier church in Lyon. The reason was that prostitutes were increasingly forced to work in secret. As a result, there were increased acts of violence and sometimes even prostitutes were murdered. The strike or occupation is seen as the beginning of the whores‘ movement.

The goal of this movement is to protect prostitutes from exploitation and illegality, but also to help them achieve social and economic equality. Unfortunately, this is still not the case, because prostitutes are often discriminated against. In Austria, for example, it happens that they are turned away from hospitals.

THE SITUATION FOR PROSTITUTES IN AUSTRIA

There are very different views on the subject of prostitution: Some see it without exception as sexualized violence against women, while others see it as regular work.

In Austria, the goal has been to create a comprehensible legal framework for prostitution, as the improvement of the situation for prostitutes through a ban (on purchasing) does not seem likely.

A clear approach to legal prostitution counteracts discrimination and supports the identification of victims of trafficking and violence through counseling and monitoring. Of course, in addition to legal prostitution, there is also an illegal market, the size of which is difficult to estimate. It is assumed that the illegal market in the city is larger than in the countryside and in both cases smaller than the legal market.

The Austrian Prostitute Protection Act came into force on July 1, 2017. Key components include the introduction of a licensing requirement for brothels, a registration requirement, and mandatory health counseling for prostitutes.

Many cornerstones of the Prostitution Act fall within the regulatory competence of the federal government; for example, the validity of contracts. When it comes to the protection of (public) morality, there is state competence in legislation and enforcement.

Since there are significant differences between the federal states, and the enforcement of federal and state regulations is also carried out in different ways, steering and controlling the market, as well as the legally compliant behavior of all parties involved, is challenging. For example, not all federal states have the same minimum age for prostitutes. Therefore, a harmonized legal situation is an important prerequisite for regulating the market.

However, the situation is aggravated by the fact that the cause of prostitution and the exploitation associated with it is often due to a lack of future prospects and alternative income. 90 to 95% of registered prostitutes have a migrant background, which is why language barriers must be taken into account. They also often change their place of work, even between federal states, and are then commonly insufficiently informed about local conditions. Especially because many prostitutes are migrants, it is difficult to imagine an improvement in the situation of prostitutes without changes in society as a whole.

In conclusion, the prostitutes in Lyon on June 2, 1975, pointed out a complex problem that still poses a challenge today and leads to great suffering.

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