Prostitution isn’t illegal in Belgium, but everything around it, soliciting, advertising sex and running a bordello, is. This means that those involved in the sex industry all live in a form of “legal limbo”. In most local authorities prostitution is tolerated, but there is no legal framework to protect sex workers. Prof Magaly Rodriguez Garcia believes this should urgently be addressed. She is no fan of plans to ban prostitution as it would only go underground and sex workers would be even worse off. She sees prostitution as a form of work and doesn’t believe it will ever disappear in our capitalist society, but insists the state has a job to protect prostitutes.
Prostitution is usually depicted as no more than a source of misery, but this is an attitude the professor won’t have any truck with. Magaly Rodriguez Garcia’s research of the sex industry is based on oral sources, accounts provided by people in the sex industry. In interviews with prostitutes talking about their clients she discovered an awful lot of tenderness, affection, friendship and even love. Many prostitutes say their clients only wish to talk. They are not there for the sex but long for affection and an end to their loneliness.
Magaly Rodriguez Garcia doesn’t believe that the usual image of prostitutes portrayed only as victims is correct either. The professor says prostitutes correspond to many profiles and a street prostitute isn’t the same as a top level escort. Often it’s suggested women are forced into prostitution. Magaly Rodriguez Garcia notes that for many it’s a very conscious decision. Many women, men and transgenders chose a life of prostitution. Male participation in the sex industry is often ignored and male prostitutes are usually represented in a more positive light than women: they are gigolos, independent men.
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