Saturday, March 14, 2015

Last Day: Dana

Our last day in NYC was great! Another day jam-packed with such riveting sessions. The first session I went to was about sex trafficking, something I hadn't yet heard about while here. The panel was all about how to eliminate sex trafficking and prostitution through criminalization. The panelists, which included Ruchira Gupta, all had unique perspectives on what the criminalization should look like. Everyone agreed on the sex trafficking side (it's illegal; arrest and punish the perpetrators), but there were diverse opinions on the prostitution side. Some advocated for a total and utter ban on prostitution while others had a more nuanced perspective. I personally identified with Ruchira's view - criminalize the brothel keepers, the johns, and the pimps, but not the prostitutes. Essentially, the act of selling one's body would not be illegal, but it WOULD be illegal to purchase another person's body. This criminalizes prostitution without criminalizing the women (and men) who sell sex. Ruchira's view is the Swedish model, and a spokesperson for the Swedish government noted that since this model has been in place, prostitution has decreased dramatically. The reasons I think this model makes so much sense are 1) I think women have a fundamental right to their body. While many, if not most, women in sex work might not have chosen that path for themselves, those who do have enough agency to make the decision to engage in sex work should have the right to do so. 2) While I think that women have fundamental rights to their bodies and can thus engage in sex work if they choose, I don't think anyone has the right to purchase another person's body - hence the criminalization of the johns, pimps, etc. 3) A partial decriminalization of prostitution (not criminalizing the prostitutes) protects sex workers from the criminal justice system. I think it is heinous that prostitutes could end up in prison, especially since their line of work wasn't likely something they chose for themselves. Putting them in prison achieves nothing.

The next event I went to was about reproductive health and rights. One of my favorite quotes from this panel was "Poverty is not gender neutral." Poverty affects women so much more, and thus affects their reproductive freedom. Women in poverty are more likely not to have an education, or be pulled from school, and girls without an education are three times more likely to become child brides.

The last session I went to was put on by the Family Research Center - a very conservative anti-abortion group. I wanted to go to see what kind of conversation the other side was having. While I am glad that I went, it was a very difficult and frustrating experience. A woman started out the panel by saying that women don't need access to contraceptives because they can just 'monitor their fertility cycles' to know when their least chance of pregnancy would be and go by that. This statement just seemed so ridiculous, especially in the wake of everything I've learned here at CSW. This woman is assuming that women have enough agency in their lives to determine when they'll have sex. She's assuming that women's husbands will respect their wives when they say, "Sorry honey, we have to wait two more weeks so I can't get pregnant." The FRC woman is assuming that women have enough education and agency to track their cycles .... really??? A poor, rural, uneducated woman living in a mud hut sleeping on the ground who doesn't have running water will be able to track her cycle? There were other absurd statements too, like that most women who have had abortions were forced into it and no woman really wants an abortion. Again ludicrous - women have literally killed themselves when denied access to abortion. Another statement that particularly bothered me was the claim that the government is just yanking women off the streets and aborting their full-term babies... not even sure how I go about addressing that claim since it is so out of touch with reality. I am glad that I went to this however, because it reminded me of how far we have come and how far we have left to go - and that there are people just waiting to roll back any gains we have achieved.

The day was capped with an amazing Les Miserables performance on Broadway - definitely a fantastic end to a fantastic trip. Thank you again to everyone who made this possible - I so appreciated the fellowship and the opportunity to be in New York at the CSW conference. Thanks to Beth and Isabella for taking care of everything while we have been here - we fellows appreciate you both so much and all the hard work you have put in.


  1. I agree with you about prostitution. It really is more about punishing a woman's body. The people who buy bodies for are the problem and I suspect they disregard agency and humanity in more than one aspect of their lives.

  2. Interesting perspectives. It is good to hear from those who have different views than you do. There are plenty of them right here in NC too. There are plenty of good political and social challenges for us to work on right here. Sometimes I wonder "how on earth can anyone believe that?" , and then realize they are probably thinking the same thing about me. I just try to stay science based, and the science in this area of women's health is pretty well established. You know the quote: "Everyone is entitled to determine their own opinions, but they cannot determine their own facts!"