Crowdfunded Journalism

The Oldest Oppression


Project Update from Turkey

Project Update from Turkey

Prostitution in Turkey is punishable by two months to four years imprisonment. Brothels are legal and licensed under health laws dealing with sexually transmitted infections. Women need to be registered and acquire an ID card stating the dates of their health checks. It is compulsory for the women to be subjected to regular health checks for sexually transmitted diseases. The police are allowed to check whether the women have been examined properly, but there are no checks on the sex buyers. According to its Health Ministry, Turkey currently has 3,000 licensed women, who work in the 56 state-run brothels. Unlicensed women in prostitution number 100,000 - more than 30 times as many - about half of whom are foreign.

Turkey is one of the top destination countries for women trafficked into prostitution, coming mainly from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Romania, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Bulgaria, and Indonesia.

Being in Turkey and hearing about the prostitution laws made me recall one of my feminist heroes, the abolitionist Josephine Butler.

Born in 1828 into an upper-middle class, liberal family in Northumberland, having learned of the horrors of the slave trade from her parents, Butler became appalled at how women in prostitution were treated. She was also disgusted at the way servant girls were often sexually exploited by the men they worked for, and then left destitute when they got pregnant.

Having helped prostituted women on the streets and in workhouses, Butler began to take those most desperate into her home, eventually raising enough money to establish her own, non-sectarian, "house of rest". Considering prostitution as sexual abuse by men, she wrote: "The degradation of these poor unhappy women is not degradation for them alone; it is a blow to the dignity of every virtuous woman too, it is dishonour done to me, it is the shaming of every woman in every country of the world."

The laws regulating prostitution - then legal - were nothing short of barbaric. The Contagious Diseases Act, passed in 1864, was intended to stop the spread of syphilis in the armed forces. Under these laws, any woman in designated military towns could be forcibly inspected for venereal disease. It was decided that men should not be examined because they would resist. Women believed to be prostitutes could be reported to the authorities, and those found to be infected could be imprisoned for three months in a secure hospital. There were instances of such women, many of whom were not prostitutes, being subsequently forced into the sex trade.

Butler led a campaign to repeal the Act. The law was repealed in 1886. Turkey could do with its own Josephine Butler.

Yesterday I was interviewing local men and women around and about in Fethiye, asking about their knowledge about and opinions of the Turkish sex trade. Today I am meeting some feminist activists, and a British born journalist who has lived here for many years, who has a mass of information about the industry, as well as some great contacts. Tomorrow I will be visiting a project on the beach that raises money to help the victims of male violence. More anon. 

#Turkey, #Josephine Butler, #prostitution, #regulation

Another Update - 5 May 2015

Another Update - 5 May 2015

The above photograph was one I took in the doorway of a mega brothel in Munich, Germany, last month. 

Dear Supporters

First of all, thank you again to all of those who have donated to my project, and a special 'hello' and 'thanks' to those of you who have done so since I last messaged. 

I was due to travel to Atlanta, Georgia this week to attend and speak at an anti-trafficking event, but due to family illness I am no longer able to. However, I intend to be connected to some of the sessions by Skype, and have asked colleages to audio record various sessions. I therefore will be able to update you on the outcomes of this important event. More anon.

On 18 May I will travel to Turkey, where brothel prostitution is legal and regulated. Brothels are also legal. However, many local governments now have a policy of not issuing new registrations, and in some cities, such as Ankara and Bursa, brothels have been demolished by court order.

Whilst in Turkey I will visit the legal brothels as well as speaking to anyone with an opinion about prostitution, which is usually pretty much everyone.

On my return I will be attending the Hay Festival where, on Sunday 24 May, I will be running an academy course on the sex industry 

Then, a few days later I will be travelling to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to speak at a conference on tacking the sex buyers, and to conduct interviews with survivors and other experts. 

I will be providing audio and narrative accounts throughout my travels, and, thanks to your support, can ensure that I am in the right place at the right time to capture this vital information and the rich perspectives on the international sex trade. 

#Atlanta, #Turkey, #sex trade, #travel, #Minnesota, #sex buyers


Hello everyone. Thank for so much for your support, for the donations and many good wishes I have received from you since my project went live. I am currently in Vienna at an academic conference on prostitution. There are at least 200 delegates here and I have found only three, aside from myself, who are critical or concerned about the sex trade at all.

I will be writing a column about my experiences here and will report to you on my research to date very soon.

Best wishes,

Julie Bindel

#Vienna, #prostitution