Flesh Trade and Structural Violence.

Posted: August 29, 2012 in pOstEd WeEkLY

In Paul Farmer’s piece concerning structural violence, mainly in Haitian peoples, he begins by asking the question “how do we define suffering?” Farmer gives some general agreements of acts that fall under extreme suffering as well as assaults on dignity: painful illness, torture, rape, institutionalized racism and sexism. Acéphie is whom I would like to shed some light upon and bring her story to the relevance of female prostitutes in the Philippines.

Acéphie’s story is very similar to that of many other young women striving for survival. She died in 1991 after struggling with AIDS, her symptoms rapidly devastating following the birth of her first child. Her story, like so many other women of poverished upbringing, sheds a dark light on what women often must do to simply survive. Acéphie contracted AIDS in process of courtship attempting to obtain some type of economic stability. Shortly after her experience with the soldier who (dying one month after ceasing to see Acéphie) transmitted HIV to Acéphie, she became pregnant from another man. This man left her once he learned of her pregnancy. Too often we see women from small villages or states denied sexual health and education/information.

Ratliff in his article of Women As Sex Workers states that:

“Research and intervention programs for AIDS prevention place people within ‘risk groups’ to target specific populations that are believed to be more prone to contract and transmit HIV and other STDs. The ‘sex worker’ is one of these convenient constructions used to label women who exchange sex for money or other material gains.”

Though many women prostitutes in the Philippines willingly exchange sexual acts for money or drugs (and in some cases their freedom) it is nonetheless definable suffering. It is estimated that “nearly 4.8 million adults are living with HIV in Asia, approximately 34 percent of whom are women” (avert.org). The structural violence present, mainly in the Philippines, is that the government and/or state regulated police force is simply enforcing more violence and suffering onto women who already live within their own war. These women of the flesh trade are in a war of psychological distress both present and developing, the diseases contracted and exchanged on a regular basis and moreso the dignity that is lost among many of them. Women arrested serving 2 years in prison for doing what they know is the ‘only’ way to survive economically.

Just some words from the women themselves, check out VJ Movement for more information.

The question is…are these behaviors, these beliefs that selling sex to survive is necessary, the belief that a woman from a small village like Kay needs a man to support her only to give her HIV? What is it that embodies such beliefs into these cultures? What about your culture for that matter—what is the norm of behavior and beliefs in regards to prostitution, moreso, are unfavorable unions by poverty relative to what is “consensual sex” as Farmer states?



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