αναδημοσίευση από feminismandthelaw
– The case of HIV-infected prostitutes in Athens.
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, school of law.
In conditions of severe economic crisis such as the one greek society is experiencing during the last 3 years, social tension and antagonism tend to sharpen, quite obviously revealing, how all forms of violence are being created and reproduced. Under these conditions, intensified gender-based violence, that permeates social relations of gendered subjects, would inevitably occur.
This essay deals with the role of the greek media in maintaining and intensifying this kind of violence through the constitution of gender identity and the reproduction of gender roles. I use as example the media coverage of the existence of HIV-positive prostitutes in Athens, on May 2012.
At first, I attempt a description of the historical and social context in which the news aired and I thoroughly delineate the sequence of events as presented by the greek media. Furthermore, I use the text analysis as a tool, as it is being understood in the context of post structuralist thought. I specifically present a general overview of the mass media headings of this period of time and I analyze an article from a nationwide circulation newspaper.
Moreover, I comment on the way public health was used as a tool to demonize certain behaviors and characteristics and I proceed by focusing on how the mass media represented identities as woman/ mother, woman/ wife, woman/ sex worker, woman/ immigrant on one side, and man/ straight /white/ middle class/ sex client/ family man, on the other.
By using these tools, I prove that gender and gendered subject is not a natural condition, but a result of violent cultural production. The identities of men and women (and the roles that they entail), as experienced in competitive relations, are a result of social actions, reactions and interactions. The role of the media is crucial in this process, as they express the dominant discourse, reproduce gender roles, construct gendered subjects and abjects, design human and non human zones, as well as bound and fence gender relations and bodies, thus eventually managing to control them.
Description of the historical and social conditions
In the spring of 2012 greek society is going through one of the most critical phases of its modern political and economic history. The developments in politics are overwhelming. A government of national unity, as was called the collaboration of three parliamentary parties, is created, with a view to preventing Greece’s bankruptcy and exit from the euro zone. The prime minister and leader of PASOK (Party in government for the last 3 years) G. Papandreou resigns. L.Papadimos, a banker, assumes the premiership. The adoption of a series of painful economic measures is completed initiating an economic stranglehold solubility. The rapid increase in unemployment and the simultaneous sharp fall in living standards, the overpopulated demonstrations in Athens and in all greek cities and the upcoming elections, were the major issues the greek media delt with in early spring 2012. The following are some indicative headlines of the last few days of April: 展hat will I do on 7 May? – a debate with 10 political leaders 鍍he 6th of May polls and the difficult days of bipartisanship”1, 典he Poll of rage in what way and who are the ones forming a government?”2 ,廃anic from the gallops-the rage is growing seven days before the elections”3都cenarios of the next day – the possible government schemes and the possibility of a renewed appeal to the polls
The government, essentially losing control in terms of social and economic policy, focuses now on combating an internal enemy and claiming the confidence of the citizens through the enforcement of a security that, in any case, does not equally keep up with the freedom that the western welfare state was accustomed to providing. We therefore observe a change in the deposition of the political weight from an economic policy to preserving the legitimacy and public safety. The doctrine of zero tolerance seems to apply in immigrants without documents as its first goal and the HIV-positive prostitutes afterwards. We observe thus the effort of the state to resurrect its lost credibility in the body of the voters by using as a weapon the repression against marginalized parts, which, lacking in links with the national body, are easily targeted and turned into scapegoats for the imputence of all the malaise that afflict large sections of the society.
Amid all this maelstrom of developments and a massive popular disappointment with the political establishment, the news of the existence of HIV-positive prostitutes in Athens makes its appearance in the greek media. The news has come to follow the announcement of the creation of detention centers for immigrants without papers and the police project “cleaner” in the almost ironical name “Xenios Zeus”, ie Hospitable Zeus (reference to the ancient god Zeus patron of hospitality). That is to say, that in a condition of intension of the capitalist crisis class, race and gender interact and create a a multilevel grid divider.
The status of prostitution in modern Greece and its connection with the identity of the immigrant woman.
Before we start the analysis of this specific news as well as its presentation from the greek media, we must first make a social and historical analysis of the phenomenon of prostitution in Greece and the close connection that was developed approximately in the last 30 years between prostitution and the phenomenon of migration.
Greece consists the geographical borders of Europe and the countries of Asia, Africa, the former USSR and the Balkans. This geographical location has played a pivotal role in the influx of thousands of immigrants men and women who are trying to spread to other European countries. Since the 90′s and as the former USSR collapses, the first emigration waves make their appearance in Greece.4 Male and female immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and especially Albania cross the borders and arrive in Greece, a country at the time in conditions of prosperity and development, in the search of a better future5. However, while the male immigrants are absorbed into traditional manual labor sectors (construction and farming sector), female immigrants appear to have mainly two professional perspectives: either that of housework and childcare, mostly taking care of the elderly, either that of manning the sex industry.
Around this last sector there is built a highly profitable trade of “white slavery.” Women from these countries either tricked by the promise of a job in Greece, or by force (sometimes originating from their own families) leave their home countries and become commodities of exploitation by an organized slave circuit.6 However, many similarities as well as many differences occur between those waves of immigration from countries in Africa and Asia that appeared after 2000. In this period and especially after the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, Greece gradually begins to lose its comparative advantage in economic terms and becomes a country that is just necessary to be crossed to reach the north European countries. Thus, the immigrants from these countries are now confronted with many more difficulties associated with the economic conditions in one hand, but also with the extreme racism because of their race, color and religion. In these last immigration flows, migrant women come mainly from the countries of Africa, particularly from Nigeria. As these women owe their transporation to the slave circuit that carried it out illegaly, as soon as they arrive in the country they are forced into prostitution so as to repay their debt but also to get by, sinceZoi they own no legal documents and thus have no other options for a different profession. These women exercise prostitution in even more underrated conditions mainly on the street and adress to the lower economic strata which encapsulate men immigrants too. Therefore, in the case of the immigrant women who are prostitutes, class, gender and race compose an underrated workforce, which experiences conditions of forced labor, consists of a highly profitable product (the annual turnover of the forced prostitution circuit is 52 billion euros worldwide and 1.1 billion euros only in Greece)7,8 and lives invisible in the margines of the social context.
This condition has formed the greek society’s response to forced prostitution in two ways. In one hand it is faced as a phenomenon that does not concern them, as it only affects immigrant women, with which, as mentioned above, there are few if not at all communication channels, and on the other hand, from the poin of view of the customers it is concerned as a way of a cheaper and of a wider variety sex consumption (younger, more beautiful and tolerant girls).
The text analysis, as expressed through the media, as an analysis tool
Next I will deal with the way the media presented the HIV-infected prostitutes as an abject, a term introduced by Kristeva, which refers to something beyond the subject, to a person who does not amass all those characteristics that in contemporary postmodernity compose an individuality, a social subject of rights and freedoms recognized and treated by the others as such, an execrable person, unwanted, beyond the scope of the social logic and order and who finds himself automatically in the margins of the society. The abject concurs in Kristeva’s speculation with the defilement and is contrasted with the sacred. In this specific case, the infected, sick, dangerous, flagitious women, had to be extinguished so as clearance automatically to show up and sacredness to be established. However, in this particular news, apart from the construction of the abject, we also locate the presentation of the identity of the male / customer / middle-class / white / heterosexual / family man but also the construction of the identity of the woman / mother and the woman / spouse either through the implication of their existence through an implicit contradistinction or, some other times, through the clear presentation of these roles too, which seem rather odd to be mentioned in these particular news, still mentioning them is necessary for the construction of social divisions and the devaluation of the body. As an analysis tool I shall use the text analysis, and specifically an article from a newspaper of a nationwide circulation in Greece which deals with the specific matter. The text analysis though will be used in all its expressions, just like it is used by the poststructuralist approach, that is to say not only as words, but also as a way.of expression, as images, as silence.
But before I go ahead with the analysis of the text, I shall make a general reference to the presentation of the news from the print and electronic media, as well as from the television bulletins. I shall list the titles of the articles and the reportages and some of their main points as they were presented since the detection of the first HIV-infected prostitutes up to their referral by the prosecutor to trial and the sudden silence of the media immediately right afterwrds. In the 5th of May it appears in the greek media the news of the detection of a HIV-infected prostitute from Rusia. 9 Her face as well as her personal data are made public by the greek police with a view to protect the public. Right away, KEELPNΟ‘s (Centre of Control and Disease Prevention) telephone numbers make their appearance in every television bulletin, so as the customers of the prostitute would adress to it. Within the next days, echelons of doctors of the KEELPNO accompanied by the police make restrictive controls to prostitutes in the center of Athens.10 Also, within the next days 2 more prostitutes are found positive for HIV and their personal data are also made public along with their photos. Those women are drug addicts and some of them homeless. The panic, to an extent through the presentation of the news, rises. According to the media, thousands of men/customers had called since they were concerned for their health. Those women are arrested and the prosecutor is charging them with the charge of the intended severe injury, as he regards that althought they were aware of their being HIV-infected, they voluntarily had sex without using a condom and intended to expand the virus. In the meantime, solidarity actions for these women begin from organizations of HIV-infected people, organizations for the human rights, left parties and radical groups as well as from feminist organizations.11A controversy takes place in the public discourse, which, in most cases, remains at the level of the protection of the personal data and does not go further in analysing the attack to this specific part of the society and the reasons explaining this attack. As time goes by and the election day is getting closer, the media are starting to hush the issue up. The elections, their results and the reaction inside and outside the country are starting to cover the former hot issue. The emergency state that was raised around the threat to the public health is replaced by the agony of anarchy prevailing in the country and the inability of the political parties to cooperate so as to form a government. Six months later, the issue of the HIV-infected prostitutes reappears in the media, this time due to their acquitall from the charges and their liberation from prison as well as due to the deletion of their photos from the greek police’s formal site.12Some articles are published in the newspapers, but this time in a completely different style, far from proclaiming anxiety and fear, they focus mostly on the treatment of the HIV-infectedTwomen from the state, passing by (but not entirely) the role they themselves played in the pillory and the effort that was made to control and destroy these women13.
The following article was published in May 2nd 2012 in the newspaper Kathimerini. This newspaper is one of the most popular ones in the greek public (3d in sales in the Sunday edition) being in circulation since 1919. Politically it expresses the centre-right and the bourgeois part of the society. Her standpoind since the begining of the century had been against the refugees and for the king. Her main columnists also belong to the right and expressed mostly neoliberal views.14
12 HIV-infected prostitutes
Apart from the 22 years old Russian girl 11 more have been located exercising prostitution in oudoor spaces 15
A nightmare for the public health is revealed by health controls to illegal prostitutes in the centre of Athens. The prostitutes that have been found positive to HIV in the last 24 hours amount to 12, a fact that corroborates the estimates of the specialists that the rapid increase in cases of HIV infections that has been recorded is primarily due to illegal prostitution. Apart from the 22 years old Russian girl that was found positive in HIV after a dash by the greek police and the KEELPNO in a brothel in the street of Axarnwn & Fokaias 22 B, the day before yesterday 11 more HIV-infected women that were exercising prostitution in outdoor spaces in the centre of Athens (their names and photos are available in the site http://www.hellenicpolice.gr). As was mentioned in 適by the chief executive of KEELPNO, mr. Theodoros Papadimitiou, 鍍here was a total control of 96 women, mostly Greek ones, since the foreigners largely managed to escape the operation of the police, in the centre of Athens. This means that the rate of the HIV-infected women in this population group exceeds by far the 10% After the notification of the 22 years old Russian girl’s case, about 1000 people that had sexually contacted her, under the fear that they had been exposed to the virus, called the line about the HIV and the KEELPNO so as to get directions. 60% of them had been recommended to adress to the Units for Special Infections for investigation. 3 people that had sexually contacted the Russian woman the last 72 hours before her arrestment are already receiving antiretroviral therapy so as to avoid the illess. The prosecutor exercised prosecution against the 12 women, with the charge of intended severe injury in violation of the law about illegal prostitution. They took time to apologize in Friday to the regular interrogator.
The leadership of the Ministry of Health had warned since last summer for the risk of the expansion of AIDS due to illegal prostitution. Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, talking in NET RADIO, reiterated that the phenomenon escaped from the “ghetto of illegal aliens in Athens” and becomes now a problem of the Greek society. He noted that apart from the responsibility of the prostitutes there occurs the responsibility of the citizens too, who, while listening to the warnings, insisted on unprotected intercourse with illegal prostitutes paying them even higher prices for that reason.
“The society’s responsibility lies in diagnosing as many cases as possible. But the population especially the maleone has to take responsibility for their actions when they chose improper ones noted in 適 the chairwoman of the KEELPNO, ms Tzeni Kremastinou. As she emphasized, the ways of precaution are either using a condom during sexual intercourse or being in a faithful monogamous relationship.
The controls continue
The KEELPNO’s controls which after the recent healthcare provision become binding and are carried out with the assistance of the Hellenic Police continue. The contact numbers, for the citizens who have had unprotected intercourse with prostitutions, are 210-72.22.222 (telephone line for HIV) and 210-52.12.054 (KEELPNO).
Public health as a tool of demonization and manipulation
Penny Poulantza’s article starts with a word full of intensity: nightmare. The existence of HIV-infected prostitutes consists a nightmare for public health. Since the first sentence of the article, a wave of fear is difussed to the reader along with a necessity for vigilance. Public health is striked, a precious good which affects society as a total and is capable of creating conditions of panic and a general sense of emergency. The particular reference to public health is all but random. Precisely because of health’s priority and its direct connection to the mortality of the human being, any strike and any possible threat of it widely modulates and emergency state. Many other rights and freedoms may be razed in the name of the protection of the public health. The urgency of coping with the problem is obvious. We shall do anything to deal with a common nightmare which threatens us all. However, apart from the nature of emergency, public health plays one more significant role: it appears as a tool of demonizating and criminalizating attitudes and whole social parts that present certain characteristics which, in conditions of a crisis, the state has no other way to manage. Due to its universal resonance, and at the same time due to its scientific dimension (with information and data that are widely unknown to the public and thus it shows by necessity confidence in the medical professional staff) public health consists an effective tool for manipulation and repression. The ones who are entitled to enjoy the pubic good of health must unite against those who threaten them.
As it continues the article reproduces the statements made by doctors of KEELPNO for the ramaticincrease of the HIV infection cases, an icrease which is due to illegal prostitution. The article quotes new evidence concerning the detection of a total of 12 HIV-infected women, as well as a more general picture about HIV-infected people in prostitution, but also a brief description of operational plan of the police to detect the dangerous women. This dangerousness is one of these women’s characteristic that runs throughout the whole article. As it is mentioned in the article 滴ealth Minister Andreas Loverdos, talking in NET RADIO, reiterated that the phenomenon escaped from the “ghetto of illegal aliens in Athens” and becomes now a problem of the Greek society Two identities are ipso facto constructed that are confronted and the one has to extinguish the other so as to survive. On the one hand it is greek society, and on the other hand the ghettos of the illegal immigrants. But who are those consisting the greek society? Who are all these people who are endangered? Who are the ones that the Health Minister integrates in the greek society and the ones he exiles in the ghettos of the illegal immigrants? As we can see it is not every man and woman that can fit in the greek society. Greek society only consists of those subjects that the state chooses to converse. It consists of subjects who have rights and bodies of specific identities and characteristics. They are the greek family men and women. It is the man customer of the prostitutes, the wife/the partner/ the mother of this costumer and the children of this customer. These subjects consist the official core of the greek society and have to be protected. On the other side there are the ghettos of the illegal immigrants. All the HIV-infected women were presented with the identity of the illegal immigrant although the 10 out of the 12 of them were greek citizens. Thus we see the way this identity is used to describe not only people who have a foreign citizenship and who stay in Greece without legal documents, but also every man and woman who does not have the characteristics demanded by the state so as to be treated as a citizen. The identity of the illegal immigrant comes to characterize all the dangerous 登thers and in this case the HIV-infected prostitutes. The divisions that are created work on multiple levels. On one hand, the constitution of the male identity and on the other hand, women are automatically separated to the flagitious foreign prostitutes on one side and the onorablegreek wifes and mothers on the other. Even though there is no reference at all to the second ones, we feel as their existence is constantly implied.
Via the male identity’s presentation we can see the reproduction of a series of specific characteristics that compose the subject man and construct the socially accepted gendered subject. This man is heterosexual, of middle-classed roots, greek and white. For this subject the consumption of sexual services consists an activity that completes his sexuality but also builts his gendered identity. Intercourse with prostitutes consists in this way an expression of masculinity, it consists an attitude that is not only accepted by the social environment but at the same time it imparts to man as a subject a sexuality of a certain type that is indispensable for the reproduction of his role. This sexuality includes the consumption of sexual commodity, intercourse with no emotional involvement, sex only with a person of the oposite gender, the pursuit of sexual encounters in terms of absolute sovereignty, payment as a means to achieve erotic pleasure, treatment of a woman’s body as an object, the expression of repressed sexual practices only in conditions of commercial transactions. But what are the reasons that, in conditions of sexual liberation, as they appear, there occurs the need to search for payed intercourse? The only answer that we could give is that probably sexual relationships are not as liberated as we would like to believe. Throwing on prostitutes fullfills the need of the culturally constructed male to be dominant in his sexual life. On one hand there are women’s demands who have got away from domesticity and dependence from men, at least at a point, and who are now vindicating equal sexual pleasure and can choose their sexual partners, as well as prudery that still characterizes a large part of the greek society and concerns types of sexuality that are accepted and those that are not, and also the sacredness of the family, all these creating sexually oppressed men who ask for the free expression of their sexuality on bodies and women that have no options, no right to disagree and that will turn into what the dominant male desires if they offer the right price. In that way resorting to prostitution consists a mechanism of constructing the gendered self and of reproducting certain roles of the power and domination concering the gender. For that reason, both the treatment of the male customer from the part of the greek society and the state and his presentation by the media have no condemnatory traits. These men visited brothels or found prostitutes on the streets, and althought they knew that the vast majority of these women are trafficking victims or drug addicts that are obliged to be in that position, althought the signs of the compulsion or the drug addiction were conspicuous on their bodies, that did not stop them from intercoursing with these women. This practice does not cause some kind of reaction though, since it is in complete consistency with the necessity of the performativity of the gender in certain ways even during the sexual act. Complete dominance over a forced body, an action that differs little from rape, is necessary for the conservation of both the gendered roles and the social status quo. This explains the treatment of the customers also from the part of the Minister of Health and the representative of the KEELPNO as well as their presentation in the article, as, althought it seems that they attribute responsibilities to the customers, we get more the impression that they scold a naughty child caught red-handed on making a mess that because of his age does not result in consequences. If we replace age with gender, I believe that we do have the right picture explaining this specific treatment of the male customers. The sex market is for the customers an accepted activity with it’s only limit to be the danger it might cause to the greek family and the greek society. Besides, this is the reason why men were treated like personalities, subjects, citizens without suffering any kind of pillory, because their behavior has been in complete harmony with their gender.
The female/wife/partner and the female/prostitute/immigrant
The example of the presentantion of these two roles makes it obvious how difficult it is to determine the term female. The HIV-infected prostitutes may have the same biological sex as the women/wives/partners, however their experiences and the parameters that define them are so different that it would be impossible to imagine them constituing and finding channels of communication based on their common female identity. This example, that can also be applied to other comparisons between females, proves us that the gendered identity and the term of the female have too fluid and multiple characteristics and there is no way this identity could consist a common space of understanding and solidarity, in which it could be contained a total of subjects.16, 17, 18
The example of the presentation of the news for the existence of HIV-infected prostitutes is in my view indicative of the way in which the media constitute identities and reproduct gendered roles. As we saw in the description of the total presentation of the issue in the public discourse, and especially from the article of the newspaper Kathimerini, the role of the media is decisive. On one hand, they created an atmosphere of panic and an emergency situation, so as the manipulation of certain social parts to be easier and the reactions to be a lot more weakened, and on the other hand they took to a modern witch hunt, making public the faces and the data of these women, they took interviews from men customers and presented them as the terrified victims of the prostitutes. They raised divisions and constructed an honorable and an infected sexuality, an honorable woman/wife and an infected woman/prostitute. They presented the patriarchal culture of the domination over the female body as a totally accepted practice and placed at the centre of the public discourse the male/straight/middle-class man and showed that health, safety and sexual satisfaction consist basic priorities of the state and the society. The roles that were reproducted by the media played a crucial part in the performativity of the gender and the constitution of the Greek Constitution gendered self.19The discourse of the media penetrates through the tv and the newspapers into the bedrooms, the kitchens, the meeting places, the work places creating norms of right and wrong gendered attitudes, controls the right ones and marginalizes the wrong ones, delimits the bodies and conducts them to the specific performativity of the gendered self. This gendered self shall preserve and reproduce heteronormativity, the partition dipole male-female, it shall oppress its sexuality and shall be ready to take to a witch hunt every time a new dangerous other will be presented.
1Newspaper 迭eal News Sunday 29/4/2012.
2Newspaper 典o Vima Sunday 29/4/2012.
3Newspaper 摘thnos Sunday 29/4/2012.
4Zoi Papasiopi Pasia, The Law about the Status of foreign, Editions Sakkoulas 2007.
5According to data of the United Nations, more than 500.000 women from the cocuntries of the former USSR have immigrated and work as prostitutes. Paola Motzini. Women Trafficking, Prostitution, bawdiness and exploitation. Editions Melani 2006. Translation Fotini Zervou
6The legal status concerning foreign women victims of exploitation and illegal international trafficking, V. GREEK LAW . Zoi Papasiopi Pasia . Thessaloniki 2008 ,EPEAEK PITHAGORAS ΙΙ GENDER EQUALITY ARISTOTELIO UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI, RESEARCH COMMITTEE, DEPARTMENT OF LAW
7Paola Motzini. Women Trafficking, Prostitution, bawdiness and exploitation. Editions Melani 2006. Translation Fotini Zervou. Without, though, as the writer herself emphasizes, being able to speak with safety about these numbers, since these quantities are not easily measurable
8Newspaper 適athimerini 的 was drunk and I did not notice 6.5.2012.
9Death Risk. 典his is the prostitute who spread terror in Athens Title on the cover of the newspaper “espressowith the photo of the prostitute girl.
10Those forced controls relied on the recently and without any publicity voted health conditions 39α/ 1002/02/04/2102.
11To Vima. Percecuted HIV-infected women, 6 months later. Klontza Olga. 1.11.2012
12Kathimerini. The HIV-infected women are released from prison without any measure. 17.11.2012. Ifogeneia Diamanti
13Kathimerini. 11.12.2012. A Press that is terror-positive and sexist-positive. Pantelis Mpoukalas.
15Penny Poulantza.Kathimerini. 2.5.2012. 12 HIV-infected prostitutes. Translation: Elira Skevi.
16Aleksandra Xalkia, Gendered violence: power, reason, subjectivities. Editions :Aleksandria 2011.
17Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay on the Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Feminist theory and cultural crisis. Editions Nisos. Athens 2006. Translation Margarita Miliori.
18Julia Kristeva,1981 擢emale can never be definedTranslation Marilyn A. August.
19 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble. Translation: George Karampelas. Custody: Venetia Kantsa. Editions Aleksandria 2009..