By Jean Christou
WOMEN’S groups on Monday accused DISY MP Rikkos Mappourides of glorifying prostitution by calling it a profession, and of cementing the notion that it was all right to buy and sell women for sex.
Mappourides caused a stir late last week during a round-table discussion on trafficking, held at the EU Representation offices in Nicosia when he argued in favour of legalising prostitution and confessed to having paid for sexual services.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” said Mappourides. “All or almost all men have at some point in their lives paid for sexual services. My personal experience as a customer is that people should be very careful so as to make sure that the conditions under which the service is offered doesn’t constitute exploitation. The only way to battle sex trafficking is to regulate prostitution.”
He added that effective legislation was also needed to punish people who pay for sex while fully knowing that the women are victims of trafficking.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, the Cyprus Family Planning Association, the Socialist Women’s Movement and Hands Across the Divide said Mappouridis was arbitrarily assuming that women were engaged in prostitution of their own free will “ignoring the fact that the majority are victims of violence”.
“Mr Mappouridis actually glorifies prostitution under the umbrella of ‘profession’ and not a form of violence against women,” the statement said.
It said prostitution was a relationship that promoted unequal power relations between the sexes and one of the major obstacles in the fight against discrimination and violence against women.
The attitude of Mappourides was just a mirror of the whole system, the women’s groups said, “a patriarchal system which is deeply rooted in sexism and promotes the perception that women may be bought and sold”.
It said research had clearly shown that in Cyprus, Europe and America that without male demand the prostitution system would collapse.
“Surveys in Cyprus on the perceptions and attitudes of men indicate that women in prostitution, trafficked or not, are approached as sex objects. Buying sex is considered ‘expected’ behaviour and action. Women are perceived as objects and products which are considered acceptable to be exploited,” the statement added.
“What are the messages we want to convey to society and especially to the young? Do we want to consider the female body as a ‘marketable species’ and the sexual act as a transactional product? Or do we want to impart attitudes that reflect respect?”
The groups called for a political dialogue on trafficking and prostitution and the possibility of criminalising the buying of sexual services rather than criminalising prostitution itself, in line with the Swedish model.