Frequently asked questions
Below are a few of the questions most frequently asked to Ghapro in the past years. Is the question you wanted to ask not mentioned? You can do one thing:
Find out yourself!
Prostitution is a social phenomenon, so there are hundreds of books, reference works and articles written about this topic. Surf on the Internet or go to the library and discover a world of information. Stay critical because there is a lot of nonsense written about prostitution and not all web sites are reliable!
1. Why do women work as prostitutes?
- Most women work as prostitutes out of financial necessity (e.g. they have debts). They see prostitution as the only way to survive financially.
- Other sex workers work as prostitutes because they don’t have a diploma: they hope to make money through prostitution.
- There are also sex workers who are studying and use prostitution to pay their studies.
- Some women are forced into prostitution, for example, by a wrong partner or because they don’t have the right papers to stay in Belgium.
- Other women work as prostitutes to make some extra money and achieve a higher standard of living.
There are certainly many more reasons!
2. Are women who work as prostitutes forced to do this?
- Not all women who work as prostitutes are forced. There are woman who do this voluntarily. You can find more information in our interview with a prostitute.
- Women who are forced can be victims of human trafficking or may be under the pressure of a pimp. To know more about victims of human trafficking, you can check the website of Payoke (www.payoke.be).
3. Which types of prostitution are there?
- In the city of Antwerp there are lots of women who work behind a window in the Schipperskwartier. They rent a window with a room and try to attract clients from behind their window.
- In the city and in the villages you often find private houses. These are normal houses or apartments where a few girls work. Clients find these addresses through advertisements in local papers and on the internet.
- Bars. These are larger establishments which you often find along busy roads. The clients can drink something while one of the girls keeps them company.
- Sex workers can also work for an escort service. Clients contact the escort service and choose a girl. They can have sex or she can keep the client company during a meal or on a business trip.
- Walking the streets is forbidden in the city of Antwerp, however, it still happens that a client picks up a man or a woman on the street. Sometimes they go to a small hotel, sometimes they have sex in the car.
- Some prostitutes work in certain cafés where they wait until a client picks them up. They usually go to a small hotel or to the client’s house.
- Another type of prostitution is through the Internet and through webcams. The client pays electronically to be turned on through the webcam by the girl of his choice.
4. What is the most frequent age category?
- To work as a prostitute you have to be of age. A minor who works as a prostitute is liable to punishment. You find sex workers of all ages in prostitution.
5. Is prostitution admitted under Belgian law?
- The Belgian law on prostitution has not been worked out in detail, contrary to the Dutch law on prostitution. The last few years there are two main points of view. One group wants to make prostitution legal, the other group is against legalization.
- In Belgium, prostitution is not liable to punishment. Exploiting people (inciting to prostitution), however, is liable to punishment.
- Every city has its own rules and usually adopts a policy of tolerance. In Antwerp, women may only work visibly as a prostitute (window prostitution) in the Schipperskwartier.
- For more information, see the book by Gert Vermeulen, Betaalseksrecht, naar regulering of legalisering van niet-problematische prostitutie.
6. Are there also men who work as prostitutes?
- There are also boys who work as prostitutes. Just like female sex workers, boys have to be of age to work as prostitutes. If not, they are liable to punishment.
7. Does male prostitution mainly occur in the gay scene? Can men who work as prostitutes be heterosexual?
- Lots of boys and men work as prostitutes for homosexual clients. They meet at familiar places such as certain bars or on the Internet. These men are not always homosexual, but they have sexual contacts with male homosexual clients.
- There are also men who mainly have female clients. They can work through an escort service or advertise independently in newspapers or on the Internet.
8. What is the marital status of prostitutes?
- Just like everyone else, some sex workers have a relationship or a family.
9. Does the partner or family know about the prostitution?
- This is different for every sex worker. From experience we know that most sex workers keep their job a secret for family and friends, because they are afraid of the reactions.
10. What is a pimp?
- A pimp benefits from the financial earnings of a sex worker and often has a big influence on what a sex worker does or doesn’t do. In some cases, the sex worker and the pimp have a relationship.
11. Are there also female pimps?
- Yes, some women have girls who work for them. Sometimes women work as prostitutes first and later on have girls who work for them.
12. How can a prostitute get in touch with Ghapro?
- The contact person (outreacher) of Ghapro informs the girls behind the windows and makes the first contact. At the sex worker’s request, the mobile team of Gharpo comes to the workplace.
- Sex workers can also come to us: there are three free consultations per week.
- Sex workers who already know us, tell the other sex workers about us.
- Ghapro contacts bars and private houses by telephone.
- Ghapro works together with the boys project (www.boysproject.be). This is how we get in touch with male sex workers.
13. Do only female sex workers work behind windows?
- Most sex workers who work behind a window are women.
- In the Antwerp Schipperskwartier, you can also find transvestites: they attract male clients.
14. Are there also female clients who visit the Schipperskwartier?
- Sometimes couples visit the sex worker.
- Some women come alone, but they are an exception.
15. Is it easy to stop working as a prostitute? Why is it easy/not easy?
No, it is not easy. There are several obstacles if you want to leave prostitution:
- Sex workers often have no experience on the labour market and often they don’t have a diploma. Therefore, they only qualify for low-skilled jobs.
- In the normal labour circuit, their wages are sometimes less than their wages as a prostitute. Many sex workers find it difficult to make ends meet once they stop working as prostitutes.
- If it is easy to earn money with sex work, it is very difficult for some sex workers to choose a regular job.
16. Why does a sex worker want to stop working as a prostitute?
- Prostitution is both physically and mentally very tough. Many sex workers have health problems and they suffer from serious stress.
- Some women stop because they get new opportunities (such as a new relationship or another job offer).
- The financial problems are solved.
- The sex worker wants to lead a “normal” life and close this chapter.
- The sex worker does not want to confront his or her children with his or her job.
These are but a few examples, there are also many other reasons.
17. Why, when and who founded Ghapro?
In 1999, the Antwerp University (the Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccinations) started a pilot project. This project studied the preventive health care for sex workers in the province of Antwerp. Because there was a need for an organization that continuously offered these services, Ghapro was founded in 2002.
18. Why would anyone go to Ghapro rather than visit the family doctor?
- Some sex workers find it hard to tell other people what their job is. Because the family doctor doesn’t get the necessary information and can’t assess the health risks, he or she will not do the necessary examinations.
- Moreover, the sex worker can feel inhibited to talk about the medical or social problems related to the job.
- Because we only receive sex workers at Ghapro, there is no threshold and the sex worker doesn’t have to justify himself or herself.
19. What happens when a prostitute gets pregnant (wanted or unwanted pregnancy)?
Sex workers can ask a pregnancy test at Ghapro.
- If the test is positive and the sex worker wants to keep the child, we refer her to Kind en Gezin or a gynaecologist or family doctor.
- When a sex worker is pregnant but doesn’t want the baby, she can choose between adoption or abortion. In both situation, we refer the sex workers and give them guidance. An abortion is possible up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy or 14 weeks after the beginning of the last menstrual period. An abortion is always done in an accredited abortion centre, in accordance with the legal provisions. If you want more information about abortion, surf to www.abortuscentra-vlaanderen.be.