VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
elsewhere, indigenous women are placed at the bottom of a brutal race and class hierarchy within prostitution itself. When the researchers compared Maori/Pacific Islander New Zealanders to European-origin New Zealanders in prostitution, the Pacific Islander/Maori were more likely to have been homeless and to have entered prostitution at a young age. Mama Tere, an Auckland community activist, referred to NZ prostitution as an “apartheid system” (Farley, 2003a). Plumridge and Abel (2001) similarly described the NZ sex industry as “segmented,” noting that 7% of the population in Christchurch were Maori; however, 19% of those in Christchurch prostitution were Maori.
Women in prostitution are treated as if their rapes do not mat- ter. For example, in Venezuela, El Salvador, and Paraguay, the penalty for rape is reduced by one fifth if the victim is a prostitute (Wijers & Lap-Chew, 1997). Many people assume that when a prostituted woman is raped, that rape is part of her job and that she deserved or even asked for the rape. In an example of this bias, a California judge overturned a jury’s decision to charge a cus- tomer with rape, saying “a woman who goes out on the street and makes a whore out of herself opens herself up to anybody” (Arax, 1986, p. 1).
We asked women currently in prostitution in Colombia, Ger- many, Mexico, South Africa, and Zambia whether they thought that legal prostitution would offer them safety from physical and sexual assault. Forty-six percent of these women in prostitution from six countries felt that they were no safer from physical and sexual assault even if prostitution were legal. Brothel prostitution is legal in Germany, one of the countries surveyed. In an indict- ment of legal prostitution, 59% of German respondents told us that they did not think that legal prostitution made them any safer from rape and physical assault (Farley et al., 2003). A comparable 50% of 100 prostitutes in a Washington, D.C., survey expressed the same opinion (Valera et al., 2001).
It is not possible to protect the health of someone whose “job” means that they will get raped on average once a week (Hunter, 1993). One woman explained that prostitution is “like domestic violence taken to the extreme” (Leone, 2001). Another woman said, “What is rape for others, is normal for us” (Farley, Lynne, & Cotton, in press).