Dália Rodrigues

Dália Rodrigues works for Ninho since 1995. She started by doing a curricular internship in the context of a Bachelor of Social Work, from which resulted the study “The good practices of social intervention in Ninho”. She has worked for that association with women in the stages of pre-social reintegration, and also with women who are already integrated but continue to be assisted by the institution, in the “follow-up service”.

She coordinated the team of the Reception Center of Ninho, and the team of Intervention in Prostitution Context, she provided psychosocial support for women in prostitution and their family members in the Reception Center, and she also conducted studies and social evaluations of women who ask for support to construct an alternative way of life to prostitution.

She participated in several training sessions, seminars, national and international conferences in several areas that enrich and allow for a more adequate intervention with women in prostitution and victims of sexual trafficking. She also conducted awareness sessions for the project “Construir pontes, Desconstruir preconceitos”, in the center region of the country, in the context of the POISE program. She is now the Director of the several specialized departments of Ninho, since June 2017.

“Realising change” session

The association O Ninho considers prostitution to be a serious social problem, we must combat both its causes and consequences and find exit alternatives and support for these women.

Prostitution is closely linked with social inequality, in particular between men and women, rich and poor, and it has a very negative impact on the role and status of women in society.

Prostitution represents the gender and social inequalities of a society. It is mainly the ones who are most vulnerable who are victims of this kind of exploitation.
And, sadly, the most vulnerable continue to be children and women.
Prostitution has nothing to do with sex or work, it has everything to do with sexual and economic exploitation.

O Ninho defends and fights for real and concrete social support systems for women in prostitution for over 50 years, for their human and social development.

Because the causes we referred are the ones that push children and women towards prostitution, the political powers have the social obligation to support exit programs for these people.

These programs must be based on a larger and better support to associations that work in the social re-integration of these girls and women.

O Ninho thinks that employment is the first step for the social reintegration and a full integration in the society as a whole. Therefore, it would be important to create social and employment policies that are suitable and integrated in a large network of support systems that include health, housing, legal aid and social aid.

Sadly, because most of these girls and women suffer from deep psychological and emotional trauma, these programs must take into consideration the time that each of them requires to feel completely integrated.

Because that is what the women who reach out to us ask us for, support to leave a situation of extreme violence in which social intervention must be always considered through a holistic and multidisciplinary perspective.

Until 1962, Portugal had the Regulated Model, inspired by moral, health protection and security issues. This model included control mechanisms, like personal control (the women were called “tolerated” or “matriculated” and they had a specific ID card), location control (the women were confined in certain establishment and/or neighborhoods) and sanitary control (to prevent or to combat STDs there were mandatory health check-ups) as well as police control. The social and criminal blame was always placed on the women. The client did not have any punitive measures and was largely tolerated.

This period was marked by the proliferation of syphilis (the largest threart to public health in those days) and an increase of brothels. For each brothel that was registered, there were 5 illegal ones.

That period was followed by one marked by the dictatorship, in which the defense of the family, the race and good morals leads to a change of the legislative system of prostitution.

The Prohibitionist Model enters into force in 1962, and it is in this regime that O Ninho is born, in 1967.

With this model, which will remain in place until 1982, prostitution was a crime and the sentencing for women could be between 6 months in prison up to 3 years.

It is in that legal and social context that O Ninho is created. The Director of Prison Services realizes that the women convicted of the crime of prostitution would almost always relapse and be imprisoned and convicted of the same crime. She reached the conclusion that it was due to the lack of alternatives for women once they left the prison and that it was urgent to create a support structure for when these women exited prison.

With the entry into force of the Penal Code of 1982, for which O Ninho contributed with advice, prostitution is decriminalized and pimping is criminalized, the sexual exploitation of another person.

The abolitionist model that prevails until today is, undoubtedly, the one O Ninho considers to be the fairest and most effective.

It is one that considers prostitution as an organized system, closely connected to other illicit activities, and penalizes those who exploit the most vulnerable link of the system, people in prostitution.

For obvious reasons previously stated, and knowing the history and evolution of several legal models that were in effect in Portugal until today, both the Regulatory, sadly similar to the so-called “avant-garde” models that are presented today as protectors of people in prostitution, and the Prohibitionist Model, that exacerbates the marginalization and social exclusion, do not help to combat this form of violence which is prostitution.

On the other hand, and considering prostitution works like a market in which supply must adapt to demand, we think it would be essential, beyond the criminalization of pimping, for the client to be criminalized, meaning the Nordic Model should be considered and adapted to Portuguese reality.

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