Alexandra Silva, activist and researcher in the field of human rights of women and violence against women; trainer of gender equality. She has a Bachelor in Sociology.
She is the current President of the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights and coordinator of projects of feminism and violence against women. She was the co-founder and is the current vice-president of EOS – Associação de Estudos, Cooperação e Desenvolvimento. She was the co-founder and director of the Rede Portuguesa de Jovens para a Igualdade de Oportunidades entre Mulheres e Homens.
She was a member of research teams in European and Portuguese projects, particularly in CESIS – Centros de Estudos para a Intervenção Social (2002-2016), and she is co-author of publications and research reports of Europe and Portugal.
Welcome and opening session
Dear Eduarda Marques, Regional Direction of the Youth Center of Lisbon – which hosts us here today.
Dear Ana Sofia Fernandes, Vice-President of the European Women’s Lobby, friend and partner of many triumphs on the human rights of women,
Dear Rachel Moran, who inspires and motivates us,
I welcome all of you to the international conference EXIT – System of Prostitution.
We begin this conference with a lot of enthusiasms and high expectations, organized by the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights and by the European Women’s Lobby.
The Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights is the only platform, in Portugal, which represents the organizations that promote the human rights of women and equality between women and men. It is composed of 26 organizations.
In 2018, we feminists and representatives of NGOs for women’s rights, could not let the patriarchal society we are (still) living in to maintain or strengthen the masculine domination against women, through violence and male abuse, which is prostitution.
Now in Portugal, and in several other parts of the world, the system of prostitution is being debated as just another system of “production”. Many believe prostitution to be work, forgetting what is involved in the system of prostitution.
We, at the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, believe in the obvious premise that all people exploited in the system of prostitution, in particular women and girls, are endowed with human rights and should not be left behind – by the State, by society, by political organizations, by unions, by youth associations, by NGOs (particularly women’s rights organizations).
What has the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights been doing?
We have tried to:
- Contribute to the creation of public policies based on the principle that the system of prostitution is one of the most serious forms of sexist and male violence against women, presenting proposals such as the need to formulate an integrated policy to support women and girls who want to leave prostitution – exit programs that have a real and concrete impact in the living conditions of women; strengthening of criminalization of pimping and the effective application of article 169 of the Penal Code; strengthening State action in the prevention and combat against human trafficking; the criminalization of those who buy sex, abuse and sexually exploit, imposing their own sexuality in every way and on every person; and the end of sexist and male violence against women.
- Focus the debate on what is most important – women exploited in the system of prostitution, the circumstances that led them to enter the system: sexual violence, poverty, lack of dignified living conditions, violence and sexual exploitation of women by men;
- Lastly, we have invested in information, promoting public debate in several regions of the country, information about the impact of the regulatory and abolitionist models of prostitution in the living conditions of women in the system of prostitution – this conference today is an example of this.
Today is a special day: we have with us three survivors of the system of prostitution. Women who, after experiencing all the difficulties and violence of the system, are activist fighting for fairer and more equal societies, echoing the voices of female survivors.
Today is a day of sharing, reflection and debate about the policies of the several EU member-states, about the system of prostitution in particular (first panel); about what the youth thinks and wants for the future which is theirs and must have equality between girls and boys, women and men (second panel); about the people who change society with their action and a reflection about the human rights of women and girls (third panel); about the essential role of local policies and authorities in the support of women and exit strategies of the system of prostitution; finishing off with concluding remarks and a theatre play.
The Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights is thankful for the contribution and participation of every single speaker. Without them, this conference would be much poorer in terms of information.
To transform our world, promote universal peace and freedom through women’s empowerment in all places and ensure a livre free of every form of male violence against women, those are indispensable requirements in a just, democratic and sustainable human development and progress.
We shall leave no one behind will always be our motto – a motto that applies in particular for promoting human rights of vulnerable women, as is the case of women in the system of prostitution.
To everyone present in this room, we thank you deeply and we hope this will be a great conference!