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UNMASKED: Challenging the demand for prostitution in Glasgow

15 -23 March 2014

2014 sees the city of Glasgow becoming a White Ribbon City, endorsed by Glasgow City Council. As part of Glasgow City Council’s work to address issues of violence against women and create a safer and vibrant city for everyone, the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership (GVAWP) approached GoMA with a proposal for an exhibition to raise the often invisible voices of punters: their attitudes on women and their choices when using prostitutes.

GVAWP wanted this exhibition to create a change in attitude towards prostitution and challenge the current conversation around prostitution, which focuses on the choices, rather than lack of, women make to enter into prostitution. By raising the issue of men’s choices in buying sex from prostitutes, their chief aim is to increase awareness of how men’s choices and attitudes are part of the harm prostitution causes.

There are two key works in this exhibition ‘Memoirs’ and ‘Invisible Men’ (restricted to over 18), which are set within a commissioned piece by GVAWP displaying facts, statistics and accounts of actual experiences, demonstrating the ways in which demand for prostitution harms and limits the choices of women.

More information on the work

Invisible Men – this brings the words, attitudes and behaviours of a group of men, posted as ‘reviews’ on UK website ‘PunterNet’, into public focus. Each post, known as a ‘Field Report’, is overlaid onto a white mask, framed by a price tag showing the amount of money paid to the prostitute. This is an online work on tumblr, which was publicly launched in May 2013.

Memoirs –Three beautifully bound books display pages full of poetry – the ‘poetry’ being the re-formatted comments of three reviewers from PunterNet. The work requires the visitor to put on white cotton conservation gloves as part of the viewing experience.

UNMASKED  was launched by the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership at the City Chambers of Glasgow on Friday 14 March. As part of this launch they had invited Tanja Rahm of SPACE International to give a speech. A powerful message on ‘choice’ and prostitution. This can be read in full on her blog.

Background
GVAWP approached Glasgow Life and GoMA because of our history of working with the partnership, and Amnesty International, on the 2004 – 5 social justice programme Rule of Thumb. For that programme we worked with Base 75 and women in prostitution, along with a number of other organisations, which resulted in collaborative work between the women and the artists in the award winning exhibition ‘elbowroom’ 10 December – 15 February 2014. Since then GoMA has supported the UN 16 Days of Action to eliminate violence against women and the White Ribbon Campaign. Glasgow Arts continues to support the work of the city with the recent announcement of the Glasgow Women’s Library  Frankie Raffles Residency for the Women of Glasgow .

The Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership, who have commissioned this exhibition, consists of a range of partners including front line women’s and statutory organisations whose day to day work involves supporting women exploited in prostitution. Their experience tells us that many of the women whom they have contact with are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, as such they have no platform to let their voices be heard and for the reality of their experiences be made visible. The GVAWP are very much informed by the direct experiences of women and it is through the work of front line agencies that women’s voices are represented.

UNMASKED is an exhibition which continues the conversation on prostitution in Glasgow and raises awareness of the attitudes and choices of the unseen men who buy sex from prostitutes.

As Councillor James Coleman has said “We believe that this exhibition will help us to eradicate the widely held and falsely sanitised view that prostitution is somehow acceptable as a career choice. Prostitution is far too dangerous an issue for any society to turn a blind eye to it. We have a duty to support women, who currently have no other choice than prostitution, to move towards a much healthier, happier and more positive lifestyle. Here in Glasgow, we have a long-standing commitment to work with women to exit prostitution, and to support them throughout their recovery. This, coupled with making men who buy sex both visible and accountable for their actions, is the essential next step. We cannot tackle the problems caused by prostitution without first of all focusing on those who create the demand. They need to be recognised for the devastation that they cause, by society as a whole.”

If you are affected by the issues please visit the Women Where to Go page or the Rape Crisis Scotland external links page

For more information on White Ribbon Scotland and how you can pledge support please go to http://www.whiteribbonscotland.org.uk

If you would like to comment on the exhibition and join the conversation on prostitution and challenging demand please contact Community Safety Glasgow

email CommsafetyMLU@glasgow.gov.uk
or phone 0141 276 7400
or write to
Customer Services
Community Safety Glasgow
Eastgate
727 London Road
Glasgow
G40 3AQ

If you have a press enquiry please contact the Glasgow City Council Press Office
0141 287 0923

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