MOBILE UNIT FOR DANISH SEX WORKERS
Prostitutes get to use converted ambulance
IN a dark tunnel in Copenhagen’s red light district on a freezing night, Annika gasped for air as the stranger who agreed to pay her for sex started suffocating her with his bare hands.
A friend nearby heard her muffled cries and helped the 25-yearold Dane break free from the man’s grasp. Annika, who declined to reveal her full name, said it was the fourth time in a year that she nearly died at the hands of her clients.
“If you don’t give them what they want, even though it is not what you agreed in the beginning, some just snap,” said Annika, who sold sex for nearly a year to pay for her drug addiction but quit the industry eight months ago.
“People think less of girls who are prostitutes. But when you’re a street prostitute, they think even less of you,” she said on a street corner in Vesterbro, Copenhagen’s red light district.
While prostitution is legal in Denmark, it is illegal to profit from other people selling sex, such as pimping, or to rent rooms to sex workers, which means prostitutes can end up having sex in places like parks, alleyways and telephone booths.
This can put sex workers in danger from clients and passersby, according to rights groups.
Annika said she reported her attack to the police but they dropped the case because she had no visible marks on her body.
This level of violence compelled Danish social entrepreneur Michael Lodberg Olsen to convert an old ambulance into a mobile unit where prostitutes can work for no charge in a safe and clean environment, guarded by volunteers from a distance.
After parking the “Sexelance” in the red light district one night, Olsen said he was in disbelief when he saw two young men hit a street sex worker for no reason before walking off.
“To be the witness of brutal violence to a sex worker is ... very shocking and we can’t allow that as a society,” said Olsen, who launched Sexelance last November and now runs the vehicle each Friday and Saturday night with plans to operate daily.
Olsen and his team worked with sex workers like Annika to design the vehicle and its functions, such as its leopard print interiors and a light to indicate when it was in use.
He said Sexelance had been used 64 times, and he hoped to open a permanent space where and crew. You have responsibility for them,” the king told De Telegraaf. “You can’t take your problems from the ground to the skies. You can disengage and concentrate on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing part of flying.”
Willem-Alexander said he was rarely recognised by passengers, street workers can bring their clients or take short breaks.
“I think the attitudes against sex workers would change if we actually see them as people working,” Olsen, 46, said.
Maja Lovbjerg Hansen from Street Lawyers, an organisation that provides legal aid to street sex workers, the homeless and drug users, said Sexelance was highlighting workers’ rights for street prostitutes in a “dignified way”.
“If you have a group of workers in other fields who are (working) in potentially dangerous conditions, you will always say, ‘What can we do to make this more safe?’ And I think it’s admirable that somebody’s actually trying to do that,’” she said.
“We need to give these people workers’ rights and start destigmatising especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
“Before Sept 11, the cockpit door was open. People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there,” he said, adding that very few people recognize him as he walks through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in this field.”
But for some migrant sex workers, many of whom have been trafficked into the country, working inside a mobile unit like Sexelance could be too conspicuous, said Michelle Mildwater, director of HopeNow. which supports trafficked women in Denmark.
“They were concerned about the fact that it may draw more attention to them, and it means that the police would find it easier to pick them up and arrest them,” she said, referring to conversations she had with trafficked women about Sexelance.
Mildwater said migrant sex workers were most at risk of violence since they feared deportation by the authorities or repercussions from their traffickers if they went to the police. Reuters KLM uniform and cap.
And even when he made announcements to passengers, Willem-Alexander said that as a co-pilot, he didn’t have to give his name. So while some people recognise his voice, it is far from all passengers.
“But most people don’t listen anyway,” he added. AFP
Danish social entrepreneur Michael Lodberg Olsen converted an old ambulance into Sexelance, a mobile unit where prostitutes can work for no charge in a safe and clean environment, guarded by volunteers from a distance.
Dutch King WillemAlexander looking out from a KLM Cityhopper aircraft at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.