SPACE stands for ‘Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment’. We call for enlightenment because before we can expect social change, prostitution must be recognised for the abuse that it is. SPACE is committed both to raising the public’s consciousness of the harm of prostitution and to lobbying governments to do something about it.
SPACE was first formed in Dublin, Ireland, in the spring of 2012 by five Irish women, all of them prostitution survivors. The decision was taken to run the group as a coalition of identified women, who chose to forgo their anonymity for the purpose of speaking out against prostitution in the public arena. This was feasible only for two of the original members, Rachel Moran and Justine Reilly. The other three Irish women remain allies and friends.
In 2012 the group began to expand internationally and now includes women from the US and UK. In the spring of 2013, the Irish women voted unanimously to appoint a woman of much longer-standing experience in this area of activism to the position of Executive Director. She is Cherie Jimenez of the Josephine Butler EVA centre in Boston. Rachel Moran, from Dublin, undertakes the position of European Coordinator.
We recognise that all systems of prostitution are interlinked, and that this remains so regardless who claims otherwise. Prostitution and sex-trafficking, for example, are intimately linked. Prostitution is the place where sex-trafficking happens, and the demand for prostitution is the reason why sex-trafficking happens. It has been said that talking about sex-trafficking without mentioning prostitution is like talking about slavery without mentioning the plantations. We firmly assert that this is so, and we would know, as survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
We know, though our lived experience, that the vast majority of women in prostitution are impoverished and are in prostitution for exactly that reason; and we also know, through our lived experience, that it is simply a cruelty for any government to introduce legislation that limits the ability of a woman in prostitution to earn a living without simultaneously offering her a way out.
We thus strongly feel that prostitution can only be tackled by a strategy that recognises equally the need to supress the demand for paid sex while offering women viable alternatives to providing it. Too often, groups that concern themselves with this issue overlook either one root cause or the other. We pledge to bear witness to governments that they must suppress demand by criminalising it, and equally that they must address the shortage of living-wage opportunities for individuals in the sex trade, and that both these aspects are equally important in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation.