Sprachkurse - Schlüsselkompetenz in einer globalisierten multikulturellen Welt
Presseberichterstattung: The Guardian
On speaking terms
English language lessons for migrant women working in the UK sex industry aim to tackle exploitation by clients and bosses
Wednesday July 25, 2007
The x:talk information leaflet for sex workers wishing to learn English
The x:talk information leaflet. Photograph: Linda Nyland
A group of foreign women who sell sex in London have turned their hand to teaching English - but the words they are imparting to their students are unlikely to feature in tourist phrase books. The classes are aimed at migrants working in London's sex industry and phrases such as "I do not do anything without a condom" are required learning
The capital's sex industry is booming and around 80% of women involved in off-street work - going to flats, escorting, working in saunas and strip clubs - are thought to be migrants
. Brazilians, Thais and eastern Europeans dominate, although Chinese women are increasingly becoming involved.
Many foreign sex workers struggle to string a sentence together when they are negotiating prices and sexual acts with clients. When men put pressure on them to provide sex acts without a condom, it is much harder to refuse when they are unable to cajole punters into accepting something safer. The language barrier means they also fail to secure themselves the best possible deals and working conditions with brothel owners
Debt bondage comes with its own set of problems, particularly among women from south-east Asian countries who have travelled to the UK to work in the sex industry. They pay an agent a fee of around £20,000-£30,000 for an air ticket and a visa
, which is often fake, and then work off their debt in a brothel. Some women continue to work in the industry after they have paid their debt, to send money home to their families.
(not her real name), a 25-year-old Australian who is in London studying for her masters in post-colonial theory, is the brainchild of the language classes. She says: "There are some pretty horrific stories of exploitation among women in debt bondage ... These women are asking for their conditions to be different."
Alice also works as an escort, commanding rates of between £200 and £350 an hour
. She is involved in the International Union of Sex Workers - www.iusw.org
- and formed a group with 14 other women - many of whom are working in the industry - to set up the classes. "Women are [working in the sex industry] for the money, not because they like meeting four or five strange men a day,"
Those behind the "x:talk" project believe in "the autonomy of all people moving across borders and the dignity of every gender employing their resources in the sex industry"
. The organisation's website says: "Central to our understanding of gender and social relations is an understanding of sex work as labour ..."
. x:talk aims to create an open and critical space to collectively organise and empower workers in the sex industry and to encourage and support critical interventions into discourses about gender, labour, migration and human rights
The idea of the language classes first came to Alice when she sold sex in flats and realised that some of the migrant women she worked alongside, both those in debt bondage and those working independently, were unable to talk their way out of sex acts they did not want to perform. "During down times, when we were waiting for bookings, I found myself giving impromptu English lessons to these women," Alice says.
The teachers secured a modest grant from the Feminist Review Trust - www.feminist-review-trust.com - grant-giving body, and a central London hospital that provides a health service for sex workers offered a venue
All 15 places on the 12-week pilot course
have been taken, and the students include women from Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Thailand. They have been learning vocabulary to describe their appearance, how to negotiate working hours, and how to handle conflict situations, such as telling a man they will not kiss him or have sex without a condom
"We wanted to develop a project to improve the working conditions of migrants in the sex industry," Alice says. "Our aim is to give women the skills to get out of certain situations they may not want to be in. So much of sex work involves language, and not having language stops people from negotiating with bosses and clients."
Jane Ayres, manager of a central London NHS sexual health project for sex workers
, welcomes the new initiative. "A significant number of migrant sex workers come to Britain with little or no English, and without language you can't negotiate," she says.
Ayres adds that migrant sex workers with precarious immigration status are reluctant to report sexual assaults from punters because they fear that going to the police will hasten their deportation. Perpetrators [Täter] often know that this group of women are soft targets
As well as teaching the sex workers English, the classes aim to provide a support system for this group, who are often isolated and are concealing the nature of their work from friends in Britain and family back home
. They also enable foreign women to "network" with others in the industry. Ayres says: "Traditionally, women in the sex industry have supported each other, passing on information about dangerous punters, but migrants don't get this information."
One of the key components of the course is how to make small talk with punters. "The more the women can talk to the men, the less time they have to spend having sex with them,"
· For more information email email@example.com
or visit xtalkproject.net
· Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication"
x:talk - free English classes for migrant sex workers
safe and confidential space
weekly classes held in both Haringey and Edgware Road
learn to communicate better at work and with clients language skills for safety at work
beginners and intermediate levels
x:talk is organised by and for workers in the sex industry.
x:talk is independent from government authorities.
x:talk is funded by donations, grants and fundraiser events.
x:talk teachers have experience working in the sex industry.
x:talk works with people of all genders who, by choice, circumstance, or coercion, engage in sexual activities for money, food, shelter, clothing, drugs, or other survival needs.
As workers in the sex industry we are often denied a voice, we are considered only passive victims, we are taught to be ashamed of our work, we are made invisible by discriminatory laws that illegalise our work and us, and we are spoken for and about but rarely are we allowed to speak for ourselves. As migrants even more so. Sometimes our voices are not heard even amongst each other because we don’t speak the same languages.
The x:talk project is a sex worker-led workers co-operative
which approaches language teaching as knowledge sharing between equals and regards the ability to communicate as a fundamental tool for sex workers to work in safer conditions, to organise and to socialise with each other.
We understand language to be a politically and socially charged instrument of power, which we aim to teach critically and thoughtfully according to the specificity of our classes. Our English classes are organized to create a space where sex work as work can be openly talked about and does not have to be concealed or hidden. Through providing such a space we aim to challenge the stigma and isolation attached to our profession while at the same time we guarantee confidentiality and respect for those involved.
In addition to providing free English classes to migrant sex workers, we support critical interventions around issues of migration, race, gender, sexuality and labour, we participate in feminist and anti-racist campaigns and we are active in the struggle for the rights of sex workers in London, the UK and globally.
We consider confidentiality to be crucial for everyone involved in the x:talk project – including for students, teachers, teaching assistants and allies. We understand confidentiality to mean not only that all personal information about people involved in the project remains private but also that information is on a need to know basis. If students feel in a position to share personal information we welcome the exchange – however no one in the classes should ever be required to answer questions about who they are or what they do. As is usual in the sex industry – students are welcome to use their working names if necessary.
Our project comes from our experiences as workers in the sex industry. x:talk is sex worker-led not because we think that being a ‘sex worker’ is a fixed identity, but because those who have experienced the material conditions of the sex industry are in the best position to know how to change it. We do not wish to participate in a politics that creates individual ‘celebrity’ superstars. As a result we use the collective identity of Ava Caradonna (which roughly translates to ‘Eve the Good Woman’).
is a migrant, a sex worker, a student, a mother, a citizen, a transgender, a person of colour, a teacher, a lesbian and a militant- she allows us to speak from different positions as sex workers and as allies, without the stigma of using our ‘real’ names and allows us to speak to the different realities in the sex industry and beyond.
Respect for a diversity of experiences:
We are interested in organizing to radically transform the sex industry so that sex workers have more control over their lives and work. We are not interested in passing judgement on what type of work people do. We recognize that many women, men and trans people have a diverse range of experiences in the sex industry – good, bad and ugly. Our project is open to people who sells sex or sexual services – including workers in brothels, escort agencies, outdoors, flats, independents, bars, on the phone or internet, strippers, dancers, models, porn stars and glamour models. We respect people’s choices or circumstances about continuing to work in the sex industry or exiting the industry.
Combating the desire the help and save sex workers:
x:talk was born in a brothel in south London. The project grew out of the experiences of a prostitute called Ava who was working in a flat with many women from Thailand. They had paid £20,000 to come to the UK to work
, they did not have their passports and they earned less money than Alice who was considered to be ‘European’. One reason they did not earn as much money as Alice was because they couldn’t negotiate with English speaking clients very easily. When Alice asked the women how she could help them – they expressed very clearly they did not want to be ‘helped’ but instead that they wanted to learn English. So began the first x:talk classes – in between clients and during the long hours of waiting. It was clear to Alice that we need to be able to speak together to be able to organise at work.
x:talk is not about helping people, but about collective action and solidarity.
In order to gain the trust of the people we are working with and teaching we need to be clear about what the x:talk project can and cannot do – we teach English and offer a space for peer-to-peer networking, translation and information sharing. We are not lawyers, social workers, immigration agents or charity workers.
The Politics of Language
The content of the x:talk classes, the examples, language and words used are chosen with an understanding of the following:
Language is a powerful tool in shaping the meaning of the way things are in the world.
Language is a tool used to communicate, empower and also to oppress.
If it matters what we say and how we say it, then it matters how we teach it.
In Frankfurt bietet z.B. der Verein www.donaCarmen.de
Sprachkurse an. Jedoch hat der kämpferisch-politische pro-prostitution Verein keinen öffentlichen Sponsoren und ein Umlagesystem zur Kursfinanzierung entwickelt.
Die Prostituierten zahlen für jede besuchte Unterrichtsstunde dem privaten Lehrer. Bei längerer Kursusteilnahme gibt es Rabatt. Die Teilnahme wird niederschwelligst flexibel informell und persönlich abgesprochen. Die Kurse finden direkt im Rotlichtviertel statt.
In Frankfurt gibt es einen professionellen Sprachlehrer, der sich gut mit Prostitution auskennt, während in London Sexworker unterrichten, die sich als Fremdsprachenlehrer fortgebildet haben. Wichtig für Akzeptanz von Kursen für Sexworker ist Fachkompetenz in beiden Spähren
Die Sexarbeiterinnen wissen aus eigener Berufserfahrung, daß Qualität Geld kosten darf.
Die Sexarbeiterinnen wissen aus eigener Berufserfahrung, daß sie mit Sprachkenntnissen des Landes entscheidend mehr Geld erwirtschaften können.
Welche Sprachkursangebote kennt Ihr?