The world’s oldest profession may also be among its most traumatizing. A new study has found that a serious psychiatric illness resulting from exposure to physical danger is more common among prostitutes than among troops who have weathered combat duty. The illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, is the modern equivalent of shell shock, or combat fatigue. It leaves survivors of serious physical danger emotionally numb, and tortured by recurrent nightmares and flashbacks, often for decades. In a study to be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, researchers interviewed almost 500 prostitutes from around the world and discovered that two-thirds suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

In contrast, the condition is found in less than 5 percent of the general population. Studies of veterans of combat in the Vietnam War have found that the disorder may be diagnosed in 20 percent to 30 percent, about half of whom have long-term psychiatric problems. ”Essentially, we need to view prostitution itself as a traumatic stressor,” said Dr. Melissa Farley, a psychologist and researcher at the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Centre in San Francisco who directed the study with colleagues from Turkey and Africa. Dr. Farley’s team interviewed male and female prostitutes ages 12 to 61 who operated on the street and in brothels in San Francisco and six large cities in Europe, Asia and Africa. The vast majority reported having sustained recurrent physical or sexual assaults in working hours. 

Using a severity scale developed by scientists who study post-traumatic stress in the military, Dr. Farley’s team found that the prostitutes averaged a slightly more severe form of the disease than even Vietnam veterans. That is an ”enormously high” rating on the scale, said Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs National Centre for post-traumatic stress disorder. The frequency of post-traumatic stress disorder among the prostitutes appeared to be unrelated to their nationality or where they worked. It was as common in Istanbul as in San Francisco, and as common among the men and women working in three expensive brothels in Johannesburg as among those working in the streets of that city, even though less physical violence occurred in the brothels, Dr. Farley said.


Hers is the first study of post-traumatic stress in prostitutes, but other studies have shown similarly high frequencies of the disorder in other disadvantaged groups of women, including pregnant drug users, and homeless and battered women. Dr. Farley also found that about two-thirds of the prostitutes studied complained of medical problems. Unexpectedly, few of the problems appeared to be related to sexually transmitted diseases, she said. In contrast to the romantic vision of prostitution often presented by Hollywood, ”prostitution is not just a job choice,” Dr. Farley said. More than 90 percent of the prostitutes in her study said they ”wanted out” of that way of life.


In the meantime FamilyVoice Australia reports the NSW government will keep its flawed brothel laws based on a decriminalisation model, even though local councils want more power to regulate the out-of-control industry. “A recent NSW inquiry report recommended a brothel licensing system, but the government is right to reject that model,” FamilyVoice Australia research officer Ros Phillips said.  “Like decriminalising, licensing allows illegal brothels to proliferate – as Victoria has found. “What NSW – and every state – needs is a third way: the Nordic model of prostitution law.  It is the only system that has successfully reduced the exploitation and human trafficking associated with the sex trade worldwide.”


The Nordic model recognises the damage done to sex workers, whether as an “escort”, or in a legal or illegal brothel, or on the street. “The Nordic model penalises exploiters, including those buying, or attempting to buy, sexual services.  It also provides support for workers who want to quit their damaging occupation. “Just one month ago, France became the latest country to adopt the Nordic model, after trying the others.  New South Wales and the other states would do well to follow suit!” Mrs Phillips said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports and FamilyVoice Australia

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More Imams are coming out as homosexual and preaching that homosexuality isn’t condemned in Islam. They’re part of a global push for a more liberal interpretation of the Koran that acknowledges diversity and empowers mosques to welcome sexual minorities. Damir Ahmetovic prays five times a day and describes himself as a devout Muslim. But he no longer attends his local Brisbane mosque for fear of vilification. “The wider Muslim community is not aware that I am homosexual and I keep away from them,” Mr Ahmetovic said. “I’ve made a choice to limit my contact with them. It’s a self-protection mechanism, I don’t want judgment, hostility and negative responses to who I am.”


The 31-year-old Bosnian national came out to his family a decade ago, an experience he says was fraught with difficulty. His father, who initially rejected him, said he would accept his son only if he kept his sexuality quiet. Mr Ahmetovic said he knows “quite a few” homosexual Muslims in Brisbane but says they have rejected their faith since coming out. He also knows many more who identify as both homosexual and Muslim who are looking for a mosque that will not shun them. Mr Ahmetovic recently joined the new Brisbane branch of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), which started in New York with the aim to, “get organised in promoting a progressive and inclusive interpretation of Islam against the backdrop of extremism as played out by Al Qaeda, and conservatism as played out by the influence of Wahhabism.”


MPV campaigns for diversity, gender equality (including non-segregated mosques) and LGBTQI inclusion, and now has thousands of members around the world, but only late last year did it gain traction in Australia, opening sub-branches in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The local MPV push is being led by Professor Saher Amer from the University of Sydney and Reem Sweid from Deakin University, who claim Australia is home, “to some of the most conservative Muslims in the western world”.


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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The Greens have launched a Lesbian, Homosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer policy package, pledging to commit $32 million to the full rollout of the Safe Schools program. Their policy also includes the removal of religious exemptions to federal anti-discrimination law and getting HIV prevention medication PrEP listed on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The policy was announced by the Greens sexuality spokesman Robert Simms, and gender identity and intersex spokeswoman Janet Rice.


“We are proud to announce a full suite of policy positions on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia,” Senator Simms said. “Under current anti-discrimination laws, a homosexual man can be fired from working at a private school and a transgender person can be turned away from a religious homeless shelter. We shouldn’t be giving religious organisations a get-out-of-jail-free card and the right to discriminate.” Senator Rice accused Malcolm Turnbull of a “cave-in to the dinosaurs on his back bench” on Safe Schools and marriage equality.


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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