Research Group Transnationalism Working Paper
Freedom of choice or force of circumstance? : Eastern European sex-workers in the Republic of Cyprus
- This paper focuses on Eastern European migrants who, since the beginning of the 1990s, are entering the Republic Cyprus as “artistes”. This is a visa permit status as well as an euphemism for short-term work permits in the local sex industry. In addition to exploring the migrational experiences of these women and their living and working conditions in the Republic of Cyprus, the paper reconstructs, empirically and analyt ically, the connection between immigration and the local sex industry. Here, several categories of social actors and institutions in Cyprus are actively involved. The rhetoric of government representatives, entrepreneurs and clients in the sex business on the one hand is contrasted with the discourse of local NGO representatives concerned with immigrants’ rights on the other hand. The paper comes to the conclusion that all of these discursive positions ultimately do not do justice to the complex process of decisionmaking that women undergo who migrate into the sex industry. Either, freedom of choice is emphasized – such as by entrepreneurs and the government – or the domination of women – as in the public statements of the NGO. In order to analyze the ambivalent tension between freedom of choice and submission to force by which the women’s decision is characterized, the author employs Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, which describes forms of political regulation that use the individual’s freedom of action as an instrument to exercise power.