Friday, October 3, 2014

Country Overview: Austria

Right now my head is spinning with everything I have seen, heard, and learned during my first month into the fellowship. I have dozens of ideas and stories for posts, but somehow I can't seem to find the words to do justice to these experiences. Most of all, I feel incapable of communicating some of the stories I have heard. There is so much responsibility taken on when you try to tell a survivor's story.

So until I can articulate it all, I will simply give you all an overview of the country I just left: Austria. Normally I will try to post my country overviews within the first few days of arriving, but I hit the ground running in Austria. Hence the spinning head.


The Basics:

Austria's population only numbers 8.5 million, but their mark on history is much more substantial. Its capital city, Vienna, is known as a haven for the arts and the birthplace of psychology. The official language is German, and I officially cannot speak it. I had hoped my distant ancestors would have somehow passed it down, but I was quickly disappointed.

Austria and My Project:

Like the Netherlands, Austria is a destination country for many Eastern European victims of sex trafficking. Prostitution is legal in Austria, but extremely regulated. Prostitutes are restricted from working in many parts of the city and must go to weekly medical check ups. The country has many organizations working to provide services for sex workers in general. However, an abundance of services does not always result in help to actual victims, as identification can be extremely difficult.

Here are some of the questions I was interested in answering during my time there:

  1. How does the history of Austria affect the experiences of exploited women today?
  2. What kind of effects have changes in policy regarding prostitution had on the lives of individual women?
  3. Are there any recent events that have been significant for the problem of sexual violence and sexual exploitation in the country?

I learned so much from the organizations and individuals that I encountered in Austria, but I have decided to explain all of my reflections in a post about Europe as a whole. The problem of sexual exploitation is not isolated to one country - the collective history and interconnectivity of the continent has a great deal to do with the everyday lives of exploited women in its borders. Keep an eye out for reflections on my time in Europe!

First Impressions:

The word often used to describe Austria was regal. No matter how ordinary a building, it has not escaped the artistic and ornate flair that this country has. It can actually all seem very overwhelming at first. If you look hard enough, though, you find spots like this with a sense of coziness, tucked between the esteem and flair.


No comments: