Help us label this ‘client’
Enfold India 22 Jun 2018

Help us label this ‘client’

- Inputs from Chryslynn Dcosta, Avanti Shrikumar

Why do academicians and social workers stress the importance of using the correct labels for marginalised groups of people? The reason is that language influences thought. If we are free to use derogatory words for underprivileged groups (for instance, if we use the word “untouchables” instead of the word “dalits”), we normalise the idea that it is ok to treat such groups with less respect. The converse holds true as well; if we fail to label criminals with a word that reflects the atrocity of the crime (for instance, if we use the word “fighters” instead of the word “terrorists”), we mentally blind ourselves to the true nature of the acts they commit. “Call a spade a spade” as the saying goes.

Now, consider industries in the service sector and the respective labels they use for the professional and the customer. By and large, the title of the professional is directly associated with the profession. Consider: cabin crew, technicians, carpenters, plumbers, waiters, etc.

By contrast, the labels given to individuals who are forced to offer sexual services are laden with negative stigma. Consider: prostitute, hooker, gigolo and whore. However, the label for those who take advantage of exploited individuals is simply “customer” or “client”, as though what they are doing is as acceptable as hiring a plumber.

It is basic economics that supply follows demand - and yet, the stigma towards prostitution is focused on the supply and not the demand. People often ignore that it is the demand alone which creates a supply chain that relies on human trafficking, exploitation, rape and abuse, often involving young children. The trauma and torture that victims of trafficking experience is unreported and underplayed. Which leaves us wondering: Why isn’t the client, who is fully aware of these atrocities, labelled with a word that reflects the true nature of what they are doing?

What can we call this person? Help us find a word that reflects the insensitive, inhuman and utterly selfish nature of this ‘client’.

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