The freedom to say NO

UN Goal Nr. 5 was created because for centuries men and women had completely different rights. Men often ruled over women until today. But the sexes are equal in everything, at least in terms of the values of the UN.

The reality today: discriminatory laws and social norms against women and girls remain widespread; for example, in 2019, the U.S. and Papua New Guinea have one thing in common that seems more than strange: they are the only countries without “paid maternity leave”. And in procedures and processes of many organizations, women are simply forgotten.

Women and girls globally take on a far greater proportion of care work; the unpaid work around the home and with children and elderly family members. According to the UN, it is three times as much time compared to men.

In addition, women of all ages and regardless of ethnic origin are affected by violence in all countries. Not only by random strangers, but also by intimate partner violence, and across all strata of the population.

All the way to criminal exploitation: tolerated, yet illegal prostitution, which in Germany had its focal points in places like the "Reeperbahn". And which, after tough wrangling by legislators in Germany, was legalized and regulated in 2017.

Until modern times, for many women the seemingly often only way to secure their existence with sex for sale at least to some extent. Today in Germany a recognized profession, to give existing truth a legal form; to enable thereby also these people a social security and to reduce illegal human trafficking and "modern slavery".

Two well-known photographers have made such extreme worlds visible in extraordinary photographs. The one, Nan Goldin, of being beaten and experiencing violence, which is more common than we think:

Because according to the current figures of the German government (11/2020), every 3rd woman in Germany is a victim of physical and/or sexual violence at least once in her life. Every 4th woman experiences this violence from current or previous partners. In 2019, there were just under 115,000 women. Of these, 301 homicides.

This is only the number of cases that were reported to the authorities, without taking into account the cases not indicated.

Nan Goldin: Nan one month after being battered (Nan einen Monat nach der Misshandlung), 1983 ©Nan Goldin

Roswitha Hecke: Irene, 1976 © Roswitha Hecke

The other photographer is Roswitha Hecke. In 1978, the photo book Liebes Leben was published about the Zurich prostitute Irene, who later became a muse and model.

It becomes not only a cult book, but a worldwide success, for which Hecke received the Kodak Prize in 1979. It tells of a self-determined woman who, despite her sad past, led a life in which she could exist well provided for materially. In an interview, Roswitha Hecke says that Irene always kept her dignity and chose her men. Irene alias Lady Shiva, at that time still a "street whore" in Zurich, said : "I belong to those who take. In the past it was different. I don't want to be one of the victims anymore".(Book Liebes leben). She describes her own way, how a woman with prostitution led a self-determined life.

Both photographers documented it, these sensitive topics, which we take up here consciously. After all, they are socially existing reality.

Thus, through Irene, this topic also touches on the 8th goal: Decent Work.

Even if irritations may arise over this term. Because at least Irene chose her working conditions herself. For example, without pimps and with the freedom to accept or refuse. This is something that smuggled-in "sex workers" could hardly claim for themselves.

The photographer was born in Washington/USA in 1953. She takes photos of herself and her environment, without fear and without Consideration of “forbidden topics”. There are no taboos in her depictions. Partly with frightening directness she shows us how life can be, how a part of her life was. 

Photographer Roswitha Hecke has photographed all over the world and now lives in Hamburg again. Among other things, she spent years traveling in the USA. This time led to her book Menschen-Orte-Fäuste. Her works deal with marginalized groups of society, a separate theme was the "species man" and his behavior as "macho" or, quite correctly, called "machismo".