Every Sex Worker, A Human Rights Defender

aswcon

That is the tagline for the first ever African sex worker-led conference, which is happening next week in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Here’s a little bit of information about the conference grabbed from the PDF of the conference announcement:

The conference will include sex worker-only activities in order to form friendships and create solidarity, as well as organizing sessions to develop the alliance’s mission and principles. The immediate outcome of the conference will be to prepare a position paper and petition that demands an end to the violation of sex workers’ human rights that will be presented to the media and other key bodies and institutions. The issues of sex trafficking and child sex work interact with the adult sex industry, but are pressing concerns that demand separate special attention.

Trafficking should not be automatically conflated with sex work and the plight of people forced to have sex and work in abusive and exploitative conditions should not be limited to trafficked persons. Sex trafficking and child sex work are particular forms of human rights violations, and can be extreme, akin to torture and slavery. Sex trafficking and child sex work thrive in environments where sex work is criminalized since those involved in the sex industry are afraid to report cases of trafficking and exploitation. The conference takes a united stand in the fight against trafficking in any form – sexual slavery, child labour, body parts.

Moreover, the conference organizers believe that empowering sex workers as human rights defenders will allow sex workers to be better equipped and enabled to assist in the struggle against trafficking. Whilst this conference will explore ways sex workers can expose cases of trafficking, the focus of the conference will have more emphasis on those adult individuals who have the physical freedom to leave or remain in the commercial sex industry.

During the conference, a variety of complex issues will be discussed. The participants will examine the controversial debate on sex work. Often sex work is considered in binary terms, defined as being ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’. However, like all other activities, sex work has its advantages and disadvantages, its good moments and bad moments. The sex work argument has become clouded by every sex worker, a human right s defender other interacting debates on morality, religion, sexuality, love, desire, relationships, health, the body, laws, public private distinctions, gender identity, and different power relations. The conference will attempt to go deep into the sex work debate – turning over the different facets, aspects, and characteristics of being a sex worker. It seeks to dispel prejudices, embrace different viewpoints, and look at sex work in all its complexities. As a sex worker-led campaign, it will represent all kinds of sex workers, demonstrating that great diversity exists within the sex worker population in terms of gender, class, race, and sexual orientation. Furthermore, the conference will fully recognize that sex work is work and sex workers need rights, not rescue.

These are the folks behind the conference and the organizations involved:

Sex workers
o Sisonke – South African sex worker movement
o Sex workers from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal,
Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

Sex worker organizations and Organizations with sex worker programs and projects
o Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS – BONELA (Botswana)
o Centre for the Development of People – CEDEP (Malawi)
o Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe – GALZ (Zimbabwe)
o International Centre for Reproductive Health – ICRHK (Kenya)
o People Opposing Women’s Abuse – POWA (South Africa)
o Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce – SWEAT (South Africa)
o Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit – RHRU (South Africa)
o The Rainbow Project – TRP (Namibia)
o Uganda Coalition for Crisis Prevention – UCCP (Uganda)
o Women’s Organization Networking for Human Rights Advocacy –
WONETHA (Uganda)

Exciting stuff!

Since October I’ve been working at the International Women’s Health Coalition in New York (yes, I have a full time job, not working for myself for the first time in many years) as their online strategist. The info about this conference comes through one of our partners in South Africa, People Opposing Women’s Abuse, and hopefully I’ll be able to get a report from a conference attendee that I can post here on BNG. In general I’m getting connected up with a worldwide network of people who work on sexual rights and reproductive health issues – and of course nudging folks on sex worker issues where I can. IWHC does a combination of support and grant-making to orgs that work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America; we push governments in those regions to make change; and we do policy work in Washington and with the UN – and now that I’m here, there will be online media about lots of that.

Anyway – just wanted to share the African sex worker conference with everyone and let you know what I’m up to.

Pompeo, Stirring up the Kettle on Rent Boys and Methheads

After being given ample content on rights work, the relation to workers of other genders, and the ins-and-outs of racist and sexist discrimination and policing by a number of New York’s working boys, Joe Pompeo pulled a Jessica Pilot  in the New York Observer with “The Hipster Rent Boys of New York.” Not a word on racial discrimination, or the use of video peepshows, strolls, or the few last-standing hustler bars, and not a word on organizing.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the comments section wasn’t crammed full of those nasty little “diseased,” “Narcissistic,” “drug-addicted,” “meth-head” accusations that complete the very definition of an Internet article about us whores and those whoring regardless of gender.

But that’s enough raving. In other news, the Freakonomics guy (and Columbia sociology professor) Sudhir Venkatesh keeps getting quoted in what I think are questionable articles. He’s the guy who wrote a piece for Slate Magazine citing the 40 percent figure, as in 40 percent of sessions don’t include touching or sex. Maybe I should invite him on a work date?

Changing from within or not?

So I went to a Sex Trafficking panel led by the interfaith group at UCSC. The panel was comprised of a nun, a man, and a cop from the San Jose Police Department, whose position is being in charge of the human trafficking cases for the south bay counties, to include Santa Cruz and Monterrey.

It was as expected, they came from the all sex workers are victims, and one of them thought all porn == objectification, and that leads to sex trafficking (her logic is beyond me).

I was the only one trying to separate the 2 things (Sex and Sexuality) from Slavery and trafficking.

I was happy when the Cop said, there is a very miniscule amount of sex trafficking happening in this area. He also said he’s working on a case against 2 men who trafficked 2 women from Nevada to come work as sex workers. I’m not against these people, I’m glad they are fighting to end slavery. I just wish they would explore their sexuality, and come to respect sex workers, and not see us as victims.

Also tonight in Santa Cruz, the city council was voting on banning sitting on public park benches for more than an hour, and also sitting on the sidewalk, and a host of other things aimed at eradicating the less desirables from downtown in an effort to increase public safety.

These events have made me re-evaluate the best way for organizational change. Is it smart to work from outside, and try to lobby the city council to understand sitting on park benches is not bad, or that sex work is actual work, or that sex and porn is different than (and does not lead to) sexual trafficking?

Or is it smarter to try and work from the inside, to get into the government, to get on the city council, to get in with the Human Trafficking police organizations, and change from within?

I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my personal life, to see where I want my direction to go. I’m very dedicated to human rights work, and to sex workers rights, but how best can I affect social change, for my friends, brothers, sisters and be allies to others?

Perhaps the very last of my Social Change through Non-Violent Communication class tomorrow night can help me come to some sort of conclusion. I pose the question:

How best to affect social change for our movement?

Time for Change in Fight Against Human Trafficking

With a new administration in the White House, many sex workers and their allies are looking to the Obama administration with high hopes that we can effect substantive change towards acknowledgement of sex workers’ human rights.

Melissa Ditmore has a new article over at RHRealityCheck.org:  The Right Time for  Change in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.

In 2007, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, sponsored a Senate resolution creating the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, which we observed on Sunday, January 11. Human trafficking is rarely on the pundits’ list of priorities for President Obama’s administration, but he knows that early action in this area could have global impact. For starters, he should reconsider the current approach of raids, raids and more raids. It’s not working.

The Obama administration has the opportunity to reassess this failed federal approach to human trafficking. The recent passage of federal anti-trafficking legislation championed by Vice President Joe Biden offers a fresh start – and a chance to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

A good first step would be to move away from high-profile, resource-intensive and largely ineffective raids and to address the economic and social circumstances that increase vulnerability to trafficking. It flourishes in labor sectors with few protections, such as domestic work, agriculture, the service industry, and informal economies such as day labor and, yes, sex work. Expansion and targeted enforcement of labor laws in these sectors would not only go a long way toward locating, identifying and assisting trafficked persons, it would also protect the rights of all workers.

For the long term, strategies led by individuals and communities with knowledge of and access to trafficked people are far more likely than raids to meet with success. Obama’s 2007 Senate resolution recognized this, noting that the people most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims are “essential for effective enforcement” – but at the moment, such people are not shielded from immigration consequences or arrest if they come forward.

Press Conference: Protest Prostitution Charges against Activist

It would be great if the folks in the San Francisco Bay area could show up to court in support of Shelly Resnick, who was charged with prostitution.  Here is the press release:  
For Immediate Release: Jan 24, 2009
Event: Press Conference: San Francisco Transsexual Activist Falsely
Accused of Prostitution
Location: 850 Bryant Street, San Francisco Hall of Justice
Date: Monday January 26, 2009
Time: 8:30 am
Contact:  Acire4SWOP@gmail.com

In an act of harassment by the San Francisco Police Department, Shelly
Resnick was falsely charged  with solicitation of prostitution. Later, the District Attorney trumped up the charges and claimed that Shelly engaged in the actual act of prostitution.

 “These charges are completely false.” states Shelly as no such act took
place. Shelly strongly disputes the content of the police report as
patently false. “This is harassment and discrimination.”
 
Shelly was set up on a police sting. She did not solicit and nor did she
agree to any act of prostitution, but she was cited anyway.

“The police have no evidence of these charges. In fact they claimed to
have an audio recording which they say they are unable to locate,” says

Acire Roche of Sex Worker Outreach Project.
Sex Worker Outreach Project joins Shelly in support at her hearing,
protesting this discrimination and misconduct. “Ms. Resnick filed a
complaint with Office of Citizen Complaints on November 19th.

Reno Says No To Brothels

To answer a question I had, it turns out that Reno and Sparks have no interest in bringing legal brothels into their city.

Reno is a family community. If degenerates want legal hookers, they have to drive a whole nine miles away. That keeps the sex and family separate — as it damn well should be!

Is this Slanderous?

I read on S.M. Berg’s blog that Robyn Few, Norma Jean Almadovar, and Margo St. James were convicted on pimping charges.  Is this correct?  If not, it’s slander.  Robyn’s conviction was for conspiracy to commit prostitution across state lines, and the word “pimping” does not appear in this charge.     Here is a link to the blog I’m referring to:  http://www.genderberg.com/phpNuke/modules.php?name=FAQ&myfaq=yes&id_cat=2&categories=Prostitution+FAQf#16 .

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