Comments by “Citizens against Trafficking” about Photo of Cambodian Sex Workers Protesting Law Enforcement Brutality

“Citizens against Trafficking” (CAT)  wrote the following about a photo of Cambodian sex workers protesting law enforcement brutality under U.S. imposed anti-prostitution legislation: 

“Look at this photo from a ‘sex workers’ rally’ in Cambodia. The writing on their t-shirts says ‘Sex Work is Work: Defend the Right to Livelihood.’ Look at the faces of these women. Do they look like happy, empowered women and girls rallying to demand their right to be prostitutes? Or do they look like victims of trafficking told to put on t-shirts and sit while someone takes their picture?

A Rhode Island police officer who has been in the brothel-spas looked at this photo and said, ‘The women I saw in the spa looked just like that.”

Well, of course these sex workers look unhappy considering that they were protesting the rapes, beatings, and theft that Cambodian sex workers have been subject to by police and prison guards under U.S. imposed anti-prostitutuion legislation.  Yet, CAT mentions nothing about this oppressive legislation.  CAT mentions nothing about how sex workers have been incarerated and subject to police brutality under anti-prostitution policies like what this organization promotes, in which the issue of human trafficking is exploited to promote policies against sex workers.  Well, this is a tragic example of what happens when people  exploit the seriousness of human trafficking to promote oppressive laws against sex workers.   The quote above was on page 3 of an article “Sex Radicals Vision for Rhode Island.”   Here’s a link:  http://www.citizensagainsttrafficking.org/attachments/File/sex_radical_vision_for_ri_92309.pdf .

Also, here’s an online documentary about the human rights abuses Cambodian sex workers are being subject to by law enforcement under U.S. imposed anti-prostitution legislation: http://www.blip.tv/file/970833/ .

Here’s an article which uses the same photo of Cambodian sex workers protesting that CAT used, but the difference is that this article used the photo in context: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20080604/cambodian-prostitutes-protest-police-crackdown_all.htm .

29 Responses

  1. Sorry, SWA, I can’t find the article.

  2. Hi Susan:
    I found a link to the newsletter and added it to the initial message in this thread above. I initially received the newsletter as an attachment somebody e-mailed to me, and I wasn’t sure how to upload attachments to this blog.

  3. So in other words, Donna Hughes and her friend know that this is a protest against US imposed anti-prostitution legislation, but are taking the photograph out of context, deliberately.

    They also have a photograph of “Gauntlet”, an obscure publication that probably folded years ago, and has nothing to do with current sex workers rights and activism, and certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the Rhode Island situation. They must have done an extensive web search to find it.

  4. That “Gaunlet” photo has nothing to do with sex worker rights and everything to do with titillation. (Much like a lot of abolitionist publications.)

    But complaining about the Cambodian sex workers who were risking everything to protest? Does CAT believe that sex worker activists have to look a certain way in order to be taken seriously? Says a lot about their priorities.

    XX

  5. Susan, I’m not sure if CAT knew what this photo was about, but this organization’s tactics are unexcusable either way. I believe that this was a malicious and deliberate tactic to hide the horrendous abuses Cambodian sex workers are being subject to by law enforcement under U.S. imposed anti-prostitution legislation. Even if CAT was oblivious to such abuses, the organization could have taken the time to educate itself about the resasons why the sex workers were protesting and how this oppressive legislation is affecting sex workers before posting remarks on the photo.
    Also, if CAT was unaware of what these women were protesting and why they looked so distressed, it’s important to keep in mind that there are a variety of reasons why sex workers could be unhappy, such as being subject to inceraration, having one’s chidren taken away, housing discrimination, stigmatization, and violence; and being unable to report violence or publically mobilize against violence without incriminating oneself in the process. Thus, the sex workers who participated in the rally demonstated a lot of courage. Sex workers could also be distressed about how certain prohibtionists are exploiting abuses against sex workers to promote anti-prostitution laws that harm sex workers and make these workers more vulnerable to abuses. The situation in Cambodia is a horrendous example of this.
    However, if CAT has as much expertise on prostitution and trafficking as this organization acts like it does, then I expect that CAT would know about the incarceration and law enforcement abuses against Cambodian sex workers under U.S. imposed legislation that is “supposed” to be about stopping human trafficking. Yet, I have no idea how raping, robbing, and beating sex workers is stopping human trafficking.
    Also, the “Gauntlet” picture looks like a police officer arresting a sex worker and I think we’re the abolitionists because we’re the people who advocate to abolish oppressive anti-prostitution laws that encourage slavery, the legal trafficking of sex workers into jail cages, and other abuses.

  6. Well this re framing of workers’ experiences is a common practice employed by bosses, to debase the voice of the worker.
    It’s a common practice of the white imperialist, gentrifier slave holder religious zealots.
    I mean look at how both kidnapper rapist Garrido and Mitchell

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-elizabeth-smart2-2009oct02,0,4407143.story

    use religion as a means to justify their sexual assault. The haters of prostitutes rights, the police, the ‘researchers’ and the non proftis are the same in that in that their position promotes sexual assault on us so they can in turn get their rescue righteous high on.

    Did anyone see this article in The Nation. ‘The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking ‘
    The end features Cambodian police talking about robbing and rapping prostitutes on a regualar basis. This is one of the reasons I think we need a Global Truth and Reconciliation Commission for our industry and surrounding communities.

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091005/thrupkaew

  7. To me, the Gauntlet photo looked staged. That’s all.

    XX

  8. Well, Gauntlet Magazine was published in the 90s, and it’s quite obscure. And it was a libertarian publication, not one by sex worker activists, as Hughes and her friend are portraying it to be.

  9. Frankly people, in my opinion, Hughes is like a very foolish spider who keeps throwing out her web willy-nilly. Eventually she will get caught in her own strands.

    Case in point: Certain members of the Rhode Island legislature are at the point where they are getting sick of her antics. Let’s hope their numbers will grow enough to defeat her rancid bill.

  10. Well at least all the antis aren’t as organised as we think.
    Donna says they are trafficking victims- while Somaly Mam and the antis in Cambodia say that this is a photo of a rally of 500 pimps and traffickers.
    They should get their stories straight…..
    Hughes knows perfectly well all about the law in Cambodia and its impact- she was an advisor to the TIP office at state that pushed the law.

  11. If anyone is interested in reading a blow by blow account of the ins and outs of the law in Cambodia- APNSW has published a detailed account here:

    http://apnswdollhouse.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/caught-between-the-tiger-and-the-crocodile.pdf

  12. I came on line to mention the article I wrote about Cambodia, Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile and I see Andrew has already done it. What a well oiled machine we are !

    As one of the Cambodia rally organisers I can say that 500 sex workers arrived at 7am to set up chairs and the stage up for an 8am start. Then they sat though speeches and performances till 1pm in sweltering heat.

    After the rally the sex workers got buses back to their slums, I slept in my friends house while anti-sex work people went back to their 5 star hotel and

  13. this isn’t the first time hughes used this photo. i saw and sent it to carol leigh before the last sw film festival in san francisco, when the photo appeared in some publicity material that hughes distributed with the same comment.

    laura

  14. it pains me that we in the us feel its better for a person to starve than to fuck for money to feed themselves or their kids.

  15. ….while anti-sex work people went back to their 5 star hotel and…

    Should have gotten a photo of that! Our tax payer money going to fund these people to fly across the globe to promote their sex negative shame based inflammatory crap via the American Tax Payer.
    I say we ought to stop bailing out these people.

  16. Amazing how the people endorsing starvation are always full and worried someone will take their choice of good food away and give it to someone who has none.

    Anti sex work often have a very high threshold of pain as long as it is someone else that is in pain.

  17. oops, should say “anti sex work people”, rather than “anti sex work”

    Someday I have to learn to proofread before hit submit.

  18. I’m familiar with Gauntlet, as described, it was a more-or-less libertarian magazine with an interest in freedom of expression issues and civil liberties issues. It published its last issue in 2003, though Gauntlet Press is still around as a publisher or horror fiction. As far as its “obscurity” goes, I’d say in its heyday, it was comparable to $pread on the fame/obscurity scale. I’ll also point out that it did publish more than a bit of sex worker writing, including articles by Norma Jean Almadovar, Carol Leigh, Nina Hartley, Veronica Monet, etc.

    What is really telling is how Hughes 1) digs this magazine up out of all the publications and journals that Ron Weitzer has written for, and 2) puts as lurid of a spin on it as she can, referring to it as a “lurid pulp magazine” and points to its “consistent themes of … sexual sadism and defense of 
    sex offenders”. That Gauntlet was a fairly mainstream if mildly risque and irreverent civil libertarian publication seems lost on her, but then I guess if you’re somebody who’s value systems seems to be something out of 1910, it might very well seem shocking.

    I’m still not sure whether Hughes is the Anita Bryant of the anti-prostitution movement, or its Roy Cohen. Perhaps a little of both.

  19. Well, by using the Gauntlet cover, Hughes can put sex workers in the same category as pedophiles. But this is a tactic that was used by people in the anti-gay movement of the 70s and 80s, and it didn’t quite work.

    And frankly, I’m getting tired of Hughes claiming to be feminist. How did this woman end up getting tenure in a women’s studies department? They must’ve been out of their minds.

  20. Yeah, this is a case of Hughes really digging for the most sensationalist material that she can paint people with. And to be fair to Gauntlet, their coverage of NAMBLA case was an article on a difficult free speech case, alongside another article about defending the free speech rights of the KKK. If Hughes doesn’t have the brain power to understand the difference between that and advocacy of the positions of either of those groups, I have to wonder how she ever made it through college much less got a degree.

    As far as her feminist credentials go, I think Hughes is the ultimate expression of mentality that being anti-porn and anti-prostitution is feminist in and of itself. As a tenured professor, Hughes now has free reign to pursue any tendentious path she sees fit. Still, pressure could be applied to other tenured profs in her department to censure (not censor, mind you) Hughes or at least publicly distance themselves from her rhetoric. Whether it would be possible to get enough support from within URI and/or the Women’s Studies community to put pressure on her department to do this I’m not sure.

  21. >>If Hughes doesn’t have the brain power to understand the difference between that and advocacy of the positions of either of those groups, I have to wonder how she ever made it through college much less got a degree.>>

    Her degrees are in genetics and animal science, and to me, that doesn’t qualify someone to be a part of a women’s studies department. You need social sciences, arts, and humanities for women’s studies. As far as I can see she doesn’t have this, although her Minor could have been in those categories.

    Personally, ladies and gents, I find it rather chilling that somebody with her background in genetics and animal science (think rats in a maze!), is using the Rhode Island legal system to perform social experimentation on a marginalized population.

  22. Well, I’m a biologist myself, and I don’t think scientists are as ignorant of arts and humanities as they might be stereotyped to be.

    In any event, based on Hughes writing on the subject, I get the feeling that she largely rejected science:

    http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/scifemep.htm

    Her rejection of science wasn’t exactly for the best reasons, and you can find statements in this essay to the effect that amount to advocating rejecting facts when you don’t agree with them. That certainly sums up a lot of what I’ve seen out of Hughes.

  23. Well, Curious, I’ll be frank. I despise it when people use their academic credentials in order to experiment on and generally abuse a marginalized population, or any population, for that matter.

    For example: it is an ABUSE OF POSITION for Melissa Farley to conduct faulty research that is not subject to peer review, and still have her quoted and given a position to speak in the news media. If she did that to, say, the Jewish or Hispanic population, and not be peer reviewed to boot, she would have been severely censured.

    For example: It is an ABUSE OF POSITION to virtually enforce a change in law in impoverished Cambodia, causing the kidnapping and captivity of sex workers by the police, and then to take a photo of those same sex workers protesting and unhappy about this treatment out of context. I have no doubt Ms. Hughes takes sadistic pleasure in further victimizing her own victims. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no way that she could have obtained this photograph without knowing what the photo itself was about.

    From my vantage point, the anti-prostitution movement, so to speak, largely receives it’s funding and foundation from pseudo-feministic female professors (because they add a veneer of science and feminism to bigotry), and it’s these people who have to be exposed and discredited with a fine-toothed comb.

  24. Sounds like a plot for the jerry springer show.

  25. Susan writes “Well, Curious, I’ll be frank.”

    Yeah, we’re using code names!! I am Pearl!

    ………… ;) Sorry, I couldn’t help myself on this one!

  26. I wish Saturday Night Live would take on paradian the prostitution ‘debate’.
    Just imagine what tina fey could do for us.

  27. Jill,

    :-DDDDDDDDD

  28. Maxine,

    Tina Fey would do a wonderful Donna Hughes, but I wouldn’t want Hughes to ever become that much of a public figure. It’s bad enough that she has the influence she does.

  29. Want Donna Hughes? Find a porcupine that threw all it’s quills at something and you have the same basic idea.

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