Event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

“Empowering Sex Workers to Ensure Safety, Health and the Protection of Human Rights”
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
52nd Session
Parallel Event Sponsored by
Sex Workers Project, Urban Justice Center &
International Women’s Health Coalition
February 27, 2008
Time: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Church Center
(Across the street from United Nations, 44th and 1st)
Hardin Room (11th Fl.)
777 United Nations Plaza
NY, NY 10017
As leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS and trafficking, sex workers are integral to educating their clients, their communities and the public about safe sex practices and to helping prevent forced sex work. Panelists will discuss how sex workers rights must be protected to ensure access to health, legal, educational and social services.
Taking the Pledge, a short film about USAID funding restrictions in regards to sex workers, will also be shown.
Moderator:
Supriya Pillai, Program Officer, International Women’s Health Coalition
Panelists:
Sapna Patel, Staff Attorney, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center
Elaine Pearson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Melissa Ditmore, Ph.D., Coordinator, Network of Sex Work Projects
Editor, Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work
Video:
Taking the Pledge

House GOP Opposes AIDS Program Changes

By JIM ABRAMS Associated Press

The Lantos bill would eliminate a provision in the 2003 bill requiring that one-third of all prevention spending go to abstinence programs. That amounts to about 7 percent of all spending. Critics say that while they don’t oppose abstinence programs, inflexible funding requirements are counterproductive.

It also would remove a provision stating that all groups receiving money under the program must sign a pledge confirming that they do not support the legalization of prostitution or sex trafficking. The groups still may provide condoms or condom information to prostitutes. The provision, said its author, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., was designed to “ensure that pimps and brothel owners don’t become U.S. government partners.”

Democrats said studies have shown that some groups will not or cannot make the pledge because of concerns it will alienate women they are trying to reach. Other groups say legalized and controlled prostitution could help slow the spread of HIV infection.

Read the full article here.

The article also appears in: San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Seattle and the UK

If you are in or near any of those cities, please send a letter to the editor:

UK: letters@guardian.co.uk

SF: letters@sfchronicle.com

San Luis Obispo: letters@thetribunenews.com

Seattle: opinion@seattletimes.com

Please also keep an eye out for this story in your local papers and be prepared to send a letter to the editor (sample below)

Also, no matter where you are, please go to the stories above and comment at the websites if they allow comments.

Thanks!

Stacey

Sample LTE: Use this as a guide, but don’t copy it, it’s more effective to say it in your own words. Keep it brief and focus on one key point. Most publications will require that you provide a phone number and mailing address for reference only, they will not publish it. It’s also helpful to include your organization/affiliation.

Editor, 

Regarding Jim Abrams’ Feb. 8 article: House GOP Opposes AIDS Program Changes

Kudos to Representative Lantos for pushing for reform in PEPFAR policies, including the anti-prostitution oath. This policy dangerously conflates prostitution with trafficking and leaves women globally without health and support services that could help them avoid both HIV and forced-prostitution. It is time for the US to respond to these issues with practical solutions that get resources to those who need them- not with moralistic hysteria. 

Sincerely,

Stacey Swimme 

Co-Founder

Desiree Alliance

http://www.DesireeAlliance.org

2756 N. Green Valley Parkway Box 104
Henderson, NV 89014-2120

866-525-7967 X 702

Who were those hot bitches talking about BoundNotGagged.com at SF State?

stacey and melissa at sex tech small
photo by Audacia Ray

Attendees at Sex::Tech- The Inaugural STD/HIV Prevention Conference focusing on Youth and Technology- were all abuzz about the “sex work blog thing” before our panel even happened. Or so Melissa and I were told at the post-conference happy hour. (Yes, despite missing many of the workshops, I did manage to make it to both of the cocktail parties!) “What does this have to do with youth and HIV/AIDS prevention?” “Why are they presenting at this conference for prevention educators?” After our presentation, people were stopping us in the halls to tell us how great and informative our presentation was! I certainly observed a furrowed brow or two when I looked out into the audience, but in general I think that our message was clear.

Sex workers have everything to do with sexual health education and disease prevention. We are a huge part of the solution. Our presentation was the first time that many educators learned about the PEPFAR provisions that limit health and education funding to agencies that serve sex workers. It was the first time that many people learned of the hypocrisy with which such policies are implemented and of the exposure of Randall Tobias, former Deputy Secretary of State who said that “it was just like ordering pizza” when he’d “call up and have the gals come by for a massage.” This is the birth point of BnG.

So we told them how the blog started. We told them about long, teary, angry all-hours-of-the-night phone calls that Melissa and I shared while as sex workers we were sitting in our own isolated worlds watching the media tell our stories through the lens of the “DC Madam Scandal.” That we desperately needed a space to respond and share our own opinions, to tell of our own exploits and scandals and to confront the stigma and harassment that we experienced with every twisted, slanted and salacious ‘hookers-to-the-elite’ story emailed out over our various list-serves. We told them that we didn’t really expect anybody besides our friends to read it, so we set out. But then Melissa actually talked to the DC Madam and the story suddenly felt accessible to us. Web-based radio shows and other bloggers were actually interviewing Jeane Palfrey, ABC News interviewed us about our first Blog-Scandal-Viewing party where sex workers got together and watched ‘Taking the Pledge’ along with the 20/20 fluff piece about the ‘Madam’s phone list.’ People were actually listening to us! Bloggers were linking to us and lurkers were stopping by regularly to see what those crazy hookers were talking about this week.

But the more we talked out in the open, the less crazy and foreign we seemed to people!

The conversations bounced around, lots of people came by to hate on us, which only sparked a whole bunch of new people coming to stand in solidarity with us! Once we found our collective voice we began using it to confront enemies on all sides. We held a virtual rally to support the actions in Philadelphia to oppose the reinstatement of Judge Deni who tolerates sexual violence against sex workers. Just a few weeks earlier we had our biggest day ever (9/18/07 with over 2,100 hits!!!) when we held a virtual press conference to confront Melissa Farley and her not-peer-reviewed research that conflates prostitution with trafficking…

…leading us back to how the blog started… US policy… the conflation of forced labor with consensual sex… the trafficking smoke-screen used to distract Americans from their own responsibility for the demand for cheap labor and to hide the corporate-driven severe exploitation occurring in many labor markets… pledges that prevent us from giving away condoms… the divide-and-conquer tactics that keep feminists busy fighting against women so that the anti-choice forces can focus on attacking Roe v. Wade… the horrible things said about us in the media… in ‘journalism’… in blogs…in living rooms…

People die when sex workers are silenced and stigmatized.

BnG exists because sex workers are the solution, and despite the gag orders that bind us, we will never be silent!!!

We made lots of new friends at the conference and got to meet up with some folks we already knew. Have to send a shout out to Guy and Nikol at the Midwest Teen Sex Show!! Thank you to all the people who attended and asked great questions about sex work at the end. We welcome all service providers and agencies to use this blog as a resource to get info, ask questions or just come hang out with hot, sexy, politically-minded people of all genders!

Thank you Melissa for putting together the power point and being our amazing messing-around-under-the-covers goddess!

In solidarity,

Stacey

SWOP East Int. Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Two Part online event

**Please Distribute Widely**

 

For Immediate Release                              Media Contact: swopeast@gmail.com

December 13, 2007                                               

                                                             
Sex Workers Outreach Project East

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Two-Part Online Event

1) Repository for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Projects/Pictures/Events …and…

2) Live Online Vigil

Who: Sex Workers Outreach Project East Two-Part Online Event

What: Repository for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Projects and Live Online Vigil 

When: Repository begins Saturday, December 15th, 5:00 PM EST and continues through Monday;

Live Online Vigil Monday, December 17th, 5 – 11 PM Eastern (2-8 PM Pacific)

Where: http://www.swopeast.blogspot.com/

Beginning Saturday, December 15th, at 5:00 PM EST, the swopeast.blogspot.com will be available for posting pictures, events, comments, summaries, reactions, etc., to events related to the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Please post any comments or artifacts that you’d like to share and visit our blogspot to view happenings related to the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers from around the world.

On Monday, December 17th, beginning at 5:00 PM until 11:00 PM EST SWOP East will be holding a Live Online Vigil. Please join our virtual community to share your stories, mourn our sisters and brothers, and work toward a space where this violence is no longer tolerated.  

For questions or more information contact swopeast@gmail.com

 

SEX WORKERS’ LEADERSHIP CRITICAL THEME FOR WORLD AIDS DAY

     PRESS  STATEMENT

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Sapna Patel,
SWP, 646/602.5626,

spatel@urbanjustice.org

(New York City, November 30, 2007) – The Sex Workers Project at the

Urban Justice Center joins organizations and individuals in the U.S. and
around the world to observe World AIDS Day on December 1, 2007. The
theme for World AIDS Day 2007 is Leadership. This theme highlights the
fact that sex workers are imperative in the fight to prevent and treat
HIV/AIDS and must be at the forefront as leaders in local, national and
international efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

Sex work is universal and any successful effort to curb the spread of
HIV/AIDS must not only incorporate sex workers, but also place them in
leadership positions as educators and decision-makers in their
communities. Unfortunately, bias against sex workers the world over
often means that instead of being engaged as part of the solution to the
HIV/AIDS pandemic, sex workers are treated as part of the problem. They
are then punished rather than enlisted to help in HIV/AIDS prevention
and treatment programs. For example, the U.S. Anti-Prostitution Pledge
requires that health care and social service providers receiving
HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking funding denounce prostitution. This policy
has been used to deny sex workers around the world the health services
they need to survive, the safe-sex education that could protect them and
their communities from HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
infections, and the programs such as education and job training that
could give them more control over their lives.

The organizations with the most effective HIV-prevention programs build
their efforts on a sophisticated understanding of the social and
personal dynamics faced by sex workers, and start by building trust and
credibility among these groups. They recognize that it is necessary to
provide social, legal and health services to men and women in sex work
without judging them.  Basically, the Anti-Prostitution Pledge requires
groups to express the government’s viewpoint on a controversial subject
in order to remain eligible for funding. It even restricts the way
organizations use their own private funds. The language is so confusing
that organizations are unsure how to comply with it and government
officials are unsure how to enforce it. The Anti-Prostitution Pledge
unfairly vilifies sex workers and also forces organizations that treat
vulnerable people to take sides – either to condemn the people who need
their help or risk losing the funds that make their crucial work
possible.

Sex workers are often more knowledgeable about sexual health – and
practice safe sex more often – than the general population. They often
act as sexual health educators for their clients and should be
mobilized, not demonized, in the struggle to control HIV/AIDS. An
approach that recognizes sex workers’ human rights, addresses their
needs, promotes safer behavior and improves their access to health and
social services can empower them to overcome stigma and discrimination
so they can insist upon condom use by clients and also fight for safer
working conditions. This approach will attract sex workers’ support and
achieve the goal of helping to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Sex workers are individuals whose reasons for engaging in sex work – and
leaving it – are personal, economic and social – as complex as anyone’s
reasons for involvement in any type of work. Sex workers who have the
knowledge and necessary tools are able to protect themselves and their
clients. When they have the power to negotiate, sex workers are leaders
in practicing safer-sex methods. We call on States and non-governmental
partners to place sex workers in the forefront as leaders in this fight.

The Network of Sex Work Projects has produced a 13-minute video about
the effects of the pledge. Watch Taking the Pledge at
http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/181155 or at
http://www.sexworkersproject.org.

The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center provides legal
services, legal training, documentation, and policy advocacy for sex
workers in New York City.  For more information, please visit our
website at: http://www.sexworkersproject.org.
###

International Harm Reduction Conference, Barcelona, Spain 2008

In May 2007, sex workers and advocates gathered from across the globe
to attend the 18th International Harm Reduction Conference in Warsaw
Poland. Last year was our first time at this event and it was quite a
success. Rachel Wotton from Scarlet Alliance- the Australian Sex
Workers’ Association-was our plenary speaker and we held sex worker
lead panels and living room sessions.
http://www.soros.org/initiatives/health/focus/sharp/events/conference_200705
24/agenda.pdf

We also had a booth that we took turns working daily during the
conference. Our topics ranged from outreach to law reform and we spoke
with hundreds of people during the conference. Now it is time to do it
again, this time in Barcelona Spain May 11th-15th, 2008.

We have been invited to create sex worker lead panels and sessions
from abstracts submitted to IHRA for 2008. We encourage
representatives from all the sex worker networks to put in your
abstracts and to keep us in the loop so we can do our utmost to get
your abstract accepted.
Please do the following two things:
1. Submit your abstract directly to the International Harm Reduction
Association (IHRA) http://www.ihra.net/ by November 14, 2007
2. after submitting your abstract to IHRA, please send us a heads up
note including your abstract and any other information about the sex
worker organization you work with to swopusa@yahoo.com and
psaunders@bestpracticespolicy.org

All entries will be notified of acceptance by Dec. There is limited
funding and please be sure to apply for an IHRA scholarship when you
submit your abstract too.

Need help shaping your abstract? Never done an “abstract” and feel
like its not for you? Contact swopusa@yahoo.com and
psaunders@bestpracticespolicy.org by Nov 1 and we’ll connect you to a
fellow advocate who can help you brainstorm your idea and shape your
abstract. Remember that there are all kinds of different roles and
venues to present at IHRA-you don’t have to have studied at University
or be a “researcher” to present about sex worker issues at this
conference.

Sincerely,

Sex Worker Harm Reduction Panel Participants

SWOP East’s Growth and Expansion

I am happy to share some very good news about SWOP East. Just over a year ago, SWOP East was an independent harm reduction based project called the STORM Project, Sex Trade Opportunities for Risk Minimization. While we retain a harm reduction component, we made a radical decision as an organization to take on a sex worker rights position as the core belief and mission of our organization. I approached SWOP about bringing STORM under the SWOP banner as part of my hopes to switch to a sex worker rights position. At the time I was the only sex worker rights activist on the board of directors. SWOP-USA welcomed STORM into SWOP and we became SWOP East.

SWOP East now has a sex worker rights based Board of Directors, we added some wonderful and talented activists and allies, Jessica Land joined us and has brought her energy and experience in the movement to become our new Board Chair, Amanda Brooks, joined in May and along with our Chilean counterpart Beatriz Mercado in Chile, they have been instrumental in the now launching Pledging Action global effort to get condoms to sex workers in Santiago, Chile that have lost access to resources due to USAid anti trafficking legislation which has devastated outreach programs worldwide. Lola Silvera of Toronto is my frequent adviser and is on our advisory board. Last month saw Jill McCracken of St. Petersburg, Florida to SWOP East as our new treasurer, Ren Ev. in DC has joined us as an awareness activist and we are close to having a supporter join us from Richmond, VA.

SWOP-USA’s welcoming of what was STORM and the great, vital energy of all of the new members, of which I am eternally grateful and thankful for all of their effort, work and enthusiasm, has developed SWOP East into an organization spanning two continents, three countries, and seven states.

Our growth is part of the emerging sex worker rights movement of which I am so proud of all it’s members and thrilled to be part of! This started three years ago when I was welcomed into the sex worker rights movement by so many activists that I love and respect dearly

We are always interested in hearing from others interested in working with SWOP East, SWOP-USA or any Sex Worker Rights Org or any sex worker or sex worker rights activist, ally or supporter that wants to join a growing movement for social justice for sex workers worldwide!

In Solidarity

Jill Brenneman

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