Panel Discussion on International Solidarity with India’s Sex Workers’ Rights Movement

Wednesday, April 13
5-7pm
The Brecht Forum, 451 West St. (West Side Highway), betw. Bank and Bethune, NEW YORK, NY
Click here for directions

Free and open to the public!

Dr. Smarajit Jana, one of the founders of the DMSC (Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee) in Calcutta, India, and his colleague, a member of DMSC’s organizing committee, are visiting the US in April, and will be speaking at the Brecht Forum on Wednesday, April 13, 5-7pm.

The DMSC is a collective forum of 65,000 sex workers and serves as a model of labor organizing within the sex worker rights community.  DMSC has been extremely successful in securing support for their work from the communist-led government of the Indian state of West Bengal, making the organization unique in the kinds of allies it has made in the course of doing its work.  However, opportunities for sex workers from the Global South to meet with fellow activists, like-minded scholars and allies in the Global North are few and far between, unlike the opportunities for networking among anti-human-trafficking activists, which abound, due to governmental support for the abolition of prostitution.  This exciting event will bring together sex workers’ and labor rights activists in New York with activists from India in a rich discussion on what’s happening, and what the way forward might be.

This event is sponsored by: the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP)-NYC, The Brecht Forum, South Asia Solidarity Initiative, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a coalition of sex workers’ rights advocates in New York City.

Making sense of the UPR.

So, with all the news happening in the Sex Worker activism camps around the UPR process, I thought it would be wise to try and make sense of it all, which I will be trying to do with this post.

UPR is the Universal Periodic Review, and each of the 192 countries in United Nations Human Rights Council are reviewed every 4 years.  This year (well 2010-2011) is the review period for the United States, and is the first time the US has been reviewed.  Basically the US writes a report about their status in regards to human rights and each of the 192 countries gets a chance to tell the US how they feel about the report, and anything else in regards to human rights.  Next, the United States gets to respond. In their response for each item the countries told the US about, they can support or not support the item.  But of course since we are talking about whole countries this process takes a long time (about a year total). Since we as sex workers are part of the Human Rights world, we are interested in what happens, and below is what happens as it concerns us as sex workers:

So in August of 2010, the US gave their report (PDF).

In November of 2010, the countries told the US what they thought of their report.  This is where it finally gets interesting to us as sex workers, for Uruguay had this to say (report in PDF):

92.86. Undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses (Uruguay);

We of course were VERY pleased with what Uruguay said, and promptly started organizing, to see how we can get the US to accept this recommendation and show their support.  So we started organizing, and we built a special group for this process with lots of broad support (See our group’s webpage for more information).  With all of this organizing we managed some success, and this is what the United States said in response:

86. We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution, as this recommendation suggests.

This is of course awesome, but our work is not yet done, for that we’ve started a new campaign that takes place this Wed March 18th called 86 the violence, don’t let us be a target. A brief video about it is here:

Hopefully this helps make this whole process easier to understand!

Dutch government wants their cut from sex workers

From the Huffington Post:

Nobody knows exactly how many prostitutes there are or how many of them pay tax, since legal ones are registered as one-women businesses, not brothels. But an Amsterdam-chartered study in October estimated there are slightly fewer than 8,000 prostitutes of all kinds in the city, and 3,000 working behind windows. An industry think-tank called the SOR Institute believes around 40 percent of window prostitutes already pay some income tax.

“It’s more all the time – though of course there are some sex workers who refuse,” says Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now runs an information center in the district.

“Their attitude is, we are stigmatized, made to feel that we are not part of society, we have trouble in getting a bank account – why should we pay taxes?”

Full Story Here

CALL TO ACTION: UGANDA: Government should break the chains of injustices against sexual minorities and lift decision to ban Sex Workers Human Rights workshop.

20 November 2010

On the 17th of November 2010 the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Hon Nsaba Buturo called off a conference organized by Akina Mama wa Afrika a Pan African Women’s Non Governmental Organisation based in Kampala, Uganda. He did so by sending a strong worded letter to the Hotel General Manager giving “directives not to host a Prostitutes Conference run by Akina Mama wa Afrika and if they do so, will be abetting illegality in Uganda”. It should be noted that Akina Mama sent a letter to the Minister informing him about the details of the conference. He never responded to it, but instead, sent a threatening letter to the hotel management with the objective to suspend the meeting.

The Minister’s actions are in open contradiction to the constitution of Uganda which guarantees the Freedom of Assembly, Speech and non discrimination said Kasha Jacqueline Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda. Commercial sex workers constitute a minority group that has the right to assemble, share ideas and forge ways on how to protect themselves against violence, abuse and HIV/AIDS as well as empower themselves, as any other Ugandan citizen.

Stopping this conference repeats a known pattern, as in 2008 the same Minister also cancelled a scheduled conference organized by the same group and host organization. While many other groups can meet freely in Uganda without being stopped or harassed, commercial sex workers, who experience high levels of vulnerability, inequality and discrimination can not exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech” “ This is an injustice, a violation of their political and civil rights as well as of the right to work of these young women” lamented FARUG Communications Manager.

The Ugandan Ministry of Health, as it is well known, has acknowledged that Commercial Sex Workers are among Most At Risk Populations (MARPs) and has included them as main partners of the National HIV/AIDS program, which is guided among others by the UNGASS guidelines. Therefore the actions preformed by Mr Buturo are at odds with the national policy guidelines and will evidently undermine the investments made by the Ministry of Health to prevent and treat groups and persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

It should also be noted that, since 2003, Uganda has received eight grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As its known worldwide the Global Funds guidelines are also very clear to state that the various populations affected by HIV/AIDS should be part of the efforts to prevent and treat the pandemic and, not as it is happening in Uganda, be systematically brutalized by criminalization. As it has been analyzed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr. Anand Grover in his report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2010:

“Criminalization represents a barrier to participation and collective action, through the suppression of activities of civil society and individual advocates. The participation of sex workers in interventions has been shown to have significant benefits. Organizations representing sex workers took an early lead in attempting to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, through the promotion of condom use, the development of AIDS education programs and inclusive research studies”

Stopping the conference being organized by Akina Mama was Afrika openly contradicts these recommendations and guidelines to fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

We call on the Minister and Government of Uganda to apologies for the trouble his intervention has caused and reverse his absurd decision.

For more details contact:

Solome Nakaweesi on Email: snkimbugwe@gmail.com or call +256772463154
Kasha Jacqueline on Email: kasha@faruganda.org or call +256772463161

To support our call, send letters to:

Min of Ethics and Integrity. Hon Nsaba butruo
Email: info@dei.go.ug
Min of Internal Affairs.Hon Kirunda Kivejinja
Email: info@mia.go.ug or Tel +256 41 231 059
Min of Gender & Equal opportunity Commission. Hon Opio Gabriel
Email: ps@mglsd.go.ug or Tel +256-41-347854 Phone 2: +256-41-347855
Min of Health. Hon Stephen Malinga
Email: info@health.go.ug or Tel: +256 41340884
Uganda Human Rights Commission
Email:uhrc@uhcr.org or Tel +25641 34800718 or +256 41233757

You are not FREE until everyone is FREE
“BREAK THE CHAINS”

Sex Work Issues — SE Asia and China

Here are two videos I found today via Facebook. Compare and contrast:

http://www.lauraagustin.com/migrant-sex-workers-in-china-massage-parlours-hair-salons-hotel-rooms (though this one is from 2007, the scene is still the same)

Adult Services Gone

Craigslist confirmed in the hearing before Congress that it had removed the Adult Services section permanently from US CL (and assuming Adult Gigs will stay down too). Nothing was said about the international Erotic Services section.

Two articles:
briefly on CNET

slightly longer article

There are other articles but none that I’ve found have looked at the hearings in any sincere or deeply-informed manner.

Also odd: I placed a new ad in a new international city and had to give my email address to create an account. This is not SOP for international ads. Worrisome.

CraigsList: Future Thinking

Assuming that CraigsList Adult Services stay down, where will everyone go? Granted, the majority of those in the business in the US aren’t advertising on CL anymore. But now civilians are enjoying the thrill of discovering what’s been online for the past 10-15 years and are publicly speculating what sites advertisers will flock to.

On the one hand, other advertising sites have been obvious all this time if you know how to use Google. The current public attention might help some girls get a little extra business in what I know is a sagging economy and a seasonally slow time of year (beginning of school). On the other hand, I’m very worried by the attention thrown at other sites. The motivation for this current state of affairs goes far beyond the usual cat-and-mouse game played by local cops. The anti-trafficking Nazis have one possible victory with CraigsList and probably feel ready to go stomping on any other site adult sex workers use.

Because it’s about ending prostitution. It’s not about helping victims.

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