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.

Continue reading

Singapore, the US, CraigsList, Sex Trafficking and WTF

(This was originally posted at SWOP-East’s blog here.)

Singapore is a tiny country in SE Asia one day ahead of the US. The US is a big country known the world over for many things. The two countries actually have an ongoing and amiable relationship. Their militaries, finance sectors and tourism are intertwined. Each country also has relationships with other countries, of course. It’s just one relationship among many for both countries.

The US is well-known for criminalizing prostitution nation-wide (the exceptions being the 30ish legal brothels in Nevada — not much of an exception). While prostitution itself is criminalized at the local and state levels, there are plenty of federal laws regarding prostitution: when the arrangements cross state lines, when a minor is involved, when money crosses state lines and a few variations on these themes.

Singapore has a more tolerant view of prostitution. It has a licensed red-light district (Geylang and a street in Chinatown) and local hotspots known for easy pickings if you’re looking for a sex worker. To be honest, the entire island is a prostitution hotspot. The predominant Chinese culture and other Asian cultures in Singapore all have a wide-open view of prostitution. Prostitution is ingrained in the male Asian culture. Singapore is not really a sex-tourism destination because it’s considered way too expensive. The vast majority of the business is supported by locals, not tourists. (Which is why the vast majority of the business occurs in non-tourist areas.) Recently it was discovered that online prostitution exists in Singapore too!

Continue reading

Recent Discussion of PEPFAR’s Anti-Prostitution Clause

Melissa Ditmore discussing the ramifications of PEPFAR’s anti-prostitution policy on sex workers over at the Global Health Magazine blog.

Since we’re on the subject, especially in light of the amazing protests at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last month, this is not a bad time to suggest you review the amazing short film “Taking The Pledge”

Denial of Service: Sex Workers Confront Dr. Eric Goosby and Protest the Anti-Prostitution Pledge

Since the opening plenary for the International AIDS Conference (IAC) on Sunday, July 18th, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) has been a vocal and visible presence at the conference. NSWP members have challenged both policy makers and funding agencies to break with the status quo, which perpetuates institutional violence and violation of sex worker’s human rights that lead to a higher rates of HIV infection and death.

On Tuesday, July 20th, NSWP organized sex workers and allies to disrupt a speech by United States Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. Eric Goosby to demand justice for sex workers harmed by PEPFAR’s discriminatory anti-prostitution loyalty oath.

Download the NSWP press release about the protest, a one page English PDF, here.

Here are some reports from NSWP activists who were there:

“On Tuesday, July 20 sex workers’ rights activists marched through the IAC conference centre to protest the PEPFAR Anti Prostitution Pledge at a session at which was to be a presenter. Eric Goosby cancelled his speech to avoid the sex workers and instead held a press conference in the media centre. Sex worker activists followed him there, where we loudly accused him of murdering sex workers and preventing the crucial funding for sex workers. Everyone was upset and challenging him to be responsible and support human rights for all. I sat on the table with my red umbrella and screamed that he was a murderer, and everyone was chanting “SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!” He tried to escape and fell from his chair, and then he was helped to his feet by security and escorted out. The media stayed in the room and sex workers were venting their issues of concern. For example, in Uganda the only funding is for rehabilitation and there is NO money for condoms. In Kenya there is no funding for necessary sex worker support services, only rehabilitation. All who receive money from USAID’s PEPFAR fund have to sign an anti-prostitution loyalty oath. We left chanting, “sex workers united will never be defeated!!! PEPFAR kills sex workers!!!”

Cheryl Overs, Paulo Longo Research Institute, Asia and the Pacific Region

Watch a video of the protest, featuring some of the sex workers’ chants and impassioned speeches from Kyomya Macklean, of the Ugandan sex worker group WONETHA, and John Mathenge, a male sex worker from Kenya.

“After we chased Goosby out of the press conference room, sex workers from around the world took over the microphones and held their own press conference while the whole world was watching and declared that we will follow Goosby to every presentation he makes until he answers for the crimes of PEPFAR’s anti-prostitution pledge.”

Will Rockwell, Global Network of Sex Work Projects, North America Region

“The protesters toured the Center for Media, carrying red umbrellas and placards with slogans. One of the interviewees was the prostitute [Kyomya] Macklean, Uganda: “We want respect, recognition, social inclusion, and dialogue with our political leaders. And we can’t do all this without funding. ”

After a few minutes, everyone was ushered out of the Center for Media, but continued to move through the wide corridors of the Convention Center, moving in the direction of the Global Village. The group celebrated the impact of the action at the booth of the Global Network of Sex Work (NSWP), which promoted the protest.

Sex workers from around the world demand that the U.S. funds to fight AIDS, via USAID’s PEPFAR program, do not discriminate. It is essential to support sex worker organizations in order to strengthen HIV prevention.”

Flavio Lenz, Davida, Latin America Region

Editor’s note: Flavio’s statement is based on a rough translation using the Google translate tool. Click here for the original version in Portuguese.

Four years ago in 2006, at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, NSWP member Melissa Ditmore and journalist Erin Siegal collected footage and interviews for a short film on PEPFAR and how it harms sex workers – not much has changed. Watch the thirteen minute film, Taking the Pledge, here.

Sigh. Anyone feel like helping out over at “Hope for the Lost”?

Sigh. Anyone feel like helping out over at “Hope for the Lost”? The following is Victor Malarek’s response to Pye Jacobssen’s video criticizing the Swedish Model. He wrote “The Natashas” and “The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy it”.

“The pro-prostitution organizations…which are basically individuals used as fronts by the sex industry (which is only interested in making huge amounts of money), will come out of the woodwork and vociferously attack any group that fights legalization and decriminalization of the flesh trade.

The arguments put forward by the pro-prostitution groups are specious and full of lies and propaganda. The fact is that wherever legalization has been implemented, it has led to a monumental failure in all aspects of the so-called trade. It has always led to more and more women trafficked, and has not led to an improvement in the condition of women ensnared in the trade.

The pro-prostitution groups’ position against trafficking is a ruse. Their attempts to separate trafficking from legalization are a divide and conquer tactic…they know full well that huge numbers of trafficked women make up the trade. To see how bad the situation is where legalization has been implemented, read ‘The Johns’ and what has happened in Amsterdam! Moreover, the legal and illegal brothels in several Australian states which have legalized are filled with Southeast Asian women. These women do not speak English, they don’t have any money. They don’t have the business acumen to set themselves as business contractors.

It is interesting that in ALL my talks in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Britain, Ireland, Copenhagen, Madrid, Helsinki, Kiev…reps from the pro-prostitution orgs come out in force to take me on, and after my speech, not a peep! Because they know I know B.S. when I hear it and can challenge their claims with ease.

My issue here is one of social justice for the vast majority of women who are forced into the sex trade fiasco…not the minority of twits who yell and scream on behalf of the sex industry!”

You can go here to comment: http://www.hopeforthesold.com/author-victor-malarek-responds-to-swedish-sex-workers-statements/

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Accu-Weather on Prostitution….. Huh?

Well, I can’t say that I ever thought of this or expected to see it. But Accu-Weather, yes, that Accu-Weather, the one you hear on radio forecasts, you know, “here is Joe Bastardi with the, Accu-Weather Forecast on 99.9 FM, The Fan”, etc,,, Yes, that accuweather.

Somehow they are now discussing prostitution…… Perhaps this explains penguin prostitution?

Friday, November 27, 2009
Prostitution Link??

From Accu-Weather Meteorologist Brett Anderson

When I first glanced at this article I just shook my head. This is a bit of a stretch, right?

Anyway, according to GMANews.TV, some women in poor, coastal countries are being driven into sex work due to climate change. More

Open Invitation to the Int’l Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

poster_small_jpgIn 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention (Boston, Grand RapidsTijuana, Cape Town, Sussex, Moscow, New Zealand and Hong Kong, just to name a few), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unresolved, sometimes forever. In fact, most violent crimes against sex workers remain unreported. Stigma and criminalization facilitate this violence; when sex work is criminalized, prostitutes can’t turn to the police for protection without risking prosecution themselves.

Each year, December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Last year’s event in Washington, D.C. was a big success and this year, sex workers and their allies from across the U.S. will gather together in Arizona to remember and honor sex workers who, by virtue of their profession, have been victimized  – including rape, assault and murder.

You are invited to join us on December 17-18, 2009 in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona to honor their memory.  This year is especially poignant for us in Arizona because in May, 2009, Marcia Powell, an inmate at the Perryville women’s prison outside of Phoenix who was serving 27 months for prostitution, died when she was left outside in a holding cage in 107 degree heat without shade, food or water. Marcia Powell’s death is not only a travesty of justice and a failure of the prison system, but bring into sharp focus the unjust nature of current anti-prostitution laws which continue to oppress sex workers everywhere. We are outraged and saddened, and we ask for your participation in putting an end to the violence.

To learn more about the IDEVASW events in Arizona, please click here or visit SWOP-Tucson.  If silence is the voice of complicity, then your presence in Arizona this December will be a powerful message for justice to be heard across the world.

_________________________@@@_____________________

IDEVASW Event Schedule – Arizona

December 17, 2009 – Tucson

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. “No Human Involved” Event

El Presidio Park, 160 West Alameda Street, Tucson, AZ.

Performance art/art installation with the theme, “No Human Involved.” The central image will be a physical representation of the Perryville Prison which will honor Marcia Powell and sex workers everywhere who have been victims of violence; a performance piece/die-in and live music.

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. “Remembrance Memorial”

El Tiradito Shrine, 354 South Main Avenue, Tucson, AZ.

Join us in remembering and honoring sex worker who have been victims of violence. Live music, performance poetry, ritual, candlelight vigil and refreshments. El Tiradito is a national historic shrine dedicated to the “castaway sinner” and holds a special place in the hearts of Tucson sex workers.

December 18, 2009 – Phoenix

Political Rally at the downtown Phoenix offices of the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections to protest current anti-prostitution laws and prison conditions. Did you know that in Arizona, a fourth conviction is a mandatory Class 5 felony with 180 days of prison for consensual sex between a client and a sex worker? Please visit http://swop-tucson.org for more details. Volunteers are needed to organize this day!

For more information or to volunteer, please email info@swop-tucson.org

Shout out of support for Victoria Thorne in UK!

Latest adult woman persecuted by zealous prohibitionist police. She’s going to jail for 15 months!

Some choice quotes:

“It is plain that those who thought they knew you, and knew you well, are at a loss as to how you came to be involved in such a seedy world.” ~the judge who sentenced her

“In this case Vicky Thorne showed complete disregard for both the law and our own high standards and paid the price through the loss of her career and freedom.” ~ Det. Insp. Andy Jones

Policewoman turned escort jailed in UK

Pye Jacobsson on the realities of the “Swedish Model”

Very interesting, and decidedly unfeminist. And criminal!!

Kudos to COSWAS!

And our very own Tara was quoted!
From Salon:

Taiwan legalizes world’s oldest profession

Score one for sex workers: Activists in Taiwan emerged victorious Wednesday after waging a long battle to legalize prostitution in their country. Six months from now, the nation’s 600,000 working girls (and guys) will be free to ply their trade without fear of incarceration. “Now the client gets off free, but the prostitute gets punished, and that’s not fair,” sex worker spokesman Su Jun-pin told Reuters. Under the new regulations, it will be up to local governments to decide whether to relegate prostitution to specific districts or decriminalize it throughout the entire region.

What is especially remarkable about this decision is that it results from old-fashioned grass-roots organizing from groups such as Taipei’s Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters. This means a massive victory not only for prostitutes in Taiwan but also for activists around the world working for decriminalization. “This is telling about the global movement,” says Tara Sawyer, a Sex Workers Outreach Project board member. She compares the fight for decriminalization to the civil rights movement, saying that the Taiwan decision underscores the urgent need for the U.S. government “to listen to the people doing the work. We’re not doing that yet.”

Of course, it makes sense that groups working for decriminalization in this country have had less success than their Asian counterparts: In Taiwan, prostitution has only been prohibited for the past 11 years.
― Judy Berman

Harm reduction and Human Rights (both) for Sex Work Plenary

I know some activists going to a harm-reduction conference called CLAT5 in Porto (Portugal) in the near future, where I’m to give a plenary talk at the opening session. The description of the conference in English: ‘Our aims for this event are to rethink – in a transnational way – the future of harm reduction and to question the actual (current) consensus about its policies and practices of intervention. For this we will stimulate a critical discussion based on the concepts and practices linked with harm reduction and also bring to the debate issues of human rights, South-North and East-West inequalities and social dialogue among key actors.’

I understand some people in the harm-reduction field don’t think sex work should be there and that it was a close thing whether any plenary speaker would address it. And I know that some people don’t like harm reduction as a way of thinking about sex work.  To put this in context, the conference has 6 streams:

1 Drugs on the Street
2 Parties: Pleasures Management and Risks Reduction
3 Alcohol and Harm Reduction
4 Sex: Pleasures, Risks and Sexual Work
5 Other addictions
6 Human Rights and Penal Control

There are five panels addressing sex/sex work and several good activists will speak, mixed with outreach/academic folk. Sex-work activists have gone to other harm-reduction conferences, of course, but here I’m to talk about human rights AND harm reduction, which feels challenging because they are both theoretical frames for thinking about the issues. And since globalisation is another of the event’s keywords I can talk about trafficking and anti-demand politics as well, but I’d rather not just spout a string of platitudes. Any ideas or tips from past experience?

Thanks, Laura

Laura María Agustín  Border Thinking

One thing Obama can ignore in his first week in office

(In light of the continuing debates about how US sex workers understand trafficking, I’m crossposting this from my personal blog.)

Nicholas Kristof has been issuing ad-hoc Presidential guidance on the sex trade for years now. The archive of his editorial column in the New York Times serves as a record of his proposals. In 2004, he “bought the freedom” of two women working in brothels in Poipet, Cambodia with the intention of returning them to their villages. Kristof wasn’t prosecuted under US law for the purchase of sex slaves – he wrote of this sale as an “emancipation,” and in 2005, he was back in Poipet to check up on the women. One had returned to prostitution, prompting Kristof to offer another round of recommendations to President Bush, pleading with him to commit the United States to a New Abolitionism.

Now he’s back with his 2009 agenda, delivered like the others, as a kicker to his column. In it, he asks that the Obama administration pressure the Cambodian government to bust more brothels, on the premise that the risk of going to jail for selling sex will hurt brothel owners’ profits and will protect more women from abuse and violence. Yet such stings and raids are already the centerpiece of a disastrous crackdown on Cambodian prostitution. The Bush administration has supported the raids of Cambodian brothels for at least as long as Kristof has been demanding they step up a fight they are already in – and losing.

It was under threat of sanctions from the United States that prostitution was outlawed in Cambodia. The resulting government-sponsored raids on brothels did not lead to a great improvement in the lives of women and girls. Instead, the same police tasked with “liberating” women from Cambodia’s brothels have been accused by human rights groups of abusing these same women.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In a video made by members of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW), one survivor of what was called a “rehabilitation center” relates the story of being gang raped by six members of the police force: “They raped me from one after the other… the last one didn’t use condom because I got only five condoms. I told him that I have HIV but he was not believe me. He said if I had HIV, would have scar on body, not so smooth.” Another woman survivor describes her time in the Koh Kor rehabilitation center. It sits on the same island that was once home to a Khmer Rouge prison and execution camp. She explains that when she asked questions about why she had been taken in against her will, and what was wrong with what she was doing, she was repeatedly beaten by her captors – the police. These are the people – the police, and the government officials who have operated brothels in a network of corruption – that Kristof would like us to trust to combat violence.

Setting a human rights agenda for the United States will be an enormous challenge for Barack Obama and his incoming administration, with a host of failed Bush campaigns to contend with. His handling of so-called “sex slavery” will be but one. When considering how he ought to proceed, to undo damage done, and to improve human rights around the globe, Obama should look not to Kristof and his urgent cries, but to those women who are currently imprisoned and violated by the people who were supposed to “save” them. To endorse brutal, violent raids and “rehabilitation” as a solution to the brutality and violence of coerced prostitution ignores the evidence that raids do nothing to discourage abusive conditions — they perpetuate them.

Sex Workers: Once again, what’s best for us?

As you may or not may be aware, under the auspices of a woman named Jacqui Smith, the UK is considering a law that will criminalize the purchase of sexual services, namely, men who participate in, as they call it in the UK, “kerb crawling” (street based work). As usual, the evidence Smith is basing her proposal off of is questionable, but the proposed law is there none the less.

A blogger and ally Caroline, who is in the UK, has written extensively about the downsides of this law, and what very real consequences and potential consequences it has on sex workers of all kinds within the UK, she was even given quest posts at the UK based the F-Word and a US blog, Feministe!

The responses to her posts were, how shall I say, typical, and the reaction to her stance on the matter, equally so. Both Caroline and sex workers who bothered to participate were bogged down by generally radical leaning feminists with countless issues not necessarily germane to the legal issue at hand, shouted down as “unthinking”, “idiots”, or “happy hookers”…

I have to ask, to those of you who have met me and what not, do I generally come across as Teeheeeheee I can by Prada woo-hoo happy? Do most sex workers? Umm, no. Yet this is, consistently, how any who disagree with the pervading theme of repression of sex workers are written off and thusly discounted.

But as usual, those of us who oppose Swedish-like models, even considering the troublesome evidence that has shown such models to be far from perfect and the words of actual sex workers, as is typical, we are a tiny minority who truly know nothing about our business and do not care about all the poor trafficked women and girls. Which is bullshit, and I note, these people so concerned, from feminist anti sex work people to world governments, find it far more easy to criminalize the people who buy sex and attempt to play (often unwanted) savior to the people who sell it than to actually go after criminal organizations that deal in trafficking or take on the underlying causes, such as lack of education, poverty, drug abused, and lack of other job opportunities that face people who are unwillingly involved in prostitution…but apparently that is too hard and too messy…it’s easier to play Capitan save a ho.

I’ve also noted, in this particular latest round and in countless others, the apparent need of these people to demonize any and all sex worker outreach/activist programs which do not tout a 100% exit / prohibition stance. Currently, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and International Union of Sexworkers (IUSW) are under attack by supporters of the proposed UK law. The same sorts of tactics have been used against SWOP, COYOTE, the Scarlet Alliance, and countless other Sex Worker Organizations in the past.

And while all the smoke and mud about happy hookers and how sex worker orgs don’t really care about sex workers and what about the poor trafficked women and girls (no mention of the transwomen, men and boys, for that matter) rages on one simple thing remains fact: a law which will affect countless sex workers adversely is poised to go on the books in the UK, with, best as I can tell, no input from any sex workers and no real ear to the objections of any sex workers…

So once again, we have people building law and political prestige on our backs.

Now, I am not in the UK, nor are most of you, but that doesn’t mean this should not matter to us. Sex Workers in the UK are sex workers, just like us, and just as the UK looked to Sweden for inspiration, there is no guarantee where ever you are might not look to the UK for the same thing…

So yes, if you find this as annoying and patronizing and seriously ill advised as I do?

Say something, because if we don’t, nobody else will.

I’ve already said a few things

And why yes, please feel free to redistribute at will…

Cambodian sex workers speak out.

Aproase, an amazing sex worker group in Cambodia and part of the APNSW (which just won a Human Rights Watch award) built an amazing video, that made featured video status at change.org, called ‘Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile’.  You can check it out right here:

 

UPDATE (1/9/09 3:30PST): Sorry I’m a moron.  Aproase is a sex worker group, but the wrong sex worker group. thanks Laura for pointing out my mistake.  I met Aproase and APNSW in Mexico City at the Aids Conference, hence my confusion.  Anyone remember the cambodian group’s name?