Tag Archives: sex workers

Sex Workers Can Speak for Themselves

WONETHA is a human rights-based organization and registered NGO, based in Uganda. WONETHA seeks to improve the health, social and economic wellbeing of female adult sex workers in Uganda. Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), India, is a collective of women in sex work against injustice who have mobilized in order to speak out about HIV and AIDS, violence against sex workers and to fight for the rights of people in sex work. 

In a CNN piece published late last year, filmmakers Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson make sweeping conclusions about sex workers: that they are all victims and that the best way to help them is by shutting down the “evil” sex industry. Their conclusion is troubling because, in order to arrive at it, Wells and Wasson had to blatantly ignore the voices of sex workers themselves who have proposed very different solutions than Wells and Wasson. Read More »

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Human Rights in 2013: Our End-of-Year Top 10

As we get ready for the New Year, we’re also taking a moment to celebrate the joys and victories in human rights that took place in 2013—an exciting and tumultuous year for human rights around the globe. Read on for 10 human rights happenings that AJWS celebrated in 2013, listed in chronological order. Let’s celebrate the strides we’ve made together and take heart for the work still ahead of us!

10.  India: Supreme Court ruling upholds indigenous people’s rights over contested land (April 2013)

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Children from the Dongria Kondh community. Credit: Survival International

In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal that would have allowed a UK-based company, Vedanta Resources, to mine the Niyamgiri hills. The court recognized the indigenous community of Dongria Kondh‘s right to the land, which they make a living from and worship as part of their traditional beliefs. The ruling affirmed that people with religious and cultural rights to land must be involved in decisions about how to use it.

This marked a major win for the rights of indigenous people in India, and it shows the power of social action. Thousands of protesters rallied to protest the mining effort last December, and hundreds of Dongria pledged to stay in the Niyamgiri hills.

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Click to watch Survival International’s video story on the mine. A new window will open.

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Meena Seshu Discusses India, Sex Work and Human Rights

Meena Seshu

Meena Seshu

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) recently hosted Meena Seshu for a visit to our headquarters in New York City. Meena is the secretary general of SANGRAM, an AJWS grantee in India that educates and empowers sex workers to overcome their most challenging health and human rights issues.

While she was here, Meena stopped by The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, New York City’s public radio station. She talked with guest host and actress Martha Plimpton, star of the Fox television show “Raising Hope,” about SANGRAM’s efforts to help Indian sex workers curb violence and keep themselves safe from HIV.

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Supreme Court Ruling on “Anti-Prostitution Pledge” is a Victory for Public Health and Human Rights

Sex workers mobilize for their human rights. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Sex workers mobilize for their human rights. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of human rights. In a six to two ruling, the Court struck down a federal provision that required organizations receiving government funding to pledge that they had adopted a policy “opposing prostitution.”

Commonly known as the “anti-prostitution pledge,” this provision contravened best practices in public health, including evidence-based research showing that supporting sex workers to lead their own community health interventions is an effective way to fight the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The policy also created a chilling effect for sex worker rights organizations, as non-governmental organizations feared they would lose their funding if they engaged with sex workers. Read More »

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Why I Traveled to the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival

Members of AJWS’s Thai partner, EMPOWER, marched in the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival in Calcutta, India.

Why would someone who works for the American Jewish World Service attend an international meeting of sex workers? At AJWS, we support people who chose to work as sex workers by making grants to their organizations and sending volunteers to work with them. As an organization committed to realizing human rights—including access to health care, economic autonomy, and control over one’s body and sexuality—we support sex workers who are organizing themselves to advance their own rights. That’s why, while many AJWS grantees participated in the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC in late July, I was with more than 1,000 sex workers from 42 countries around the world who traveled to Kolkata (aka Calcutta), India for a Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival. The timing was no coincidence. Unfortunately, sex workers were not allowed by the US government to enter the United States for the AIDS conference, excluding people who must be part of the solution. Read More »

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Flawed Laws and Policies Will Not Right Our Wrongs

Sex worker protest in Satara, India. Photo: Vidya Kulkarni.

Originally posted on the blog of Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever.

Just two months back, I marched with hundreds of sex workers in India to demand justice for Anu Mokal. Anu, a sex worker, was picked up by the police at a bus stop one evening, charged with ‘soliciting’ customers at the bus stand, abused and beaten up. As a consequence, Anu, who was then four months pregnant, suffered a miscarriage.

With the support of a collective of sex workers, Anu filed a complaint against the policemen who assaulted her. But two months down the road, has her complaint progressed any further? No. Has the promised State inquiry into the incident taken place? Unlikely. If it has, the results have not been made known. Has Anu been given a fair hearing? Not that I know of. (Instead, while she was complaining, she was told that sex workers cannot be mothers). Have the policemen faced any action for assaulting a woman in a public place, an action that was witnessed by others? No. Read More »

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Sex Work Is Not Sex Trafficking

Around the world, selling sex is as inflammatory an issue as abortion. It’s just as divisive, too—particularly among feminists and in the global human rights community.

At the 2012 AWID Forum—the largest women’s rights gathering in the world—sex workers’ rights took center stage. Panel discussions and plenary sessions featured sex workers from Burma, Thailand and Cambodia, along with myriad organizations—including several AJWS grantees—that protect sex workers from human rights violations. One grantee offered a clever metaphor to capture how sex work is relatively alien to women’s rights conversations. “Imagine you go to a restaurant with a friend,” she said. “You order beef. But your friend explains she is vegetarian, so she orders a plate of rice and vegetables. You look at her plate and think to yourself, ‘This is a bit strange; a little different.’ But it’s a choice on the menu. And it’s a choice she made herself, just like any other choice. That’s sex work—a choice.”

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Shame & Notoriety: Stopping Police Rape of Sex Workers in Uganda

Photo: Scott Davidson

Originally posted on Gender Across Borders: A Global Feminist Blog.

Last February, I sat across from 50 Ugandan prostitutes who sought my legal advice.  They wanted me to get the police to stop raping them. I was the legal consultant at Platform for Labour Action (PLA), a Ugandan non-governmental organization that provides marginalized workers with free legal services. The prostitutes had formed an association called the Lady Mermaids Bureau, which partnered with organizations like PLA to help the women receive medical, psychological, social, and legal support.

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