07 Jul

Hints for 2017 Applicants

RUF map umbrellas_2017

Dear sex worker friends,

The Red Umbrella Fund’s annual call for proposals is open.

If your group or network is sex worker led, recognises sex work as work, and is interested in building and strengthening the sex worker movement – you can apply for funding this year! If you are in doubt about any of these requirements, let us know.

All the information you need is available in our website, including the application forms and guidelines. There are two application forms available – one for groups, and one for networks.

The deadline for submitting applications is 28 July. You still have time to complete an application. And if you have submitted already and want to send an improved version of it, that’s fine too.

We suggest that you carefully read the guidelines we’ve put together. Below we will give you a brief overview and some hints about the process and how you can improve your chances of being selected.

Here is our brief advice:

  • If you have questions about your application, contact the secretariat for more information before 21 July. Don’t submit your application if you are not sure yet. We are glad to give you personalised feedback and advice.
  • Remember that sex workers from different parts of the world will be reviewing your application, so write this applications to your peers. Sex workers know the importance of your work, just remember to describe it really well.
  • Write the application in one of the four languages that we work with – English, Spanish, Russian or French. Applications in Portuguese will also be considered. If you can’t write in these languages, seek help from your community, allies or simply Google translate.
  • Remember that most sex workers reviewing your application are not from your country or region, so you might have to explain things that seem obvious to you!
  • When you select referees, choose people that actually know your group and that will give you a positive feedback. References help Programme Advisory Committee members to evaluate your work and make the best selection, so pick the right ones. Remember to inform your referees about your application and the need of responding to our request.
  • Carefully complete the application form and avoid contradictions. Make sure that the information provided is consistent and relevant for external readers. If it’s only relevant to you and sex workers from your group, explain why.
  • Remember to fill in all fields of the application form and include all the requested details. Groups often fail to explain the nuances of their organisational structures, for instance. Remember that sex workers in the peer review panel don’t expect you to run an NGO with many structures; what they want to know is how you organize your organisation and work and if your group has democratic processes in place.
  • Share your most relevant successes, those that really stand out. The competition is very high and you need to make a case for why those successes are relevant in your context, and how they relate to your vision and future plans.
  • Be clear about describing yourself as a local, national or regional organisation. That helps sex workers reading your application to understand the impact of the work you do. If you claim to be a national or regional organisation, clarify the national and regional scope of your work, membership, etc.
  • Be frank about your challenges and limitations. Sex workers from the Programme Advisory Committee may consider it important to fill in funding gaps and support your group based on your unique needs and challenges.

If you are tired of reading, meet Dennis & just listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duLsl4HqIdg

09 Jun

Call for Applications is now open!

LIZ

The Red Umbrella Fund 2017 Global Call for Applications is now open!

Is your group, organisation or network led by sex workers?

Do you agree that sex work should be recognised as work?

Do you contribute to building and strengthening the sex workers’ rights movement(s)?

The Red Umbrella Fund gives grants to sex worker-led groups and networks that are registered or unregistered. In 2017, we expect to make about 25 core funding grants to local, national and international sex worker-led organisations and networks.

Apply for a grant here!

LIZimage by Liz Hilton

¡La nueva convocatoria global del Fondo Paraguas Rojo 2017 está abierta!

Haz clic aquí para Español.

Фонд «Красный Зонт» открыл прием заявок о соискании грантов на 2017 год!

Нажмите здесь для Pусский!

Notre 2017 Appel à Propositions est maintenant ouvert!

Cliquez ici pour l’application Français!

31 May

Programme Advisory Committee | Recruitment 2017

PAC 2016

What’s the PAC?

Each year, the Red IMG_4655Umbrella Fund publishes a Call for Applications. The Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) reviews the applications and advises the ISC about which new grants to make. PAC members read and score applications and select which applications should be funded by the Red Umbrella Fund. The PAC has 7 – 11 members, the majority (at least 80%) are sex workers. PAC members can stay on the PAC for up to 3 years. The Red Umbrella Fund is committed to have a PAC that is diverse in terms of gender and geography.

Who can apply?

The Red Umbrella Fund is looking for two sex workers or strong allies from:

  • US & Canada
  • Eastern Europe & Central Asia (except Turkey)

Important:

PAC membership is voluntary, unpaid and requires a high level of commitment. PAC members must be able to read 3 – 4 proposals each week during the review period. Positions for allies who are not sex workers are very limited on the PAC and relevant sex worker candidates will be prioritized over allies.

Minimum requirements:

  • Language: able to easily read and discuss funding proposals in English.
  • Availability: able to commit about 5 hours each week to review and score applications between 15 August and 30 September 2017 and to participate in the PAC meeting in Amsterdam (2 – 5 October). Travel and meeting costs will be covered.
  • Affiliation: be part of and/or endorsed by at least one sex worker-led group or network.
  • Internet: PAC participation requires regular email and some Skype contact.

What can you gain?

  • Participating in the PAC is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the Red Umbrella Fund’s grantmaking to sex worker groups around the world.
  • Red Umbrella Fund staff provide individual orientations to all new PAC members.
  • Learn about sex worker activism in different regions and work directly with other sex workers during a three-day meeting in Amsterdam. Many PAC members also find the experience useful for their own fundraising and activism. Feedback from PAC members’ experiences:

 “It’s been very exciting and rewarding to be part of this amazing project.”

“The PAC has given me an insight into other regions and contexts, and understanding of the global sex workers movement.”

“This process and PAC meeting really inspired me and gave me ideas for my organization.”

Read blogs authored by current PAC members HERE and HERE.

How can you apply?

  • Check if you meet all the requirements mentioned above.
  • Get an endorsement from your organisation.
  • Complete the self-nomination form HERE.
  • E-mail the form together with the endorsement letter to dennis@redumbrellafund.org by:
    9 July 2017.

Applicants will be informed of the final decision by 24 July 2017.

For more information go to: www.redumbrellafund.org
For questions, contact: dennis@redumbrellafund.org

06 Mar

China: A Case Study of Sex Worker Organising

China photo

“People can come in and share. They have a sense of belonging. A sense of identity. We talk about their work and encourage them to share. So we have an environment of people talking with us.”

Sex work is illegal in China and it is difficult to effectively organise online due to censorship and repercussions. The large geographic distances in China make it difficult to come together in person. This is the Red Umbrella Fund’s third case study, highlighting the work of a sex worker-led organisation in China to improve access to health care and legal services for highly mobile cis men and trans women sex workers.

For the safety of all those involved in the work of this organisation and to avoid jeopardizing the organisation’s important work, the name and details have been anonymized in this case study.

“Academic partners are useful for their expertise in the theories and concepts surrounding sex work and gender. The group has always promoted sex work as work, but has more recently used academic theories gained from partnerships with researchers to improve their approach to advocacy.” 

Despite all the challenges and risks of organising in China, the group has managed to create a drop in centre specifically for cis men and trans women sex workers. This has created a sense of community and a safe space where sex workers can feel comfortable being themselves and where they are able to share experiences and exchange advice. News of the group has been spread by word of mouth through the networks of sex workers.

Read the full case study HERE.

Read the second case study about APROSMIG in Brazil HERE.

Read the first case study about Sisonke in South Africa HERE.

23 Feb

APROSMIG: A Case Study

APROSMIG

[**Texto abaixo em português]

 “From community outreach to political action, the group has made great strides in empowering sex workers and decreasing violence against them.”

Sex workers in Brazil face high levels of stigma, systematic violence and abuse from the police. However, the group has developed a successful relationship with the military police of Minas Gerais which has resulted in a significant decrease in violence against sex workers in the area. This case study (the second in a series of three) is about APROSMIG (Associação das Prostitutas de Minas Gerais), a sex worker-led group in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

“APROSMIG provides legal counselling, promoting access to social benefits, and training participants to deal with situations such as arrest and violence from the police and clients. They have worked with the urbanisation company URBEL to include older sex workers in the social housing system. In workshops on entrepreneurship sex workers learn how to open  a business bank account and use debit and credit machines, which are much safer and help to avoid situations of violence with clients.”

APROSMIG has empowered sex workers through educational and cultural initiatives. The group provided English language classes for sex workers and developed a reference book (“Puta Livro”) for international clients during big international events in the country. APROSMIG organised marches and Daspu (from the whores) and Puta Dei events, demonstrating their pride and successful community building.

The Red Umbrella Fund was the group’s first international and institutional funder.

Read the full case study HERE [in English].

Read the full case study HERE [in Portuguese].

Read previous case study about Sisonke HERE [in English only].

******

APROSMIG: Um estudo de caso

“Da ação comunitária à ação política, o grupo fez grandes avanços na capacitação das profissionais do sexo e diminuição da violência contra elas”.

As profissionais do sexo, no Brasil, enfrentam altos níveis de estigma, violência sistemática e abuso da polícia. Contudo, o grupo desenvolveu um relação bem sucedida com a polícia militar de Minas Gerais, o que resultou em uma diminuição significativa na violência contra as profissionais do sexo na área. Este estudo de caso (o segundo de uma série de três) é sobre APROSMIG (Associação das Prostitutas de Minas Gerais), um grupo de profissionais do sexo de Belo Horizonte, Brasil.

 “A APROSMIG oferece consultoria jurídica, promovendo o acesso a benefícios sociais e capacitando as participantes a lidarem com situações tais como prisão ou violência cometida por policiais ou clientes. O grupo trabalhou com a empresa de urbanização URBEL para incluir profissionais do sexo mais velhas no seu sistema de habitação social. Workshops sobre empreendedorismo ensinam as profissionais do sexo a abrirem uma conta bancária comercial e como usar máquinas de cartão de crédito e débito, que são muito mais seguras do que dinheiro vivo e ajudam a evitar situações de violência com clientes.”

APROSMIG capacitou profissionais do sexo através de iniciativas educacionais e culturais. O grupo ofereceu aulas de inglês para profissionais do sexo e desenvolveu um livro de referência (“Puta Livro”) para clientes internacionais durante grandes eventos internacionais no país. APROSMIG organizou marchas e os eventos Daspu e Puta Dei, demonstrando orgulho e empoderamento da comunidade.

O Red Umbrella Fund foi o primeiro financiador internacional e institucional do grupo.

Leia o estudo de caso completo AQUI [em português].

Leia o estudo de caso completo AQUI [em inglês].

Leia o estudo de caso anterior sobre Sisonke AQUI [em inglês apenas].

 

15 Feb

Sisonke: A Case Study

Sisonke_website

“We are now able to take ownership and leadership of the things we do—to take a lead in everything that we do on our own. As our slogan says, ‘Nothing about Us, without Us.”

The Red Umbrella Fund developed three case studies to highlight successful stories of sex workers in their efforts to build strong sex worker movements in three different regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America.

This first case study is about Sisonke, the national movement of sex workers in South Africa. This movement was established in 2003 as a response to injustice and to ensure sex workers’ access to health services and rights. Sex workers in this movement have come together to build strong and strategic alliances, and to change the legal framework of sex work in South Africa.

“Sisonke has complemented its advocacy work with creative campaigns and activities aimed at combating the stigmatization of sex workers in its communities… Sisonke has noticed a positive difference where they have a dialogue with the community members.”

Many sex worker organisations and movements face difficulties accessing funding for their human rights advocacy and capacity building work. When funding is available, it is often only provided for programs specifically targeting health and HIV. The Red Umbrella Fund gives core funding grants that allows grantees to decide how to spend the money. With this funding, Sisonke was able to strengthen and expand its organisational and advocacy activities in their  fight for decriminalisation of sex work in the country.

Read the full case study HERE.

02 Nov

Covering the World with the Red Umbrella – Reflections of a PAC Member

PAC 2016

After a few unsuccessful applications by my organization, Bar Hostess Empowerment & Support Programme (BHESP), to the Red Umbrella Fund, I saw it:  the call for sex workers to be part of the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) of the Red Umbrella Fund. That is the group that reviews proposals from sex workers’ organizations from all over the world. I decided to give it a shot.

After all, if I could not make it as a grantee, I would try for a reviewer of the grants!

I knew the process would be enriching and the exposure to well written proposals would really be of help. I knew the selection of PAC members would be very competitive but I hoped my experience as director of one of the oldest sex workers’ organization as well as being the chair of Africa Sex Workers Alliance would help. I also threw in my experience as a proposal reviewer for a local fund.

…and it worked!

I was selected as one of the two representatives of the fund from Africa. The PAC meeting brought together a group of eleven sex work activists from all over the world in Amsterdam for the 5th year of the Red Umbrella Fund’s application review process. Now I sit on the plane home and reflect on the process.

Widespread panic

There was a request from an African country where the HIV prevalence among sex workers is over 50%. The request was to fund the only national sex worker organization in that country. This proposal brought back memories…

It took me back to a sad time in the ‘90s when HIV prevalence was over 30% in the general population. Although there was no data to determine the number of sex workers infected at that time, BHESP put the figure to over 60% in Nairobi among bar hostesses and sex workers. An entire bar lost all her hostesses and other girls. The story was the same in bar after bar. There was widespread panic and desperation.

Sitting in the room with all these activists, selected to participate as a representative of African sex workers for this fund, I feel I must make a case for this proposal. Surely this is why this great fund was formed, to respond to the cries of such women who suffer so much, unsupported and unrecognized?

PAC

Photo: PAC members reviewing applications

So many proposals

But there are so many excellent proposals from all over the world. From sex workers who use drugs, sex workers locked up in prisons, migrant sex workers and even refugee sex workers. Proposals are from women, men and transgender sex workers. We reviewed proposals from local grassroots groups to regional networks.

Some of the organizations are responding to violence and gaps in access to health. Many of them have only been exposed to HIV programs and are not aware of the kind of support, the core funding, available from the Red Umbrella Fund. So many base their request on HIV commodities and services only. Many sex workers do not yet understand that there can be an organization like the Red Umbrella Fund that just wants to support you as an activist sex worker organization.

A funder that accepts and respects sex worker organizations for what they are. Yes really, no crazy targets here! You can use the money to pay rent and to grow your organization.

Some groups were created just one month earlier while others have more than 30 years of history.  Each PAC member is allocated a set of proposals to score prior to the meeting. Having scored earlier on what I thought were very good proposals, I am faced with even better proposals, compelling cases and persuasive advocates.

Amazing people

I’ve learned a lot from these proposals but even more from the other PAC members. Each one of them is an expert, knowledgeable, experienced and passionate to a fault. We debate everything from Brexit to new laws against sex work. The feelings and opinions are as strong as these amazing people.

I am honored indeed to be in the PAC with an Italian colleague who explains to me how the red umbrella, now adopted as the symbol of sex workers all over the world, came into being in Italy. Grazie to the sex workers’ rights activists in Italy.

Cover the world with red umbrellas

We laugh, argue and score amazing groups, some very local groups, others working at national or regional levels. It is clear that some proposals are well thought out and articulated. They speak to the level of organizing and capacity but also to preparedness and time spent on the proposals. These must surely be rewarded. But we also keep in mind that in many countries English may be a third language or not applicable at all. The entire proposal may have been translated by Mr Google. We all know how that goes! We know the realities of sex worker activism and the challenges of putting together a quality proposal. Our scoring will not be based on just perfect wording and presentation.

The last day is tough because excellent and deserving proposals will need to be left out, due to scarcity of resources and… no other reason.

We seek some form of regional balance in the final selection. The fund is not called the Red Umbrella Fund for nothing; we must cover the world of sex workers!

As I sit on the plane, I reflect on the many things I have learned in my first time as a reviewer of this great fund. I reflect on the huge responsibility bestowed upon me as a PAC member. Among this is the responsibility to be fair and true, to give a chance to thousands of sex workers and their groups to rise in a world that is determined to push them down. A world that sees sex workers as criminals, illegals, or victims. We are determined to uphold our mantra:

Sex work is work.

By Peninah Mwangi, member of the Red Umbrella Fund’s Programme Advisory Committee (PAC)

24 Oct

Red Umbrella Fund: Who Gets to Choose?

Minerva5

This blog was written by Minerva Valenzuela, our Programme Advisory Committee member based in Mexico City. It was initially published in Spanish at the feminist collaborative blog Harén de Nadie. Minerva is a sex workers’ rights advocate and peer reviewed two grant-making rounds of the Red Umbrella Fund. In this blog she shares her excitement and experience in supporting the growing and showing sex workers’ rights movement!

In 2001, there was a huge exhibition at the 49th  Venice Biennale to discuss Sex Workers’ Rights. It included film screenings, roundtables, theatre, performances, personal testimonies and other initiatives, including a demonstration with megaphones, blankets and many red umbrellas to attract the attention of passers-by and make them watch it.

It was a powerful and beautiful image and in 2005 the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe adopted the red umbrella as a symbol of resistance. The global community liked it and since then most groups and organizations related to sex work use it.

Minerva1Nowadays, the red umbrella is the international symbol for sex workers’ strength and unity, as well as for their struggle against stigma and for their rights and the recognition they deserve.

In 2006, sex workers, foundations, donors, human rights experts and other international (and moneyed) institutions embarked on a dialogue that was to conclude only in 2012 with the creation of the Red Umbrella Fund, the first global fund led by and for sex workers.

I learned about the existence of the Red Umbrella Fund during the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival that took place in Calcutta, India, in 2012. It was one of those things that changes the way in which your brain works. That sets something in motion that leads to completely changing your way of thinking.

What I realized was that, if money is power, why don’t we change power dynamics within organizations and foundations? If money is power, then we should democratize control over money. The money aimed at “aiding” social movements related to sex work should be distributed by sex workers and not by who knows who. Who is going to know best which projects can bring effective change to the different sex workers’ communities? Sex workers themselves or the head of a “socially responsible” transnational corporation with money to donate? Sex workers or a woman who wants to “help” them because she sees them as passive, helpless, and victimized, and if they claim to be anything different, well, it’s their false consciousness speaking…?

The Red Umbrella Fund was born out of these ideas and in its first year it received 1147 applications. Many more have been coming in every year, with fantastic and very diverse projects.

All these beautiful projects tell us something very important: that there is a global movement of people engaged in sex work. It works in an informed and organized way. Its members know about law, health, digital safety, video editing, advocacy, self-defence, graphic design, civil disobedience and even nail polish – and when they don’t know, they get advice from those who do.

This saves us from many pages and hours of groundless discourses about sex workers being passive, helpless, victimized and speaking from their false consciousness if they claim to be otherwise. What a relief! Because when invited to write or speak about sex work this is what worries me the most: that a feminist will approach me in an evil way to explain to me that this is how I am.

This is my second year as a member of the Programme Advisory Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund and I am more in love than ever with the projects I have to assess. Each of them shows specific skills for something, creativity, strategies, team work and, of course, each one responds to its specific context. It is not the same to do sex work in Uganda as it is to do it in China or in Bolivia. Each location has its own particularities, its laws, its gaps and its stories. But there is something that runs through all the projects and that is the fact that stigma is what is bringing the most trouble to sex workers everywhere. None is spared. All the groups and organizations are searching for what to do so that sex workers stop being subjected to mockery, social and police harassment, and being forced to remain underground to preserve their safety and their lives.

It’s unbelievable, right?

Who would do something like that? Who would contribute a bit every day to encourage stigma against sex workers? Cough, cough.

Who says “son of a bitch” to refer to someone despicable? What lies behind this is: Nothing is lower than a whore, worse if she is a mother, and worst if she is your mother.

What is so terrible about mothers who are sex workers and their children?

Minerva2

Photo: This dress belongs to the Barbie of a daughter of a sex worker. This girl likes to dance and to put her hands under fountains.

 

 

 

 

Minerva3

 

 

 

Photo: This kid’s truck was parked in a street where sex workers work. One of them loves the pozole (maize stew) his father cooks. The other one likes small dogs.

 

Are all of you fine? Has anybody fainted after being virtually in touch with sex workers who are mothers and with their children?

But, going back to the Red Umbrella Fund, I encourage all sex workers who are reading this to organize themselves in groups, collectives, organizations. And when you decide to submit a proposal to the Red Umbrella Fund, I would be delighted to advise you. I would love to see a proposal from my country, Mexico, among all those jewels!

By Minerva Valenzuela, Programme Advisory Committee member of the Red Umbrella Fund

*This text was made available in English thanks to Alejandra Sarda.

04 Oct

As Rosas Já Falam: My Love Letter to AWID

AWID Daspu lineup

AWID Daspu lineupFrom September 8th to 11th, many feminist sex workers’ rights advocates and allies made their way to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil and gathered at the AWID Forum. AWID’s forum is a massive global gathering that brought together over 1800 feminists from all over the world this year. While the history of sex work activism in feminist spaces is long, the meaningful and respectful participation of sex workers in these spaces is sparkling new.

“We are whores. We are feminists. And we have rights.” – Cida Vieira, APROSMIG (Brazil)

Ana Luz Mamani, a sex worker activist from Mujeres del Sur in Peru and member of the International Steering Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund, spoke to a large crowd about funding sex worker organising in the plenary “Money and Movements”. And that was just the start of the evening…

It was followed by a DASPU fashion show organised by sex worker activists to raise visibility for the sex workers’ movement and sex work “as work”. DASPU is a Brazilian sex worker-brand that is renowned for its fashion shows filled with humour, pride and advocacy messages. While the audience danced and cheered on their chairs, sex workers and allies from more than twenty nationalities performed on stage.

Let me tell you, it was a blast!

IMG_3058The catwalk celebrated the existence of the Red Umbrella Fund, which was launched at the AWID Forum in Turkey in 2012, and the “growing and showing” sex workers’ rights movements. Since its launch, the Red Umbrella Fund has made 78 grants, totalling over 1.8 million USD of direct financial support to sex worker organising in 45 countries.

Open Arms

The show also symbolised a big “thank you” to AWID for welcoming sex workers into these feminist spaces with open arms. For creating room for a feminist dialogue with sex workers beyond the often overwhelming trafficking and exploitation debates.

IMG_3042

Photo: Sangeeta Ramu Manoji, VAMP (India)

Personally, I was honoured to celebrate sex workers’ lives, experiences, affections, challenges but also opportunities with friends and fellow activists from around the world! I was thrilled with the large amount of positivity I heard about the vibrant moves of the sex worker show at AWID’s arena. Among the comments was a celebration of our ability to bring together the diversity of the sex worker movement – which includes sex workers of all genders, sexual orientations, race, and class – on stage, and to mobilise hundreds of enthusiastic feminists. Sex worker activism does not always get such a response in feminist spaces.

So sex workers fight trafficking?

“Anti-trafficking policy in Canada is anti-sex work policy. Actually, we don’t need the police to rescue us. Sex workers need to know their rights. (…) Migrant sex workers are treated as terrorists in Canada. This year alone, 16 women in our network have been arrested. They have trauma. Not because of trafficking or exploitation, but because of the arrest and police treatment.” – Elene Lam, Butterfly (Canada)

The Red Umbrella Fund co-hosted a session that elaborated on the need to acknowledge sex workers as key allies in the fight against sex trafficking and labour exploitation. Elene Lam (Butterfly Asia and Migrant Sex Workers Project, Canada), Cida Vieira (APROSMIG, Brazil) and Kiran Deshmukh (VAMP, India) shared diverse examples of how they stand up for their rights as sex workers and for the rights of people who have experienced sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“Raids [of brothels] in India are very violent. They are often sponsored by anti-trafficking NGOs. They have a lot of money. We struggle to find money to collectivise but they have big budgets. (…) Every woman who opts to be in sex work should have that right and should be able to work in safe work conditions.” – Kiran Deshmukh, VAMP (India)

IMG_0079

Photo: Elene Lam, Cida Vieira, Bandana Pattanaik, Kiran Deshmukh, Aarthi Pai

They expressed the need to talk about labour and migration rights for women and to gain respect for sex workers’ voices and experiences, as well as to value their vast knowledge in the field. Bandana Pattanaik from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) concluded that the presentations “demonstrated that sex worker organisations are claiming their space, involving communities, and engaging at policy level to combat trafficking”.

Funding Movements

In the session, ‘How Can Funders Most Effectively Support Young Feminist, Trans* and Sex Worker Movements’, the Coordinator of the Red Umbrella Fund, Nadia van der Linde, advocated for more and, importantly, better funding for sex workers’ rights. She then opened the discussion with the sex workers and other activists in the audience about how funders can improve their funding in support of, and together with, their respective social movements.

Some of the needs expressed to funders were:

  • listen to the community;
  • provide long-term and flexible support;
  • support strategies and capacity to overcome closing civil society spaces and bureaucracy;
  • translation support; and
  • introductions to other funders.

No Turning Back!

Photo: Gabriela Leite by Luiz Garrido

Every forum day, sex workers were visible in one or more sessions in the programme, whether from the perspective of fun and pleasure, transgender rights, or artivism. I heard numerous people at AWID say that they believed this was “the tipping point” for the global feminist movement’s embracing of sex workers’ rights. I witnessed a growing understanding that sex work is a human rights issue in which feminists play an important role in pushing a rights-based agenda forward. As stated in the title of Open Society Foundations’ report that was also launched at AWID, there is No Turning Back.  The way forward is jointly with and in support of sex workers.

So this was my love letter to AWID and to all those who made sex worker participation possible and outstanding. To quote Gabriela Leite, a sex worker activist from Brazil and creator of DASPU: “as rosas já falam” (sex workers already have a voice). Just listen. 

By Dennis van Wanrooij, Red Umbrella Fund

16 Jul

In solidarity with Kemal Ördek

Kemal

Last week, Kemal Ordek, a trans* sex worker and the head of Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, a Red Umbrella Fund grantee-partner, was assaulted and raped in their home in Ankara, Turkey. The Red Umbrella Fund is concerned that these criminal acts are not being taken seriously enough by the Turkish authorities.

The story of Kemal Ordek is not unique. It is the story of many people in the sex worker community around the world. Violence and impunity for this violence are fuelled by laws and social norms that fail to respect the fundamental human rights of sex workers and trans* people. Police corruption further exacerbates the problem.

In Kemal’s own words:

“What I will tell you is not a simple robbery case. It’s not a mere rape case either. This is the story of a series of events that could possibly end in murder. It is a story of the apathy and the denial and ignorance that come after—the story of the surrounding paralysis of a lonely sex worker and an LGBTI.”

Kemal’s case sheds light on several injustices and abuses regularly experienced by those in the trans* sex worker community in Turkey – at the work place, in the streets or even in their homes. It also calls into question the effectiveness of national laws and policies that should be combatting violence, reducing vulnerability and ensuring universal access to rights and justice for sex workers and trans* people. There is no justice if justice isn’t accessible to all.

It’s time to end violence, stigma and discrimination against sex workers and trans* people. We urge the Turkish authorities to take violations against trans* sex workers seriously by conducting a thorough investigation, led by and focused on supporting Kemal’s human rights. In addition, we urge for better laws and policies to protect sex workers and trans* people in Turkey.

Read full story:

http://lgbtinewsturkey.com/2015/07/09/raped-and-assaulted-lgbti-activist-kemal-ordek-says-im-not-well/