02 Jun

International Sex Workers’ Day 2021 – CEDAW Statement

To the CEDAW Committee: Sex work is work. It is not trafficking.

On 02 June, International Sex Workers’ Day, the Count Me In! Consortium stands in solidarity with sex worker-led organisations and networks advocating for sex workers’ rights

and condemns the discriminatory and potentially harmful measures proposed in CEDAW’s General Recommendation 38.

Sex workers’ rights are central to human rights – particularly women’s rights – and for achieving gender equality. Yet, there continues to be disagreement about how best to ensure that sex workers are free from violence and discrimination. The recent CEDAW General Recommendation 38 on trafficking in women and girls in the context of migration adds to misunderstanding of the distinction between sex work and trafficking and may increase discrimination against sex workers.

Our critique of the General Recommendation is wide-ranging. Expressing disappointment in the General Recommendation, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) highlighted the failure of the General Recommendation to distinguish between trafficking, sexual exploitation, and sex work. They note: “By habitually linking these three distinct phenomena, along with the poorly defined concept of “the exploitation of prostitution1,” this General Recommendation reinforces erroneous conflations of sex work and trafficking which fuel harmful legislation, policies and practices, including an overly broad application of anti-trafficking measures.” Noting how anti- trafficking laws and policies frequently cause harm to sex workers and result in human rights violations, Amnesty International noted that “The general recommendation has not only failed to adequately address this, but risks writing this harsh reality further into the normative framework governing trafficking.2” The wide-ranging and detailed critique of the General Recommendation by International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP) noted that the problems in the General Recommendation range from start to finish. They identify challenges even at the level of the legal framework upon which it relies, commenting on its regressiveness because “it not only situates the legal basis of the GR (General Recommendation) in the anti-human-rights, racist, colonial, patriarchal and archaic 1949 Convention on Trafficking, but also vitiates 51 years of progress on legal standard setting on trafficking achieved by the Palermo Protocol which, despite its shortcomings, recognises that trafficking occurs for a wide variety of purposes not limited to exploitation of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.3

Inequality, discrimination and violence targeted toward sex workers of all genders is sustained through laws, policies and practices that criminalize some or all aspects of sex work4. All too frequently, anti-trafficking laws and policies directly and indirectly result in real harms for sex workers and individuals perceived to be sex workers5. While we commend and appreciate the efforts being advanced in trying to curb trafficking, such broad legislative and normative frameworks seldom address the structural root causes of trafficking but rather perpetuates the invisible networks that structurally exclude sex workers. Understanding the difference between sex work and trafficking is an essential step for effective anti-trafficking campaigns that both address trafficking and respect and safeguard sex workers’ rights.

  • The difference between sex work and trafficking
    Worldwide, sex workers and sex workers’ rights advocates contend that as consenting adults, sex workers choose to sell sexual services. Sex work is work, and not a ‘social’ or ‘psychological’ condition that requires solving. Rather, it is the conditions resulting from stigma and criminalisation of sex work – not the work itself – that can be exploitative. The risks faced by sex workers are created by punitive laws, policies and practices creating unequal power relationship between ill-intentioned clients, law enforcement or third parties (such as brothel-keepers, managers or anyone else who facilitates sex work) on one side, and sex workers on the other.

Understanding the difference between sex work and trafficking6 is an essential step for effective anti-trafficking campaigns that both address trafficking and respect sex workers’ rights. Evidence confirms that poorly designed anti-trafficking interventions, such as those elements suggested by General Recommendation 38 inaccurately portray sex workers as inevitable victims and add to the stigma attached to sex work7. Indeed, such laws often miss actual trafficking victims who urgently require assistance. Resources are focused on “rescuing” sex workers who do not seek interventions or rescue instead of rights-based funding. An overemphasis on trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation also means less attention is paid to other sectors where trafficking is prevalent – such as the labour or domestic work sector. Finally, such misguided laws and policies discourage sex workers and clients from seeking access to health, justice and reporting abuse in the sex industry or incidences of trafficking because of fears of arrest, persecution or “rescue”.

Bringing about social justice in relation to sex work requires that sex work is regarded as work and legally recognised as such. This means repealing the civil and criminal laws that are used to sanction sex work or penalise sex workers. It means bringing sex work under appropriate labour frameworks. It also requires an intersectional lens and incremental approach that challenges stigma as well as social, political and economic exclusion. This will help ensure that sex work is approached in a rights-based manner, make the sex work context safer, increase sex workers’ access to services and the protection of the law, while affirming sex workers’ dignity and rights.8

Sex work is work. It is not trafficking.

Count Me In! is a special joint initiative led by Mama Cash, including the sex worker-led Red Umbrella Fund (RUF), together with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), CREA, Just Associates (JASS) and Urgent Action Fund – Africa (representing its sister funds in the US and Latin America). The Dutch gender platform WO=MEN is a strategic partner for lobbying and advocacy. 

 

1) See NSWP’s Statement on CEDAW committee general recommendation no. 38 accessible at https://www.nswp.org/resource/nswp- statements/nswp-statement-cedaw-committee-general-recommendatio-no-38-2020
2) See Amnesty International’s Research on the CEDAW Committee New General Recommendation on Human Trafficking accessible at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior40/3755/2021/en/
3) See IWRAW Asia Pacifc’s Thematic Paper on A Critique of CEDAW General Recommendation No. 38 accessible at https://www.iwraw-ap.org/resources/critique-of-cedaw-gr38/
4) See CMI!’s Factsheet on Sex Work and the Law accessible https://www.mamacash.org/en/counting-sex-workers-in-campaign
5) See NSWP’s Policy Brief on The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Legislation and Initiatives on Sex Workers accessible at https://www.nswp.org/resource/nswp-policy-briefs/policy-brief-the-impact-anti-trafficking-legislation-and-initiatives-sex
6) Please see CMI fact sheet on sex work and trafficking at https://www.mamacash.org/media/cmi_/factsheets/cmi_trafficking_final.pdf
7) See GAATW’s report on Sex Workers Organising for Change accessible at https://www.gaatw.org/resources/publications/941-sex- workers-organising-for-change
8) See CMI fact sheet on sex work and the law at https://www.mamacash.org/media/cmi_/factsheets/cmi_law_final.pdf

03 Mar

Diving Deeper: Under the surface of LGBTI Sex Workers funding data – Global Resources Report (GRR) Factsheet

This factsheet aims to summarize and compile information on funding focused on LGBTQI sex workers from the 2017–2018 Global Resources Report: Government and Philanthropic Support for LGBTI Communities published in May 2020 by Global Philanthropy Project (GPP).

Additionally, this factsheet provides recommendations to funders interested in supporting sex workers within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities and shares resources for further learning. Reviewing data for 2017–2018, the most recent available, we see that in all regions and in a global analysis funding focused on LGBTQI sex workers as a population has not matched the growth in overall LGBTQI funding and in some regions has decreased over time.

Why Dive Deeper?
The biennial Global Resources Report contains over 125 pages of data and analysis, yet there are many more ways to assess and engage with the information collected by Funders for LGBTQI Issues and Global Philanthropy Project.
This year, for the first time, GPP is sharing a series of “Diving Deeper” briefs and this factsheet to explore a number of new analyses using the GRR data set. In 2022 we move towards developing and publishing our next iteration of the Global Resources Report.

Why this factsheet?
Sex workers exist across diverse genders, sex characteristics, sexual orientations, and lived experience including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex sex workers. The development of this factsheet began in late 2020 – a year after ILGA World passed a resolution opposing all forms of criminalization and legal oppression of sex work. At the same time, the Trans Day of Remembrance reminded us that between January 2018 and September 2020, 60% of the 3,664 trans and gender diverse individuals murdered whose occupation is known were sex workers.

While there have been some increases in funding for LGBTQI sex workers over time, there is great work ahead to come closer to meeting community needs or move towards funding equity.

This factsheet was co-created by Global Philanthropy Project, Red Umbrella Fund, Funders for LGBTQ issues, and the Sex Work Donor Collaborative.

24 Nov

Interview: From ‘social evil’ to policy influencer – building sex worker leadership in Vietnam

Former Red Umbrella Fund volunteer, Nathan Desvignes, backpacked through South-east Asia just before the Covid19 pandemic and interviewed two sex workers’ rights activists of the Vietnam Network of Sex Workers (VNSW), Hien and Van, in Hanoi. Below is his account of the encounter.

Sex work in Vietnam
Sex workers in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam faced many challenges following the opening of the economy of the country in the 1990s.
Social and economic inequalities increased, shaping the sex market according to class belonging1. Sex workers have been driven out of red-light districts to roads in the outskirt of the cities or hidden as enterprises such as barber shops, making the outreach work more difficult. Police raids (resulting in fines) are still frequent and sex work is still generally seen as negative and considered a “social evil” by public authorities.

Despite policing, stigma and the economic inequalities in the country, sex workers succeeded to set up their own organizations. Founded in 2012, the Vietnam Network of Sex Workers (VNSW) actively campaigned against the repression of sex-workers, resulting in the closure of all sex worker detention centers (called “rehabilitation centers”) in 2013. The network currently unites over fifty sex worker-led organizations from all provinces of Vietnam, reaching a large diversity of sex workers in relation to gender identity, sexual orientation and place of work. Recently, VNSW has been actively promoting the expertise of sex-worker groups in social policies among local governments and working on its own sustainability.


INTERVIEW:

How did the Vietnam Network of Sex Workers (VNSW) start?

Hien: The VNSW was created during the Vietnam Civil Society Platform on AIDS (VCSPA), our annual meeting day where all the key populations can meet and talk about global strategies. Every year in Vietnam, every key population gathers in this meeting. In 2012 the sex worker led organizations realised that they need to build up their own network and not let the movement be represented by non-sex worker-led NGOs. This desire for a common union, which would be able to represent the movement at a national and international scale but also to function as a platform for sex-workers to meet, coordinate and exchange about their practices and activism, was the idea that led to the creation of the Vietnam National Network of Sex Workers in 2012.

This desire for a common union, which would be able to represent the movement at a national and international scale but also to function as a platform for sex workers to meet, coordinate and exchange about their practices and activism, is the idea that led to the creation of the Vietnam National Network of Sex Workers in 2012.”

After the creation of the network, what were the first goals and missions of the organization?

Hien: The main goal of the network is to improve the sex workers life. How to improve their legitimate rights, labor rights and human rights. At the time of creation of the network, sex workers were still forced to go to detention centers and faced a lot of stigma and discrimination. Sex workers couldn’t talk and take decisions by themselves and could not even come out publicly as sex workers without risking being jailed. We were still seen as a social evil both by the society and the public authorities.

At the time of creation of the network […] we were still seen as a social evil both by the society and the public authorities”

Partly thanks to the establishment of the VNSW, we are now confident to speak in conferences and in front of the government as sex workers. We also started to work with the police, while in the past we were very scared of the police because we could go to prison. Nowadays we can negotiate with the police and we can have a talk. We can even offer support to the police! Some of our members are engaged in a collaboration with local police to help the re-identification of sex workers2.

In the past we were very scared of the police because we could go to prison. Nowadays we can negotiate with the police and we can have a talk”.

In the past, sex workers faced a lot of violence from clients and pimps and even from the police. We didn’t know how to report because we thought that we deserved such kind of violence. But now, thanks to the knowledge disseminated to sex workers, sex workers can relate to the law, policies and to our rights. That way we know that we can report violence to our local group or to the network, and then they will support the legal procedure to report to the police. We have the right to be protected by the police!

Now, thanks to the knowledge disseminated to sex workers […] we know that we can report violence to our local group or to the network, and then they will support the legal procedure to report to the police.

Can you tell us a bit more about this re-identification of sex workers?

Van: Sex worker groups support the police to get ID papers for sex workers and other key populations. We do a survey among key populations who have no identification because you need an identification in order to have access to health insurance and HIV treatment. That is why we are supporting all key populations to have access to ID papers and an insurance card.

You need an identification in order to have access to health insurance and HIV treatment. That is why we are supporting all key populations to have access to ID papers and an insurance card.”

Hien, you are currently a Steering Committee member of the VNSW. Can you tell us why did you join the VNSW?

Hien: I was a sex worker, a drug user and I am living with HIV. Before 2014 I was working in a drug user-led organization focusing on people living with HIV and their access to treatment. Since then, I started to work for the sex worker community directly. Because in sex worker-led organizations, we also do support the sex workers to access HIV treatment.

Can you tell us more about the Community Leadership Fostering Program of the VNSW?

Hien: The grant from the Red Umbrella fund was essential in financing the training of a younger team of community leader. Because the members of the steering committee are quite old and worked for quite a long time, we need to build up replacement in order to better represent our community. Young community leaders often have little experience and less skills, so we need to help them with knowledge and skills as well as opening their mind. Those skills and knowledge are necessary for them to take over the functions of the Steering Committee in the future. We are therefore confident and serene about the future of the network and in the fact that it will live long.

Because the members of the steering committee are quite old and worked for quite a long time, we need to build up replacement in order to better represent our community.”

How were the participants chosen?

Hien: We first called for applications from the 50 member organisations of VNSW. Then the members of all organizations were meeting through Skype to discuss and choose the eligible participants. The applicants had to be involved in their own communities, endorsed by their community-based organisation (CBO) and be under 25 years old, as our goal was to promote youth leadership within the sex worker movement.

And in practice, how did the program go? Did it fulfill your goals?

Hien: In the evaluation session, the participants declared that the training sessions were all very useful to them. For instance, in the session dedicated to communication they learned how to catch the attention of the listener and how to be confident in speaking out, not only in front of their peers but also in front of a large and diverse public. They even had training on the best way to talk, measuring the tonality and rhythm of their voices. After the training sessions all felt more confident in their own agency. Those skills are essential when you organize meetings and have to develop an internal and external communication.

“After the training sessions, all felt more confident in their own agency”

So how were these skills developed?

Van: We did many training sessions with different themes. The first one was named: «Seven habits to be highly effective people». The second training was about presentation: how to talk coherently and how to read efficiently reports and diverse type of publications. In advocacy we have to talk a lot, but also read a lot! Reading also needs training and exercise in order to be able to choose which information is useful or not! Communication is not only useful for meetings but also for outreach work in the field. An important mission of VNSW is to disseminate knowledge, especially harm reduction knowledge about safe sex or safe use of drugs among the community.

An important mission of VNSW is to disseminate knowledge, especially harm reduction knowledge about safe sex or safe use of drugs among the community.”

How do you see the future of the programme?

Hien: I think it is very important to develop this kind of programmes further. One problem is that our members are working a lot but they do not have a salary, that is a very precarious position. Capacity building is important for both the current members to be confident in letting in the leadership of younger members and for new leaders to be confident taking over these responsibilities. Only one member per local group could participate to the program due to the limitation of resources but it allowed us to keep a link between the Steering Committee members and the base of the organizations. Links between individuals and groups are important to keep a coherent movement in Vietnam.

The capacity building also made us face the decrease in funding. Seeing how less and less money comes to community-based organizations, we have to empower our members so they can keep working independently. Right now, the Vietnamese government is implementing modules to support sex workers in collaboration with local organizations. But in order to be considered as a partner, local sex worker organizations have to prove that they have the capacities to reach out to their communities and they need to write a proposal and send it to the authorities. That is why the capacity building is so important for the empowerment of sex workers in Vietnam at this moment.

Seeing how less and less money comes to community-based organizations, we have to empower our members so they can keep working independently.”

Knowledge is changing every day. Even the way we outreach to sex workers has changed. We have to permanently update our practices and knowledge. We now have adapted and try to integrate ways of outreaching online to sex-workers. In the past we used to outreach the sex workers in person. That is why we have to update our knowledge every day and to repeat the training sessions and remain updating it. The most important for now is that each local organization has the capacities to be considered as a partner for the local authorities.

Now I will share about my own experience. Luckily my CBO is a partner of the local government, under the program about social affairs and vice prevention. This is the program in charge of solving any issue related to sex work in general. My CBO is actually one of the partners of local authorities in Hanoi to pilot the sex work official panel in Hanoi. I have a lot of experience and skills because of working in that field for a very long time. That is why the training sessions are so important: to balance the knowledge and power dynamics between the members and be able to work together. And of course, it is important in order to be a reliable partner for the local government. Not all member organizations of VNSW currently have the capacities to be part of such a project yet.

That is why the training sessions are so important: to balance the knowledge and power dynamics between the members and be able to work together. And of course, it is important in order to be a reliable partner for the local government.”

Why do you think funding sex worker organizations is important?

Van and Hien: Funding is very important for the network and community based organizations in general. Funds are needed to enable capacity building and training programmes. The starting point of our community is very low. Sex workers and key populations in Vietnam may have a low level of education. That is why we need to improve sex workers’ knowledge, skills and capacity to be confident in leading the community.

Funding also allow us to promote harm reduction interventions. Sex workers can then outreach to their friends and their own communities, helping them with how to have safe sex. It helps prevent violence, even how to change work if they want to and sometimes how to get some funding from the government.

Funds also allow us to promote harm reduction interventions. Sex workers can then outreach to their friends and their own communities, helping them with how to have safe sex.”

Funding furthermore enables sex workers to work towards a meaningful engagement in advocacy, allowing sex workers’ voices to be heard. Advocacy is very important, as a representative of the sex work community, the network needs to raise the voices of sex workers in consultations and meeting that concern us directly.

So, what are the priorities in advocacy for the VNSW?

Hien: Advocacy takes a long time. In the past we had a meaningful involvement to close all the detention centers in 2012 and 2013. All the detention centers have closed, and all the sex workers that had been arrested were released. Now sex workers are only fined between 5 to 25 dollars.

In the future we now want to advocate for sex work not to be illegal anymore and not to be considered as negative. That concerns not only the worker but also the buyer and many organizations and individuals around it. This is just like people selling food in the market. They are not recognized as workers, but their occupation is not illegal. Decriminalization, access to the full status of citizens and to human rights, that is what we ultimately fight for.

In the future we now want to advocate for sex work not to be illegal anymore and not to be considered as negative. […] Decriminalization, access to the full status of citizens and to human rights, that is what we ultimately fight for.”

In the future we may train all our member to move to become social enterprises. Because the resources are decreasing and at the moment the CBOs have to adapt and find other income. That is why the idea is now to move to social enterprises, a new way of enabling self-sustainability for the community. That would allow that the profit would directly flow back to our communities – and eventually to the whole society. But we still need more funding in order to launch this social enterprise project.

“Because the resources are decreasing at the moment the CBOs have to adapt and find other resources. That is why the idea is now to move to social enterprises, a new way of enabling self-sustainability for the community.”

We are also focusing on the connection between the local sex worker groups and the local government, now that they have increasingly become partners. That helps to prove that the sex worker led organizations are reliable partners and that sex workers should be protected and not prevented.

Thank you!


Vietnam, Sex Work and Covid19

Missing in this interview is how hard the sex workers in Vietnam have been hit by the Covid19 pandemic in recent months. As described by Red Umbrella Fund grantee partner Strong Ladies in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam:

In the period before the Covid pandemic the sex worker community worked in diverse settings, such as gathering points, hot spots, massage services, and online services. Transgender sex workers mainly worked in hot spots, online, and in some bars. There have been several cases of transgender sex workers being abused by clients when clients discovered they were transgender. For them, sex work is considered the only way to earn an income and save money for surgeries in order to physically match their gender identity.

During the Covid pandemic the work situation got heavily affected for the sex worker community. Most of us have lost customers leading to serious affects on our income. A lot of the sex workers are originally from neighboring provinces and need to keep making enough money in order to pay the rent for their accommodation. Some are lucky to get some kind of reduction on the rent because of the Covid situation. In Ho Chi Minh City, there are many “Rice ATM’s”, but sex workers are afraid to go out and accept these offered goods. Mainly because when they show up all dressed, it is then considered that they are not in need and do not face difficult situations and therefore are not entitled.”

Nathan would like to thank Hien and Van for welcoming him in the locals of VNSW and take their time answering all his questions. He would also like to give his thanks and solidarity to all the sex worker activists in Vietnam which work stands to him as one of the bravest examples of raising for social change. Finally, he’d like to highlight the importance of the facilitating organizations, sex-worker led as the Red Umbrella Fund or allies as the SCDI (the host organisation of the VNSW) in Vietnam.

______________________________________

Resources & further reading:

Facebook page of VNSW: https://www.facebook.com/vnswvietnam/

Membership of VNSW to the Global Network: https://www.nswp.org/members/vietnam-network-sex-workers

Report of the Regional Office for the Western Pacific of the the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (2001): http://www.wpro.who.int/hiv/documents/docs/Sex_Work_in_Asia_July2001.pdf

Joined report of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), The Department for Social Evil Prevention (DSEP) under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) facilitated by the United Nations (2012): https://vietnam.iom.int/sites/default/files/IOM_Files/Projects/Migration_Gender/Final_report_Sex_work_and_Mobility_ENG.pdf

Academic resources:

Kay Hoang, K. (2011). “She’s Not a Low-Class Dirty Girl!”: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40(4), 367–396. doi:10.1177/0891241611403481 

Ngo, A. D., McCurdy, S. A., Ross, M. W., Markham, C., Ratliff, E. A., & Pham, H. T. B. (2007). The lives of female sex workers in Vietnam: Findings from a qualitative study. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 9(6), 555–570. doi:10.1080/13691050701380018 

1 For an extensive study Kay Hoang, K. (2011). “She’s Not a Low-Class Dirty Girl!”: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40(4), 367–396. doi:10.1177/0891241611403481

2 Re-identification in Vietnam is a public program aiming to issue legal identification to all citizens of Vietnam. The lack of legal identification is often a barrier to access to human rights in Vietnam, especially in rural areas.

29 Sep

Master Thesis – Roles of Regional Sex Worker Networks

The 6 Roles of Regional Sex Worker Networks

By Hester Scholma, Graduating Student,
Master Thesis Sociology, Vrije Univeristeit Amsterdam 

Network means together and together makes stronger. We [regional networks] can make the Sex Worker Movement stronger at the country level, at the regional level and move together to get sex workers’ rights”

Almost a third of the Red Umbrella Fund grantmaking budget goes to regional networks of sex workers because they are seen as important within the Sex Workers’ Rights Movement. But why, exactly? The Programme Advisory Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund has asked for further clarification on the importance of regional networks and a funder demonstrated interest to better understand the roles of networks in social movements. All in all, plenty of reasons to start an exploratory research into the work of regional sex worker networks.

Together means stronger

It sounds obvious: together means stronger. We all know that sowing and harvesting a field of wheat by hand is easier when we do it together instead of alone. Building a house goes much faster with many hands and multiple brains adding skills and knowledge on construction, electricity or design. An individual protesting against municipal policy in front of the town hall can make a statement but protesting in a group usually makes this statement stronger. It may feel logical that regional networks contribute to stronger local and national organisations and a stronger movement, the question is how?

Sex Workers’ rights organising

Many sex worker organisations, focused on promoting the human rights of sex workers, formed throughout the 1980s both in countries in the Global North and the Global South. The Sex Workers’ Rights Movement began to internationalise from the 1980s and the now fully globalized movement is one of the most geographically diverse and intersectional social movements in the world. The movement represents the interests of sex workers from many different countries, with varied races, gender identities and sexual orientations. It includes sex worker-led organisations working locally, nationally and internationally1.

The regional networks

The regional networks are groups of sex worker groups across countries in a particular geographic region. These networks connect organisations, and sometimes individual activists, to each other. They work with their members in the region and also work on a global level, sometimes together with other regional networks. The currently known regional sex worker-led networks are: ASWA in Africa; APNSW in Asia and the Pacific; ICRSE, SWAN and TAMPEP in Europe; and RedTraSex, PLAPERTS and CSWC in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, there are a few sub-regional networks and networks that unite sex workers and allies.

The 6 roles

To explore the contribution and relevance of the regional networks, conversations were held with people directly engaged in such regional networks, a representative of NSWP and some funders of sex worker-led organisations. Through these conversations, six regional networks’ key roles came to light: convening power, setting the agenda, platform for sharing and learning, supporting and engaging in advocacy, capacity building and amplifying sex worker voices.


1. Convening power

The regional networks bring people and organisations together from different contexts and backgrounds, physically or online. This can create movement consciousness. Regional networks can also make connections with other international bodies or social movements.


“We had 200 sex workers from about 10 countries. And it was just amazing because we met people from countries we didn’t even [normally] think about. You’re thinking that these are issues we’re facing in our country only, but that was such a powerful moment because sex workers spoke about human rights violations and that was the first time we were like we want decriminalisation. A lot of work had gone to mobilize the countries to bring sex workers to come for this conference. I’m getting goose bumps even as I’m talking about it. It was very, very moving”

 

2. Setting the agenda

The regional networks set a shared agenda together with members. This generates a clear message of the movements’ ideas and demands for both the movement itself and for outsiders. It is clear that one of the main objectives of the regional sex worker networks is the decriminalisation of sex work. This has not always been the case.

I think this is not something to take for granted. It took a lot and a lot of work to come to this unity. And to come to this unified voice and demand, what’s their message. So it definitely speaks to the movement and its success”

3. Platform for sharing & learning

The regional networks create opportunities for members to share experiences and learn from each other. For example, this platform creates the possibility for new sex worker-led organisations to do an ‘internship’ at more established organisations and the possibility to improve strategies together.

A strategy that was shared by one country – and maybe had a few challenges or a few hiccups – when the next country implements that same strategy, they’re able to see the loopholes and be able to address those challenges and make it a better strategy”

4. Supporting and engaging in advocacy

Regional networks support local and national advocacy and bring advocacy to the regional and global levels. Their advocacy is strengthened by the fact that they represent a big group of people. They have the position to gather information, provide numbers and engage in joint advocacy.


“When there were cases of murders of sex workers in Kenya, all other countries came on board to support Kenya and statements were being issued from other countries condemning this. That would never have happened if we did not have that regional platform”

5. Capacity building

Regional networks support local and national organisations to strengthen their skills, knowledge and organisations and in turn build the capacity of the movement as a whole. Regional networks regularly organise trainings and workshops for their membership. ASWA even established an entire training programme, jointly with the Kenyan national network KESWA and with support from the global network NSWP, called the Sex Worker Academy Africa.


“10 years ago there was no leader at the national level, maybe at the regional level one or two leaders. And now look at the countries. Every country has one or two organisations, there is leadership of sex workers, and they are fighting for their rights”

6. Amplifying sex worker voices

The regional networks represent a diversity of sex workers from the region and give local sex workers a platform to speak, both within the movement as well as outside of the movement on a regional or global level.


“[At a regional meeting] One of the sex workers from Myanmar was talking about violence against sex workers by police. In that meeting there were many representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs and he said: oh my god I don’t know anything about this, I had no idea that this was happening in our country, nobody ever told me that this was happening”

Funding regional networks

The regional networks play an important role in making the movement stronger as a whole and in impacting the international and global level that have an influence on local realities. However, regional networks face multiple obstacles and this makes it difficult for them to fully fulfil all the roles named above. One of the biggest challenges regional sex worker networks face is lack of funding. Without flexible and core funding, the regional networks cannot live up to their full potential to strengthen the Sex Workers’ Rights Movement and to keep working on decriminalisation and the protection of human rights of sex workers.


“There is a general interest of funders to support local initiatives because of the immediate impact. But the problem that those sex workers are experiencing do not only link to their individual situation but also to the legal context of their country and the cultural context of the whole region. Networks are able to use the stories of their members and take it to a higher level and make a larger change. If those networks don’t do this regional effort, it creates a huge vacuum because local organisations often are not able to step up to the next level for policy change”

[1] Chi Adanna Mgbako, The Mainstreaming of Sex Workers’ Rights as Human Rights, 43 Harv. J. L. & Gender 92 (2020)
Available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/faculty_scholarship/1092


This blog post was written by Hester Scholma, a sociology student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Hester conducted qualitative research in partnership with the Red Umbrella Fund in 2020. If you are interested in this study and want to receive more information or a copy of the thesis, please contact the Red Umbrella Fund at: info@redumbrellafund.org


Illustrations by Hester Scholma

1Chi Adanna Mgbako, The Mainstreaming of Sex Workers’ Rights as Human Rights, 43 Harv. J. L. & Gender 92 (2020)
Available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/faculty_scholarship/1092

14 Sep

Red Umbrella Fund 2020-2025 Strategic Plan

Today is International Sex Worker Pride Day which began in 2019, and is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement.

Sex Worker Pride extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community during International Sex Worker Pride.

On this special day we at Red Umbrella Fund would also like to present to you our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. Our mission remains to strengthen the sex workers’ rights movement and its sustainability by catalysing new funding! Please read al about it.

Strategic Plan 2020-2025

 

31 Mar

Sex-workers’ resilience to the COVID crisis: a list of initiatives

Navigate per regions of the world:

GLOBAL

[interactive map access]

NSWP, the global network, launched a COVID-19 impact survey on the sex worker community!

They now have published a similar list on response of their members to the crisis.

LATIN AMERICA

AMMAR Argentina has established a national collection to establish an emergency fund for sex workers and is sharing their banking information for direct deposits. AMMAR now also accept international donations on this paypal account  

In Brasil the Observatório da Prostituição  is editing a list of national  initiatives taken by sex-workers, the list is dynamic and regulary updated on facebook! Here are the initiatives listed for now, copied from their post (07/04/2020): 

GEMPAC (Group of Women Prostitutes in the State of Pará): GEMPAC registered women in the downtown area of Belem to receive food baskets and is working together with public officials to guarantee that the support promised by the State makes it to sex workers. A virtual channel was also opened up to facilitate communication with sex workers about Covid-19 along with a food drive for sex workers and their family. Soon more information will be available about a campaign to raise money for these efforts.
Contact: https://www.facebook.com/gempacpa/

Aprosmig (Association of Sex Workers in Minas Gerais): Organized a campaign for donations of money, food, cleaning products and personal hygiene for sex workers and the homeless. Working with local officials and hotel owners in the Guaicurus red light district to guarantee sex workers unable to return to their homes have a place to live and food while the hotels are closed.
Campaign: https://bit.ly/346NOE8

Coletivo Clã das Lobas (Wolf Pack Collective): Working in partnership with the Coletivo Rebu for women without any support from the hotels in the Guaicurus red light district and surrounding areas. Organized an online campaign to buy food, cleaning and personal hygiene supplies.
Online Campaign: “Juntas Somos Mais Fortes” (Together we’re stronger): http://vaka.me/948763…

CIPMAC (Center of Information, Mobilization and Prevention for Sex Workers in Campina Grande) : Created a virtual campaign and channel of information about COVID-19 on WhatsApp with information about health, care, work and rights. The organization is also registering women to receive food baskets, cleaning and personal hygiene materials and accepting donations of food and fundraising.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/cipmac.milene.7
Donations:
Banco do Brasil
Agencia: 1634-9
Conta corrente: 16.205-1

APROS-PB (Sex Worker Associaton of Paraiba): Through negotiations with local public officials, the organization has been able to guarantee food baskets and personal hygiene kits for sex workers in the João Pessoa metropolitan area.
Contact:  +55 83 98872-0955

AMPSAP: (Amapá Association of Women Sex Workers) Through negotiations with local public officials, the organization has registered sex workers to be able to receive food baskets during this period of social isolation.
Tel: +55 96 9912-5653 WhatsApp +55 96 9185-4629

APRORN (Sex Worker Associaton of Rio Grande do Norte): Busy organizing donations and working with local officials to guarantee food baskets for sex workers. A virtual communication network was also created to facilitate communication with sex workers about COVID-19 and provide support during this period of social isolation.
Contact:
Diana Soares +55 84 98806-5395, +55 84 3033-1651

APPS (Sex Worker Associaton of Pernambucco): Mobilizing through social networks with their members and advocating for support from the Secretariat for Women in the state of Pernambucco.
Contact:
Vania Rezende +55 81 8345-6766

APROSMA (Maranhão State Sex Workers Association) Almost all of the brothels and bars have been closed in São Luis and APROSMA is working with the Secretariat of Human Rights to guarantee food baskets to sex workers and other needy populations downtown. Soon more information will be available about an online campaign to receive financial donations.
Contact:
Maria de Jesus Almeida Costa +55 98 8419-0077

Mulheres da Luz (Women of the Light): Organized a campaign for women reached by the NGO in the Luz Park, a prostitution area in downtown São Paulo (closed due to the pandemic), and its surrounding areas. As part of the campaign, the NGO is accepting donations of money and food products (like food baskets) and hygiene (soap, toothpaste, and alcohol in gel).
More information: www.mulheresdaluz.com.br
Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/mulheresdaluz/?ti=as
Instagram: @ongmulheresdaluz

 

Fundation Margen in Chili has a fund raising initiative in Santiago, they are receiving food and donations in this address : Portugal 623 of 11, Santiago, Chile . Their Instagram @somos.margen.

Red Comunitaria Trans in Colombia has set up a relief found for trans women sex workers in Bogota.

Sindicato de Trabajadorxs Sexuales de Quito has set up a fund on gofundme to support sex workers as well as to outline the effects of governmental responses to COVID-19 on the sex-worker community.

OTRANS Guatemala has called for support and donation in order to support trans sex worker, especially the elderly, in their access to first necessities.

AMETS Mexico is facing the COVID-19 crisis by raising donations (money or food) on Twitter.

 
Mexico-La Brigada Callejera is seeking donations to support their campaign to demand support and supplies from the government of Mexico.

 

The sex worker-led group “Sarita Colonia” in Peru is asking for donations in  order to deliver primary necessity goods to sex workers in need.

Miluska Vida y Dignidad from Peru is collecting funds to distribute among those mothers who cannot access the Social Bonus from the State.

 

In Salvador, Plaperts and Mujeres Liquidambar are calling for donations and organise food distribution.

AFRICA

Shwahili version_Poster_Sensitization_SW_COVID-19_DRCMars2020

The African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) has issued sheets with safety tips for sex workers in time of COVID-19.

KESWA emergency fund.

KESWA also launched a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Sex Workers.

Click on the image  to access KESWA’s visuals on COVID-19:

A coalition of sex-workers led group in the Republic Democratic of Congo (HODSASUMANDE and ACODHU-TS) has published an advocacy and sensibilization document available in three languages (French, Swahili and English). They also published a report on the stigmatization of Sex Workers during COVID-19. Eng_Report SW situation COVID-19_Mars2020

solidarity fund has been created in South Africa by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce and Sisonke (National Movement of Sex Workers in South Africa). It is especially drafted for allies to support sex-worker directly.

 

ASIA PACIFIC

NNSW

Scarlett Alliance in Australia has worked with a national coalition of sex workers to form this fund for sex workers in all Australian territories. The link includes a tool to submit a request for assistance.

In Bangladesh, HARC has been reporting about the situation of sex workers during COVID-19.

All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) is calling for support in order to provide sex workers with food, house rents, milk for Children, medicine etc.

Please use the below given account for Donation and share this widely. Donors are eligible for exemption under IT Act.

All India Network of Sex Workers
Account No- 6577000100043599
Punjab National Bank
IFSC Code: PUNB0657700
Branch: Kirari, Suleman Nagar, Delhi
Branch Code: 6577
MICR Code: 110024285

Durbar Mahila in India is supporting sex-workers from the red light districts in Kolkata with food and essential commodities. For that purpose, they are asking for financial support from individuals, organisations and public administrations. You can find their banking details here (website) and here (facebook).

The National Network of Sex Workers of India (NNSW India) set up a fund to provide sex workers and their family food kits (equating one month for one person). They also stress the particular invisibility of sex workers in times of COVID-19, neglected by popular opinion and official help from the state.

Help support monthly packages for 500 homes of sex workers and trans people in Karnataka India for April and May 2020Sangama is a non government organization working for the rights of the working class, non English speaking gender and sexual minorities, sex workers and people living with HIV since 1999.

Sangram Sanstha, sex worker group in Sangli, Miraj, Karad, Satara, Ichalkaranji and Kolhapur is ending the first phase of its emergency fund. 689 sex workers were identified as most vulnerable and will receive a food packet. In total, that represents 3445 kilos of rice, 3445 kilos of wheat flour, 1378 kilos of daal, 1378 litres of oil, spices and tea.

 

SWASH, a sex worker group based in Japan has been very active toward the access to public support for sex wokrers in Japan. They published on their Twitter account a CNN article mentionning their fight.

Project X in Singapore is also offering support to sex workers through live videos on Facebook to respond to sex worker questions & they are handing out vouchers to sex workers in need. They also published a covid postser on how to deal with stress on this facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/theprojectxsg/  Finally  they also set up  a mutual aid action to bring groceries to the community.

Empower Thailand has been very reactive on social networks, reporting the effect of COVID-19 on the community and demanding emergency support from the governement. Here you can find their press release in English.

EUROPE

ICRSE Guide

The European Network, the ICRSE, regularly update a list of emergency funds set up by sex-workers in Europe to face the COVID-19 crisis.

 

SWAN, the sex worker-led regional network in Central and Eastern Europe and Central,  has drafted an advocacy document with demands of sex-workers to governements to act in reaction of COVID-19. Available in English and Russian.

 

Red Edition has set up a 24-hour hotline for sex workers in Austria. They primarily focus on support migrant sex workers during this time of social isolation. Please donate via their GoFundMe page.

UTSOPI, the Belgium national sex-worker led organisation, has set up a mutual aid fund. They also organises a weekly Corona TV session, specifically for sex workers, where they have someone talk about a topic of interest for sex workers (in Dutch) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/utsopicoronagazette

ACCEPTESS-T in France is providing financial support for trans* sex workers in their region.

In Lyon, the communautary sex worker association Cabiria has launched a call for donations.

In Toulouse and surrunding, the sex worker association Grisélidis is raising fund for distribution to sex workers.

In France, the Syndicat du Travail Sexuel (STRASS) gathered useful information on their website regarding prevention, harm reduction, access to medical treatment and care as well as current actions and hotlines held by community associations in these times of crisis. They started a fundraiser to provide emergency help for sex workers who most need it. Finally, due to a successful media campaign, 18 deputies challenged Marlène Schiapa (from the state’s secretary in charge of equality between Men and Women) to open a state runned emergency fund for sex-workers.

Berufsverband Erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V (BesD), Germany has posted a guide in German and English on their website. Please consider donating through their emergency fund to support their work in Germany and beyond.

Red Umbrella Athens, Positive Voice, and the Athens sex workers have created an emergency fund for supporting food and basic necessities, but also to cover basic living expenses like rent, electricity, etc.

 

The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, the only front-line sex worker led organisation in Ireland, has established a hardship fund to support local sex workers.

In Italy, a coalition of organisations (including the main sex workers and trans led organisations of Italy) started a national emergency fund.

STAR-The First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans, in Macedonia, called for a solidarity campaign, stressing the effect of COVID-19 and governmental policies on sex-workers and their families. They published a list of donations platform provided by their partners, mainly sex-workers led organisations.

Sex Work Expertise in the Netherlands has provided this link with information about the financial and legal side of the income support for sex workers (self-employed / ZZP’ers, opting-inners and migrants).

Dutch Emergency Fund in the Netherlands has established an emergency fund. Dutch Emergency Fund is focusing on colleagues with immediate needs, that do not have access to services/ compensation that are accessible to independent workers and brothel workers.

 

PION, Sex Workers Interest Organisation in Norway has unlock some emergency resources to support sex workers in difficulty. You can find their contact to access this resources on their website.


Sex workers in Spain (Coalición Estatal De Trabajadoras Sexuales including AFEMTRAS, Colectivo de Prostitutas de Sevilla, Putas Indignados, Putas Libertarias del Raval, (N)O.M.A.D.A.S, Sección Sindical de Trabajadoras Sexuales de la IAC, Sindicato OTRAS, and Aprosex) have collaborated to establish an emergency fund to help fellow colleagues during this time of crisis. You can help them and donate by following this link.

In Sweden, Fuckförbundet has provided their banking details to support sex workers. Please mark your payment “COVID 19”.

The English Collective of Prostitutes organises a collective action to address sex workers demands directly to MPs. Here is how you can write your MP, demanding for support and not criminalization during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) has launched a hardship fund (13 March to 20 March) to support sex workers in the UK.

Umbrella Lane is providing support for active sex workers in Scotland through an emergency fund. Update:  The fund reached 10,291£!

NORTH-AMERICA

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In Vancouver, PACE opened a sex-worker led fund providing up to 100-200 USD to sex-workers who self-identified with one marginalized community

Butterfly and Maggies, also based in Toronto, have jointly drafted a community guide for Sex Workers on good practices toward COVID-19. Some information are especially Toronto-based, but most information can be useful to any english-speaking sex-worker, client, third party or ally.

Showing Up for Racial Justice – Toronto has assembled some resources in a single document including strategies and funds for collective care.

In Montreal there is a Mtl Rapid Response initiative for precarious sex workers.

COYOTE-RI has collected a list of resources including information about reproductive health, working online under FOSTA/SESTA, and other materials to support sex workers

The Green Light Project is running a fundraiser to support Seattle sex workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Healing Justice Podcast hosted a roundtable on COVID-19 to talk harm reduction and community support.

Lysistrata Mutual Care Collective & Fund is accepting donations through their website and distributes emergency funds for sex workers. They have also compiled a list of mutual aid resources.

Tits and Sass encourages you  to ask for a relief found! It also links to several resources for USA-based sex workers.

Sex Worker Emergency Endowment of Tucson (SWEET) provides micro grants to sex workers in Tucson and Pima County.

California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance has also shared a resource for undocumented people. It includes some resources that may be relevant for migrant sex workers in California.

Colorado Entertainer Coalition (CEC) is requesting donations for their community of sex workers.

The  Pink Bloc Project, gives micro-grants of $ 100 for sex workers.

SWOP-Boston is offering micro-grants of $50-100 to sex workers who live and/or work in Massachusetts. We are currently prioritizing funding for sex workers affected by racist, queerphobic, and transphobic violence; those who are unhoused; and those who have disabilities or who are immuno-compromised. However, we encourage all sex workers in need of assistance in the area to apply. We will make decisions on a rolling basis every two weeks based on need as well as the order of applications.

Whose Corner Is It Anyway is a Western Massachusetts mutual aid group for street based/low income/housing insecure/drug user community of sex workers. Their gofundme is updated every 2 weeks with current information about their community’s needs. The most recent post details how they are changing their meetings to meet the needs of their members.

The Network of Sex Workers to Excite Revolution Detroit (ANSWER-Detroit) and Radical Care (RADCare) launched the Detroit Sex Worker Mutual Aid Fund to support sex-workers based in Michigan or hustling in Michigan-centric. 

Las Vegas sex workers, now faced with the shutdown of the entire strip and all hotel/casinos, has started this gofundme.

The Black Sex Worker Collective (BSWC) is a New York City project working to provide support for black sex workers in the area. There are a number of ways to provide support available on their website.

In New York, Colectivo Cultural Trangrediendo is a joint initiative from LGBT Center Intercultural Collective Inc and Lorena Borjas Community Fund for trangender folx experiencing intensified precarious and poverty situations.

Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Brooklyn is also running an Emergency COVID Relief crowdfund for New York based sex workers who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Portland sex workers have established a PDX Sex Worker Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Sex Workers Outreach Project in Austin Texas (SWOP ATX) has established a emergency reli-wef fund.

The Philly Red Umbrella Alliance officially launched the Philly Area Sex Workers relief Fund. It is a long term initiative to support the community before, during and after pandmics. It targets those who are routinely barred from institutional access. There is 3 ways to support them:

Flyer by: pennysmasher (IG)
 

No Justice No Pride (NJNP) are looking for support through  Patreon.

16 Dec

An injury to one is an injury to all

by Nathan Desvignes

Sex workers in Europe have been facing grave attacks on their rights in recent years. Although sex workers’ organisations are under-resourced, they are fighting back fiercely and have had some notable achievements in getting others to finally care and join in. Slowly but steadily, more people are starting to realize that the denial of human rights to sex workers, will ultimately affect us all. Or as the old labour slogan goes: an injury to one is an injury to all.

The Swedish Model Expansion: A Backlash against Social Justice

In February 2014, the European Parliament voted in favor of a recommendation to criminalise sex workers’ clients, also known as the Swedish or Nordic model. This recommendation was put forward in a resolution by a Member of European Parliament (MEP) called Honeyball and it was strongly pushed for by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL). At that time I was studying about the sex workers’ movement at my university, but I did not speak up about this.

Report by Fuckförbundet, 2019

The Swedish model is based on the paradoxical idea of ‘helping’ sex-workers by criminalizing their clients and third parties (a category which includes managers but also drivers or bookkeepers). Even if these intentions to protect women who they see as victims are genuine, the model has proven to be harmful and has increased stigma and violence against women and trans people in Sweden, France and Ireland. The Swedish model does not result in a reduction of poverty, stigma and repression of women sex workers. Quite the opposite, it makes their work more difficult and more dangerous. It encourages the controlling of female migration and has resulted in deportations of women. And to sustain its legitimacy, defendants of the model conveniently ignore and disqualify the dissident voices of sex workers. This happened in Sweden, and this happened at European level.

Sex Workers’ Dissent

But the sex workers’ movement did not sit quietly. ICRSE, one of the regional sex workers’ networks in Europe, published a letter opposing the Honeyball resolution that was signed by 560 organizations. They also facilitated an academic critique endorsed by 94 academics that uncovers the bias of the resolution and its claims. And five years later, sex workers continue their protest. In September 2019, at the occasion of the 20 years jubilee of the ‘Swedish model’, activists and researchers gathered in Sweden to discuss the consequences of the model.

I spoke to Luca Stevenson about that period, when he had just joined the ICRSE as the Coordinator:

“The position taken by the European Parliament was, unfortunately, not really surprising. The shocking part was that it was the Parliament, a democratic institution, that made this report. The quality of the report is the proof that statistics can be used for anything, including denying one’s rights. The whole report is based on stigma and discrimination, not on sex workers’ demands or even scientific evidence.”

Demonstration for sex workers rights in Sweden, September 2019. Photo credit: Fuckförbundet.

Attacks on Marginalized Groups

By purposefully conflating every form of sex work with trafficking, the Honeyball resolution denies sex workers the capacity to organize and the possibility to use their own body and social skills to earn an income. According to Stevenson, this is just one illustration of a bigger trend that is happening everywhere:

“Such attacks against the most stigmatised and marginalised groups are all part of a repressive wave of populism. For us, the importance now is to develop an intersectional movement for social justice across the region and across the globe.”

Building Bridges Between Communities

Building alliances with other communities became a priority for ICRSE, both as a strategy and as an end in itself. As Stevenson clarifies:

“We wanted to make it understood that sex workers are also part of other discriminated and criminalized communities – such as LGBTI and migrants – and are often the most marginalized within them. Our aim was to mainstream the sex worker question at both grassroots and European levels.”

For instance, local migrant organizations should be able to provide support for the sex workers within their communities. And vice versa. As Stevenson explains:

“We purposefully became members of different networks. It was very important for us that the sex worker organizations would learn from others and become more intersectional as well, and to address issues of transphobia and racism in our own sex worker rights organizing.”

By making the voices of its members more visible partly though the publication of a series of intersectional resources in their diverse communities, ICRSE intended, step by step, to bring a broad range of allies to the table. As shared by Stevenson:

ICRSE building a network of allies in Brussels, September 2019. Photo credit: Nathan Desvignes

“As these networks are based on the democratic representation of their members, they should therefore recognize that sex workers are present in every sphere of society. So that sex workers’ rights are, in fact, migrants’, LGBTI, and labour rights.”

Success

And the strategy is showing success. In 2016, Transgender Europe (TGEU) spoke out in support of decriminalisation of sex work, followed by ILGA Europe in 2018 and ILGA World in 2019. More recently also PICUM integrated the decriminalisation of sex work as one of the approaches to support and empower their communities. Other organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) and Doctors of the World (MdM) have also demonstrated awareness that sex workers’ rights are not separate from their own organisational human rights or health focus and that this needs to be incorporated into their work. ICRSE has also been reaching out to women’s organisations, homeless people’s organisations, and sexual and reproductive rights advocates, among others.

What Funders Need to Learn

I then spoke with Nadia van der Linde, Coordinator at the Red Umbrella Fund, about funders’ response to the attacks on sex workers’ rights and the limited funding available for sex worker organising. She agreed there is much that funders can learn from the sex workers’ rights movements:

“The way that ICRSE has been successful at strategically building alliances across movements and communities, including among LGBTI communities, undocumented migrants, feminists, human rights activists and others, is something that I see too little of in funder spaces.”

Not having a portfolio or policy on sex work does not mean sex workers are not already included or affected by a funder’s grantmaking. Communities do not fit neatly into funder-defined boxes. As Van der Linde shared:

“When I ask funders whether they support sex workers’ rights, many funders tell me they ‘do not have a portfolio on sex work’ and therefore cannot fund sex worker groups. While they do have a portfolio on women, LGBTI, health, or HIV! They have still not made the connection or are not willing to acknowledge the overlap, intersections, or implications.”

Demonstration for sex workers’ rights in Sweden, 2019. Photo: Fuckförbundet.

Legislation passed in the name of ‘equality’ has been detrimental to the health and rights of those most harmed by inequality, while their – sex workers’ – experiences have been systematically ignored or dismissed. Funders concerned about refugees, civil society, drug users, HIV, human rights, women, gender based violence, and labour rights, among others, should all be reflecting on the extent to which their grants are reaching the most marginalized and stigmatized within those communities. In the current social political climate and economic structure, this usually includes sex workers. Funders should be encouraging bridges to be built between communities and movements.

Final Reflections

It is through my recent work experiences at the ICRSE and the Red Umbrella Fund that the intersections between movements and necessity and urgency for allies to speak out and support sex workers’ rights activism has become clear to me. If we want to be effective in our fight against the reactionary and populist waves here in Europe, we have to acknowledge that the sex workers’ fight for self-determination is right at its heart and will impact us all.

 

***
This article was written by Nathan Desvignes. Nathan graduated with a master’s degree in history of political philosophy (a partnership between Sciences Po Lyon and ENS de Lyon) in 2019, specialized in sociology of sex work, history of feminism and history of anarchism. He has a general interest in social sciences: “As a feminist and anarchist activist, the fight for sex workers’ rights always appeared to me as a primary place of intersectionality from which anarchists and feminists have a lot to learn.” While volunteering for ICRSE, the European sex worker network, followed by the Red Umbrella Fund, the only global sex worker-led fund, Nathan wrote his Master’s thesis on the common history of anarchism and sex work activism (in French): “Emma Goldman face au Mann Act de 1910: un regard anarchiste sur la prostitution”

01 Aug

Artivism: A guerrilla tool for sex worker movements

By Aline Fantinatti

I was 20 when Daspu was created in 2005 by Gabriela Leite, a pioneer of the sex workers movement in Brazil. Daspu is short for “Das Putas”, meaning (designed) by the whores. It is the name of a clothing brand created to raise funds for the sex worker NGO Davida. The name Daspu is also a parody on Daslu (“Dasloo”), a famous luxury department store created by and for socialites from São Paulo, the richest city in Latin America.

Coincidentally, Daspu’s creation was launched just before the rich, elegant and well educated owner of Daslu became the target of a federal investigation against tax evasion crimes. Daspu was thus perceived as a sharp provocation which awarded them much public attention and opportunity to share their political message. Daspu inserted itself into the Brazilian mainstream culture, giving a new meaning to the puta identity by performing fashion catwalks in telenovelas, official fashion weeks, cultural institutions and street events. Sex workers participating in Daspu catwalks recreated themselves as fashion models of their own clothes in a celebratory occupation of the catwalk, a territory that up to then had been reserved to Dasluzettes.

Photo: Daspu Catwalk at Satyrianas theater festival 2016, in São Paulo, Brazil. Credit: Daniela Pinheiro

Reporting on Artivism

During my internship at the Red Umbrella Fund, I analyzed if and how their grantee partners have used artivism in their political and social interventions. I could not help but think back about how I had been influenced as a young woman growing up in Brazil when Daspu reached the mass media. These affective memories helped me to understand the significance of the artivism initiatives described by the 63 Red Umbrella Fund’s grantees whose reports I scrutinized. At least 2 in every 3 sex worker groups reviewed mentioned one or more examples of using artivism in their reports. And this was even higher specifically for national and regional sex worker networks. Using arts in activism is common across all regions, although groups reported it most often in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.

Sex worker activists make use of appealing visual elements such as color and shapes, poetic strategies such as word sounds and repetition, and performance to give strength to the messages. Creative methods such as storytelling and graphic design organize and simplify sex workers’ narrative. By making complex political issues more easily understandable, the targeted audience is finally able to connect and to relate to sex workers. A basic example of how social movements regularly use art to empower their message is the creation of rhythmic political mottos.

Somos lindas, estamos listas, somos puta feministas! We are beautiful, we are ready, we are whore feminists!

Photo: Activists chant during a meeting of Sindicato OTRAS (Sex workers organization in Barcelona). The scene was portrayed in the documentary Crossings: The Stories of Migrant Sex Workers.

Guerrila Tactics

Leila Barreto, former member of the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes and GEMPAC (Women Prostitutes Group of Para State) and researcher of sex workers’ movements in Brazil1, explains that a specific characteristic of the sex workers’ movement is that it is oriented towards a guerrilla fight to occupy new spaces2. Expanding your visibility means to get out of your comfort zone and create and be present in conversations with wider audiences that are distanced from their realities.

Art offers sex worker groups guerrilla tools to achieve political visibility among different audiences. It is also used specifically to fight against the stigma imposed on sex workers, with the understanding that stigma is a collective political problem and not an individual fault. Artivism constitutes a useful strategy for many sex worker groups to establish a dialogue with civil society. As with the case of Daspu, many artivism actions that promote public visibility also target the community itself by introducing or affirming a joint identity as sex workers. To build and maintain strong community engagement in the movement, sex worker organizations are determined to tackle the stigma internalized by sex workers themselves.

Silenced

Argentinian anthropologist Dolores Juliano describes the mechanisms of silencing used to control marginalized groups of women in hierarchical societies. In these societies, recognizing which discourses are legitimate and which ones are not is a tool to grant or to deny access to power.

“The division between good and bad women benefits the stability of the system. Prostitution stigma has nothing to do with what sex worker are or do. It represents a potent element of control for the women who are not in the industry. The model of the selfless wife and mother demands a lot of sacrifice. […] the only way to make sure that women adapt to it is to ensure that the other possibility is worse.” 3

The social panic about what sex workers can unveil about gender and sexual roles is the reason why sex workers are denied the possibility to speak for themselves. Sex workers’ discourse is thus constantly undermined and only validated when it presents them as victims. According to Juliano, the silencing of sex workers is used as a power maintenance strategy4.Sex worker organisations make use of the multiple conventional political dialogue tools: reports, formal advocacy actions, meetings, and field work, but only a narrow audience is able and interested enough to dive into dry policy reports. Sex worker activists therefore try more creative strategies to get their messages across.

Creativity as a Path to Success?

Georgina Orellano, secretary general of AMMAR (Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de Argentina) in Argentina, disclosed that a street art intervention in 2013 allowed the organization to realize that sex workers activism should take on a creative path. Together with an advertisement team, AMMAR developed an action to call the attention of the public to their mission using short and incisive communication elements. The campaign was based on data from AMMAR’s community based research which revealed that many sex workers in Argentina were single mothers and their family’s main source of income.

AMMAR came up with a street art intervention to get attention for the need to protect these women from exploitation and police violence. Illustrated black and white decals were placed on some of the busiest corners of Buenos Aires. On one side you could see a sex worker, but once you turned around the corner you could see that she carried a baby stroller or two kids by her hand. The message: “86% of sex workers are mothers – we need a law that regulates sex work”. AMMAR’s name and mission were clearly communicated. The murals went viral on social media platforms and received extensive local and international media coverage, including in The Guardian

“Street Corner Moms showed AMMAR that creative interventions can generate social consciousness among society in general and that it took the movement away from the sectors AMMAR always intervened, amplifying the message of the workers.”
– Georgina Orellano (interview April 2019)

Photo: Street Corner Moms. Credit: AMMAR

AMMAR has since developed many other creative strategies using documentary and cultural festivals to “occupy spaces” beyond the usual, introducing counter narratives to oppose the stigmatizing discourses on sex work. One such example is their collaboration in 2017 with MAMBA (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires), where AMMAR hosted guided tours during the exhibition of Argentinian painter Antonio Berni. Berni’s 1970s critical realism depict narratives about the world of sex work embodied by his muse Ramona Montiel. AMMAR’s members organized a tour covering different topics such as the street and stigma.

“A lot of the images settled by art history is present in sex workers narratives until today. For instance, people still think that we are always wearing high heels and fishnets. We were there to intervene in this narrative.”
– Georgina Orellano (interview April 2019)

Mock Arrests and Condom Seizures

Empower, a longstanding sex worker organization in Thailand, develops street performances through its Honey Bee Troupe to create awareness among the local public on sex workers’ issues. They pressure policy makers through media exposure and direct interactions with relevant stakeholders. By using basic props and costumes that are understood across cultures and languages, the group gets their message across in diverse locations.

The organization further developed their format to directly respond and to influence political decision makers during conferences. At the AIDS Conference in 2018, in order to protest against the “condom as evidence” policies used in many countries, the group dressed as police officers and performed mock arrests of delegates to get them to sign a ‘subpoena’ demanding end to the use of condoms as evidence and to decriminalize sex work. Approaching ‘suspects’ with typical verbal and gesture commands, the police characters seized over 1,000 condoms and attracted much attention.

Photo: Honey Bee Troupe during AIDS Conference 2018. Credit: English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP)

Establishing a puta conversation

As I grew up in a conservative suburban town around São Paulo, Daspu was my first point of contact with the sex workers’ movement in Brazil. Sex workers’ artivism sparkled in me a reflection on gender roles long before I came across feminism. The sex worker movement needs guerrilla tactics to occupy new spaces, as this struggle is not won with conventional strategies. Artistic elements in activism contribute to empathy and call attention to different and often larger audiences. Art has allowed sex worker activists to create opportunities to build support, influence opinions, and to challenge longtime encroached ideas.

What if I would never have seen sex workers perform on a Daspu catwalk?

…Perhaps I would still have become a sex worker ally, but there would certainly be fewer chances for sex workers’ political messages to be seen and heard without such artivism.

 

***

Aline volunteered as a research student at the Red Umbrella Fund while completing her masters degree in Gender Studies at the Utrecht University. She also a BA in International Relations from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo. After working for 10 years in the corporate sector, she started to investigate and to write about sexual rights related issues. During her work at the Red Umbrella Fund, Aline investigated how sex workers use art to create and to sustain a wider debate about labour, exploitation, agency, class and gender roles.

***

With special thanks for the generous interviews offered by Georgina Orellano, Secretary-General at AMMAR in Argentina, Liz Hilton from Empower Thailand and Leila Barreto, former member of GEMPAC (a sex worker group from the State of Para) and the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes.

***

Footnotes:

1 Barreto also likes to point out her identity as a Filha da Puta, daughter of a whore. Barreto is the daughter of Lourdes Barreto, one of the founders of the sex workers movement in Brazil. Leila Barreto also created the annual cultural political event Puta Dei which takes place in various cities of Brazil since 2012. It is organised along with the International Sex Workers’ Day, celebrated by the global sex worker community every 2nd of June.

2 Barreto, L. (2016). Prostituição: a história recontada: transas sociais e institucionais em Belém (Prostitution, a retold story: social and institutional intercourses in Belém)(Specialization in Education in Human Rights and Diversity). Universidade Federal do Pará.

3 Juliano, D. (2002). La prostitución: el espejo oscuro. Barcelona: Icaria.

4 Juliano, D. (2017). Tomar la palabra: mujeres, discursos y silencios (To take over the word: women, discourses and silences). Barcelona: Edicions Bellaterra.

27 May

“We are Human Before Anything Else” – Sex Worker Organising in Mauritius

by Claire Gheerbrant

Parapli Rouz, meaning ‘red umbrella’ in Mauritian Creole, is the only community-based organization promoting the rights of sex workers in Mauritius. The group has been a grantee partner of the Red Umbrella Fund since 2015. Working in a small island-nation has its particular challenges, like making yourself visible and heard in the increasingly global and connected sex worker movement. But Mauritian sex workers have a lot to say and are getting people to listen.

Public campaign from Parapli Rouz – “I have the same rights as you”

An underestimated sex worker population

The latest national survey (2014) estimates the sex worker population in Mauritius at 6,223 female sex workers and 1,649 transgender sex workers. Parapli Rouz only comes across a very small number of male sex workers every year. Beyond working in the streets, workplaces include homes, massage parlors, nightclubs, bars, restaurants but also beaches and catamarans. A number of Mauritian sex workers travel back and forth to the neighboring French island of La Reunion, where the pay is better. According to Parapli Rouz, those statistics are copiously underestimated and should be multiplied by two or three to reflect reality. In 2017 alone, Parapli Rouz met with more than 2,000 sex workers through its outreach work.

One of the main challenges sex workers in Mauritius face is the arbitrary arrests of street-based workers. Even if brothel keeping is the only criminalized activity under Mauritian law, street-based sex workers get arrested for “being on the streets at night”, “having condoms in their bags” or “wearing an indecent dress”; although these do not constitute formally punishable offenses.

Arrested for “being on the streets at night”

In order to be released, street sex workers are forced to sign erroneous investigation reports and are often denied their right to make a phone call from the police station. The charges they incur often relate to “soliciting”, “importuning” or “idle and disorderly”. When those cases are brought before the court, sex workers are sentenced with fines from 2,000 to 8,000 Mauritian rupees (50 to 200 euros) and prison terms of up to 3 months.

This comic strip – designed by a group of sex workers and drawn by former Parapli Rouz President Dany – is used as a sensitization tool directed at media, parliamentarians and police. It demonstrates in one page the extent of the challenges and abuses faced by sex workers: clients refuse to pay and are violent, police officers are abusive and charge sex workers for soliciting instead of filing their complaints, and health care providers don’t treat their injuries seriously.

A caravan to fight police abuse

To counter these violations of street workers human rights, Parapli Rouz used parts of its first grant from the Red Umbrella Fund to buy a caravan in 2015. The team uses the caravan to do outreach  once a week at various workplaces around the island. The mere presence of community workers in the areas of street work has visibly helped against the impunity of police officers, who know they are being watched.

On the sign “Despite violence and discrimination, we are still standing strong”

 

After a first court case was won in 2016 – Parapli Rouz provided legal support and a lawyer to the sex worker exposed to charges and those were dropped by the court- a precedent was set and police stations are now aware that Parapli Rouz is standing with sex workers and that they are no longer easy preys.

This work is paying off: recently a sex worker in Quatre Bornes was arrested but was, for the first time, granted her phone call. Sex workers now carry cards from Parapli Rouz which they present to police officers when they have contact with them. These cards send a strong message that sex workers are not alone nor powerless.

In addition to the caravan, Parapli Rouz expects to set up a telephone hotline for sex workers, reachable 24/7 and free of charge. The aim is to be able to react quickly in cases of emergency, such as violence from clients or the police, when the team is not on the ground, and increase safety of sex workers at all times. 

From an HIV/AIDS focus to a lobby and advocacy agenda

Soon after its creation in 2010, Parapli Rouz received funding from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to carryout activities related to HIV/AIDS prevention in the sex workers’ community. Sophie Ganachaud, Coordinator of the organization, explained that Parapli Rouz always wished to work more on advocacy, but it was never recognized as a priority by their potential funders and promoting sex workers rights remains highly controversial.

Indeed, funders tend to focus strongly on HIV/AIDS on the African continent (to which Mauritius is attached), which often makes it difficult for civil society organizations to extend their activities beyond health services and to work on a rights-based approach.

On the sign : “’We are human before anything else.Thank you Parapli Rouz”

With Red Umbrella Fund’s flexible core funding, Parapli Rouz decided to restructure the organization and dedicate more time for external advocacy. While still working on HIV prevention, the group now has a comprehensive advocacy plan targeting health providers, politicians, police and media.

The group organized a workshop for journalists to shift the moralizing tone and unrealistic portrayal often used in reporting about sex work. This resulted in more and better coverage of the work of the organization in the local press (in French). Based on this success, Parapli Rouz is hiring a communications officer to further expand their outreach and media presence.

Hypocrisy as a worst enemy

Developing relationships with institutional representatives is one of the most challenging aspects of Parapli Rouz’s work. Their experience is that if officials take pro-sex work positions in private meetings, they never share those publicly. The political risk is still high in Mauritius, and religious doctrines too influential. As Sophie Ganachaud, Coordinator of Parapli Rouz, explains: “for Mauritian politicians, supporting sex workers’ rights means signing your own political death warrant and risking the end of your career.”

Public campaign sign from Parapli Rouz Coordinator Sophie that says: “Stop hypocrisy”

In 2016, the Minister of Gender Equality joined Parapli Rouz’s commemoration on December 17th (the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers) and publicly offered to collaborate. Unfortunately, she resigned two days later. Parapli Rouz continues to invite government and police officials, hoping they will one day speak out and take a position outside of closed office doors. On December 17th 2018, Parapli Rouz organized a Pacific March and held a formal speech in the “Jardin de la Compagnie” in capital city Port Louis. This was a huge achievement for Parapli Rouz as it was the first time they got the authorization to demonstrate and march in front of the Parliament house. The demonstration was joined by many sex workers and allies and received good media coverage (in French).

On the sign: “We have the right to take care of our health”

Recipe for Success

Following the restructuring of the organisation in 2018, the team moved their office from the capital of Port Louis to bigger and more affordable offices in the central zone of Beau Bassin which is home to a large part of the island’s population. Following this move, Parapli Rouz has successfully organized community gatherings between sex workers from the two regions at their new center in order to increase solidarity between the two groups and decrease issues of territory and competition. Their recipe for success is a concept they refer to as “co-rity”: a mix of “collaboration” and “solidarity’. It is their goal to join the forces of different sex worker communities (trans sex workers, female sex workers, street-based sex workers and workers working from other venues) to face their common enemies and fight for their rights together. 

This article was written by Claire Gheerbrant based on an interview with Sophie Ganachaud (coordinator), Shameema Boyroo (Community Mobilization Officer) and Mélanie Babet (Community Mobilization Support Officer). 

The comic strips included in the article were designed by Dany, former President of Parapli Rouz who recently passed away, to whom this article is dedicated.

08 May

Time to Turn Up the Volume

by Nadia van der Linde

Please cite this article as: N van der Linde, ‘Time to Turn Up the Volume’, Anti-Trafficking ReviewAnti-Trafficking Review, issue 12, 2019, pp. 194-199, www.antitraffickingreview.org.

I remember my first self-organised donor panel well. It was at the Global Social Change Philanthropy Conference in Washington, DC in 2013. I had just started work as the first coordinator of the Red Umbrella Fund—the newly established fund for and by sex workers. I organised a session that would clarify the distinction between sex work and human trafficking and emphasise the need to fund sex worker organising. We had a strong panel: an awesome sex worker activist, a knowledgeable academic, a passionate service provider, and a committed funder. I was, however, in for a rude awakening: even though the line-up was great, the audience was scarce. I thought to myself, if we can’t even get funders to show up and learn about sex workers’ rights, how will we ever meet the needs of sex worker organisations fighting for their basic human rights?

Why the Need for Donor Support?

Sex workers are criminalised for their means of making a living in all but a handful of countries and jurisdictions. Addressing stigma and violence are key priorities of sex worker groups everywhere. For most sex workers, police are not there to protect them but perpetrate most of the violence against them.[1]Harassment, confiscation of condoms, extortion, arbitrary arrest, and rape are common examples of police violence. Even in the Netherlands, where sex work is regulated, most sex workers do not report cases of physical or sexual violence to the police.[2] A rare exception is New Zealand, where sex work is decriminalised and the government helps fund a sex worker organisation to provide information, services, and support to their peers. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and police work together to prevent violence and encourage sex workers to file a report when they experience sexual assault and other violent crimes.[3]

Sex workers across the world are organising against criminalisation, which puts not just their livelihood at risk but their entire lives—and those of their loved ones. They are generally recognised as marginalised and highly vulnerable in today’s societies, embodying multiple layers of stigma because of the work they do, and also because they are often poor, lack formal education, belong to Indigenous or migrant populations, identify as trans or gay, or are single mothers. However, funding to support sex worker organisations and their community mobilisation efforts is scarce.[4] In 2013, foundations invested a meagre USD 11 million in grants to support sex worker rights worldwide.[5] Most sex worker organisations have no funding at all, but those that do receive an institutional grant usually still have annual budgets below USD 70,000 and their reliance on volunteer work remains high. At the same time, raid and rescue programmes and rehabilitation centres continue to be generously funded as, supposedly, models of supporting or ‘helping’ women in the sex industry.

Sex worker organisations call on funders to provide more funding that is long term and covers rent, salaries, trainings, legal services, and advocacy. They also want funders to speak up in support of sex workers’ rights.[6] A conversation I had recently with another human rights funder revealed that, while they had given some grants to sex worker groups before, they had never realised that most peer human rights funders still do not fund such work. We clearly need to more effectively leverage our access and knowledge to educate and activate our philanthropic peers.

Changing Perspective

The best way to educate funders is through people’s lived experiences. We interviewed staff of funding organisations who had changed their perspective from assuming all sex work (or prostitution) is exploitation and trafficking to recognising sex workers as human beings who are entitled to rights, including in relation to their work. This revealed that academic evidence, UN documents, and human rights organisations’ public support for sex workers’ rights are all helpful, but the main lever to a more nuanced understanding comes from direct interactions with sex workers.[7] We need to bring funders and sex workers in the same room.

The international donor-activist dialogue on sex work and trafficking that took place in 2008 was one notable success of getting funders to listen to sex workers.[8] Members of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) played a crucial role in subsequent donor education, speaking from lived experience about the harms of many anti-trafficking initiatives on sex workers. By the end of the event, funders were united in their acknowledgement that sex workers need funding to effectively organise and stand up for their rights. Four years later, the Red Umbrella Fund was launched.[9]

So far, the Red Umbrella Fund has awarded 158 grants to 103 sex worker-led groups in over fifty countries. These investments have resulted in stronger organisations and leadership and increased solidarity and connections within the movement and with other movements. This is not, however, nearly enough to foster real change. For every grant awarded, applications by many other groups had to be declined due to the limited money available.

Self-organising for Labour Rights

Since the fund was established in 2012, our grantee partners have taught us how the conflation of sex work and trafficking plays out in their daily lives. It is not just that anti-trafficking policies often harm them; stigma and criminalisation also create a social climate where sex workers are at greater risk of being trafficked and survivors of trafficking may have few other options to make a living than sex work. Although they hardly ever mention it in their own publications, many sex worker groups provide crucial services and support to people who have experienced trafficking.[10] Similarly, labour unions and women’s organisations that stand up for domestic workers or agricultural labourers who work in poor conditions do not force them to quit their work or support incarcerating them, but instead focus on improving their labour conditions and self-organising capacity. As one sex worker at a donor-activist meeting organised by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) in Bangkok in February 2018 stated:

We are fighting for our rights, for our labour rights, for better working conditions. Sex workers and clients, for the most part, are against trafficking and exploitation. Sex workers support trafficked people, and we protect them from the police.

It is no surprise that a review of the grant applications we received over the years shows that, although local contexts differ greatly, ending stigma, violence, and criminalisation are the key priorities for sex worker organisations everywhere. Sex worker organisations prevent exploitation and trafficking by providing safe spaces, information, support, and accompaniment to relevant services.[11] Their campaigns for decriminalisation of sex work are crucial to build safer work environments where problems can be reported to police and justice can be sought. And where, as is highlighted by the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, sex workers have the right to say yes, but also the right to say no.[12]

Conclusion

A peer activist funder recently explained the evolution of their donor advocacy strategy to me, which had gone from ‘philanthro-shaming’ (highlighting the urgent need to increase funding in a particular area to avoid or address a certain problem) to unapologetically using the popular concept of FOMO, the fear of missing out. Too often, he shared, we highlight funding gaps and needs, hoping it will persuade funders to fill the abyss. That may help some allied funders to expand their grantmaking, but it will not convince the sex worker rights funding ‘virgins’. The reality is that even many self-identified social justice funders still claim ‘neutrality’ on the topic of sex workers’ rights, or simply lack the courage to speak out. Those funders need to realise that they are not the first sheep to leap over the ditch. In the case of this peer activist funder, their new donor advocacy strategy, therefore, intends to take a ‘jump on the bandwagon or miss out’ approach, highlighting that funding sex worker organising is the thing to do, and now!

I don’t think this bandwagon approach alone will do the trick, but at least we have started forming a band and developing some common tunes. Different funders have started coming together in a new collaborative effort to ensure that more funding is directed to the sex worker rights movements. Now it’s time to turn up that volume and reach the right audience.

Nadia van der Linde is the Coordinator of the Red Umbrella Fund. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Geography from the University of Amsterdam and has years of international experience, particularly in the field of sexual and reproductive rights, advocacy, and (youth) participation processes. Nadia has worked for the Youth Coalition, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, the People’s Health Movement, Stichting Alexander, the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She is the chairperson of the Prostitution Information Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Email: nadia@redumbrellafund.org.

Notes:

[1]      M Bhattacharjya, E Fulu and L Murthy, The Right(s) Evidence: Sex work, violence and HIV in Asia. A multi-country qualitative study, UNFPA, UNDP and APNSW (CASAM), Bangkok, 2015, retrieved 19 December 2018, http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/dam/rbap/docs/Research%20&%20Publications/hiv_aids/rbap-hhd-2015-the-rights-evidence-sex-work-violence-and-hiv-in-asia.pdf.

[2]      M Kloek and M Dijkstra, Sex Work, Stigma and Violence in the Netherlands, Aidsfonds, Amsterdam, 2018, https://www.soaaids.nl/sites/default/files/documenten/Prostitutie/Sex%20Work%20Stigma%20and%20Violence%20in%20the%20Netherlands%20Report%28digital%29.pdf.

[3]      E McKay, ‘World-first partnership between NZ Police and Prostitutes’ Collective’, NZ Herald, 17 December 2018, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12178217.

[4]      J Dorf, Sex Worker Health and Rights: Where is the funding?, Open Society Institute, New York, 2006, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/where.pdf.

[5]      Mama Cash, Red Umbrella Fund and Open Society Foundations, Funding for Sex Worker Rights. Opportunities for foundations to fund more and better, Mama Cash/RUF, Amsterdam, 2014, https://www.redumbrellafund.org/report.

[6]      Ibid.

[7]      N van der Linde and S Bos, ‘Mind the Gap—What we learned about how funders can be moved in the right direction’, Alliance Magazine, 7 September 2016, https://www.alliancemagazine.org/blog/mind-the-gap-what-we-learned-about-how-funders-can-be-moved-in-the-right-direction.

[8]      CREA, NSWP and SHARP, Sex Work and Trafficking A Donor/Activist Dialogue on Rights and Funding, CREA, NSWP and SHARP, 2008, https://www.redumbrellafund.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Donor_Dialogue_Final_REPORT_December2008.pdf.

[9]      Red Umbrella Fund, The Creation of a Collaborative Fund for and by Sex Workers, 2017, https://www.redumbrellafund.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Red-Umbrella-Fund-The-creation-of-a-Collaborative-Fund.pdf.

[10]     See, for example, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Sex Workers Organising for Change: Self-representation, community mobilization, and working conditions, GAATW, Bangkok, 2018.

[11]     Ibid.; see also: W Volbehr, ‘Improving Anti-Trafficking Strategies: Why sex workers should be involved’, Open Democracy, 17 July 2017, https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/wendelijn-vollbehr/improving-anti-trafficking-strategies-why-sex-workers-should-be-inv.

[12]     NZPC, Our Right to Say Yes, Our Right to Say No, n.d., http://www.nzpc.org.nz/pdfs/Right-to-Say-Yes-or-No-Poster.pdf.