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.

15 Dec

Minorities in a Movement

OGERA stands with refugee 2017Uniting LBT and Refugee Sex Workers

Red Umbrella Fund’s Programme Associate Louise visited OGERA (the Organization for Gender Empowerment and Rights Advocacy) in Uganda earlier this year to listen and learn from this unique group. Why are they organized specifically around lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LBT) and refugee sex workers? And how do they manage to overcome the many cultural and language barriers within this diverse membership?

Minorities in the Sex Worker Movement

OGERA is a Kampala-based group that unites and empowers lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LBT) and refugee sex workers. The group opposes gender based violence and advocates for decriminalization of sex work. OGERA takes a stand against the ways in which nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and choice of profession negatively impact sex workers’ lives day to day. It is the only sex worker-led organization that reaches out specifically to refugee sex workers in the area. 

Shamilah Batte, a refugee sex worker herself, set up the organization in 2013. She realized that the wider sex worker movement, largely led by heterosexual women, lacked representation of other minority groups within the community. According to Shamilah:

“Sex work is perceived to be done by heterosexual women only. For female sex workers, sexual orientation is often not questioned due to the assumption that they identify as heterosexuals. And the needs of refugee sex workers are neglected altogether. I could not just stand and watch my fellow sex workers face all sorts of violations, mainly because they could not access health information and education, treatment and legal representation. All this inspired me to come out and be a voice for the voiceless.”

Criminalization, Stigma and Violence

In 2016, the Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), a fellow member of the Uganda Network for Sex Workers Organization (UNESO), submitted a report to the United Nations to shed light on the human rights violations sex workers in Uganda face. Ugandan law criminalizes sex work. WONETHA’s report explains how this feeds into structural systems of police abuse, rape, harassment and public humiliation of sex workers.

Refugee women sex workers as well as lesbian, bisexual and trans people not only face similar forms of discrimination and stigma as other sex workers, but they face additional oppression based on their sexual identifies and their status as refugees. For example, the law in Uganda also criminalizes homosexuality. In 2014, the Ugandan parliament passed the Anti-Pornography Act to also operate against ‘prostitution’ which is perceived as immoral. As a result, it increases social stigmas, police violence and harassment. In combination with this bill, criminalization laws and high levels of homophobia contribute to further discrimination that denies sex workers’ access to health services such as HIV treatment.

Group photo OGERA

Stories of Stigma and Abuse

OGERA’s offices are located in a remote area of Kampala. The small but bright office, where the organisation welcomes members and guests, is protected by a high security gate. One of the rooms is used by members to do each other’s hair or make-up, as an additional income generating activity. The staff uses a car to do its outreach work in the refugee camps which are not so close by.

At the office Louise met with five transwomen who shared their personal stories of abuse and physical violence. Mainly from clients but also from the general community. The persecution they face from society due to their sexual and gender identities is a major burden and puts their livelihood and even lives at risk.

At a Refugee Brothel

Later that day, while the sun was blazing outside, Louise was shown around a refugee brothel in a small enclosed neighborhood in Rubaga. While children were running outside and there was ample noise of people passing by, it was relatively quiet inside. In a room that seemed like a shed made of wood, she met with about twenty refugee members of OGERA. They had fled from countries such as Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan.

They all shared stories of their daily realities, such as clients who refused to pay for their services. This is a common and risky situation due the high level of stigma against refugees and sex workers, that is further complicated by language barriers. It can be complicated to clarify services and boundaries with a client when you have no language in common.

They also shared their struggles of finding fulfilling employment other than sex work. There is no state income available for refugees in Uganda and sex work is one of the few ways to earn some money for refugees. Louise noticed how they all listened intently to each other’s experiences as well and continuously combined pain and serious conversation with jokes and laughter.

Successes

OGERA logoOGERA is a relatively well-known sex worker organization in the country, although it has only existed a few years. It has won the “sex work organization of the year” award and currently Shamilah coordinates the national network (UNESO). The group has established strong partnerships with various human rights based organisations and funders and contributed to international human-rights based publications about refugees and sex work (here and here).

One of OGERA’s core activities is to establish dialogues with health service providers and sensitize health workers to the issues faced by sex workers. The aim of this strategy is to overcome discrimination at health facilities. Sex workers also frequently face housing and employment discrimination. This occurs when landlords refuse to rent spaces to sex workers or when employers outside the sex worker community discriminate them based on their work, gender identity, sexual orientation and nationality and therefore hinder sex workers to find work in other fields. OGERA’s direct peer to peer support work and dialogues have improved LBT and refugee sex workers’ access to health and legal services.

World Refugee Day

OGERA World Refugee Day 2017

OGERA celebrating World Refugee Day in Uganda

Many sex worker groups organize around important international days for human rights advocacy, such as 3 March, 2 June or 17 December. When Louise visited Kampala, OGERA was in the midst of planning its activities for World Refugee Day on 20 June. This yearly event is an opportunity to commemorate the strength of the millions of refugees worldwide and to show support for families forced to flee their countries of origin. OGERA’s founder Shamilah has faced such hardship when she was only 6 years old. She grew up in Rwanda during the emerging war between the Hutu and the Tutsi in 1994. When the conflict escalated into a genocide, she and her mother were forced to flee their home to find safety in Uganda.

For the World Refugee Day, OGERA rented a football field near a sex worker hotspot in the center of town. The group chose this location because it was accessible enough to draw the community in while secure enough for the safety of the organisation’s team and members.

We later learned that the event had been a success. Sex workers from diverse countries showed up, both members and new contacts, and discussed issues affecting them and spoke about the importance of solidarity amongst the refugee sex worker community. Shamilah shared the following with the African LGBTI media platform Kuchu Times:

“This day means a lot to OGERA considering the fact that this one of our key target groups. It creates awareness about the issues that affect refugee sex workers in a foreign country like Uganda.”

Despite complications due to the language barriers, this event allowed diverse refugee sex workers to exchange experiences amongst each other in a relatively safe space. And despite the hardships they face, OGERA members find strength in shared moments of joy, singing and dancing. These experiences help to build feelings of empowerment and solidarity among the community.

Let’s work together as sex workers to create a bigger voice. However, we should respect, embrace and recognize diversity within the sex worker movement.”
Shamilah Batte

This blog post was written by Josja Dijkshoorn, who supported the Red Umbrella Fund’s grant-making process in the summer months in 2017 after her BA International Studies. She currently studies Gender Studies at Utrecht University.

06 Mar

China: A Case Study of Sex Worker Organising

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full case study here.China sex worker organising case study

Read the second case study about APROSMIG in Brazil here.

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

 

04 Mar

Turkish Trans-Sex Worker makes a case for human rights

On 17 December 2013, the Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association in Turkey launched a short video to promote the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

Although it is not illegal, sex work is not considered a legitimate form of employment in Turkey.

This leads to more exploitation of sex workers in every aspect of life. Trans-sex workers are victims of police brutality and social prejudice. Without access to public health care services, they are among the most vulnerable against HIV.

As the Turkish government stays silent, the timing of this video is crucial in terms of increasing public attention before the upcoming national elections in March.

 


This blog by Red Umbrella Fund is crossposted from http://hivadvocates.net/advocacy-stories/reforming-policy/turkish-trans-sex-worker-makes-a-case-for-human-rights/

02 Feb

Round Table on Decriminalising Sex Work in Guyana

On February 2, 2014, Miriam Edwards of Guyana Sex Work Coalition, Joel Simpson of Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and Quincy McEwan Guyana Trans United discussed the need to decriminalize sex work in the program Round Table with Janelle Persaud, aired over NCN Chanel 11.

Guyana

Guyana Sex Work Coalition: Decriminalising Sex Work – The Roundtable

Sex work remains illegal in the country, rendering sex workers vulnerable as they are unable to access health care services, including HIV/AIDS services, and other state services since revealing their profession could put them at risk.

Guyana Sex Work Coalition provides peer-to-peer support and training to sex workers of all genders in Guyana and the wider Caribbean region to build their knowledge and confidence to stand up for their rights. The group advocates for the protection of sex workers, beginning with the recognition of their work as work, their protection against police violence and their access to HIV prevention information and services, anti-retroviral drugs and other health services.

As Miriam asserts, “Sex work is work. Sex workers want to be accepted in society as a human being.”

Stigma, discrimination and violence increase the vulnerability of sex workers to HIV/AIDS. While health care is free in Guyana, the attitude of many health providers towards sex workers, gays, and trans persons keep the latter away from availing of existing services. One member of the Coalition was even banned from the main HIV/AIDS clinic and denied access to ARV when he sought medical attention.

Aside from ensuring its visibility in the media, the Guyana Sex Work Coalition partners with existing health facilities including hospitals and trans health providers as a strategy to reduce stigma and discrimination against sex workers. They also equip sex workers with information on HIV and AIDS, correct and consistent use of condom and condom negotiation.

The Guyana Sex Work Coalition is a grantee of the Red Umbrella Fund.

By Nadia van der Linde, Red Umbrella Fund


This is crossposted from http://hivadvocates.net/advocacy-stories/reducing-cultural-stigma/round-table-on-decriminalising-sex-work-in-guyana/