16 Dec

17 December: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers – Red Umbrella Fund commemorates and looks ahead!

International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Red Umbrella Fund commemorates and look ahead

The International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was created in 2003 by Dr Annie Sprinkle, with support from sex workers’ rights activists including Robyn Few, as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, United States of America. On this particular day, we take the opportunity to come together, organise against stigma and discrimination that fuel violence, and remember our colleagues who are or have been victims of violence. We also use this day as a moment to reflect on the state of the world and the progress we have made.

As a participatory funding mechanism, Red Umbrella Fund was launched in 2012 from the recognition that too little funding was going to sex worker-led organisations and networks and that this funding often responded to donors’ priorities rather than sex workers’. Eight years after the creation of Red Umbrella Fund, these challenges remain.

In 2017, less than 1% of all human rights funding went to sex workers. Furthermore, recent research carried out by the Sex Work Donor Collaborative pointed out that only a third of grants for sex workers “were tagged “general support,” showing how few foundations are investing in the sustainability of these organizations.” In its latest report, Aidsfonds indicated that “in 2018 sex workers accounted for 6% of all new HIV infections globally. […] Yet programmes for sex workers received only 0.6% of all HIV expenditure”. 

In 2020, because of the global pandemic, many of us lost our incomes, and consequently faced a multitude of challenges. We were also often explicitly discarded from social and economic measures put in place to support workers and from funding decisions affecting our lives. 

This year, sex workers’ movements also grew, became stronger and organised rapidly to respond to this new context. So did Red Umbrella Fund.

  • At Red Umbrella Fund, we published a Solidarity Message in March with a list of sex workers’ initiatives to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, a list of emergency funders and a non-exhaustive list of resources for sex workers.

  • On Sex Worker Pride Day (14 September), we also published our new Strategic Plan, guiding our work until 2025. For greater accessibility, this Strategic Plan was also published in French, Russian and Spanish.

  • Thanks to the support of our donors and of our host organisation, Mama Cash, we were able to carry out a grantmaking cycle, completely online. We received 222 funding applications from 63 countries, 47 more applications than in 2019. 

  • We participated in the Counting Sex Workers In! Campaign aiming to challenge the ways that sex work is most often viewed through a narrow lens of moral judgment, and instead highlight bodily integrity and workers’ rights, especially in “feminist” circles.

  • We continued to strategise with the Sex Worker Donor Collaborative to increase the amount and quality of funding to support sex workers’ rights.

Red Umbrella Fund contributes to a strong, diverse and more sustainable sex workers’ rights movement. Several of our grantees have chosen to use the support they receive from Red Umbrella Fund to respond to violence in all regions of the world with activities ranging from police trainings, trainings for sex workers on safety and security, paralegal trainings, and legal aid services. On 25 November, our grantee Plataforma Latinoamericana de Personas que Ejercen Trabajo Sexual (PLAPERTS) launched a campaign aiming to confront the violence faced by sex workers perpetrated by state actors.

Our vision remains to live in a world where sex workers’ rights are respected as human beings and as workers, so that all sex workers can live lives free from criminalization, stigma, and violence.

To achieve this, funders will play a crucial role. As more and more funders are interested in participatory grantmaking and shifting power, we encourage them to support our work and our experience as the first and only global fund guided by and for sex workers.

Participatory grantmaking is both an ethos and a process ceding decision-making power about funding decisions (including the strategies and criteria behind these decisions) to the communities served. Since its inception, Red Umbrella Fund has been recognised as a creative model of participatory grantmaking, with sex workers being the majority of its International Steering Committee, its Programme Advisory Committee and its Secretariat staff. Because participatory grantmaking is not only about shifting power but also about ensuring good grantmaking decisions, we will continue to promote the systems we developed (and continue to perfect them) as was done in the Guide from Grantcraft entitled: Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking.

We look forward to making the Red Umbrella Fund more accessible, more powerful and more resourced in the five years to come.

#shiftthepower

Kay Thi & Tara (Co-Chairs of the Red Umbrella Fund’s International Steering Committee) & Paul-Gilbert (Coordinator)

If you want to support the work of Red Umbrella Fund, click on this webpage (which was also created in 2020!) or contact us.

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

 

30 Jul

Red Umbrella Fund Welcomes a New Coordinator

30 July 2020

Dear Community Members, Partners and Allies,

The International Steering Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund (RUF) is pleased to welcome Paul-Gilbert Colletaz as our new coordinator. As a sex worker and human rights advocate, Paul-Gilbert has been firmly rooted in the sex workers’ rights movement for many years.

The Red Umbrella Fund is the first and only global fund guided by and for sex workers. RUF aims to strengthen and sustain the sex workers’ rights movements through financial and non-financial support as well as through advocacy and communication efforts focused on catalysing new funding to support sex workers’ rights movements.

As a long-term organizational ally, Paul-Gilbert previously served as programme manager for the Global Network of Sex Workers (NSWP), programme coordinator for Solidarité Sida, and as civil society member on the International Steering Committee of the Robert Carr Network Fund. Paul-Gilbert’s commitment to self-representation and self-determination have been strengthened through his professional experiences as an advocate, building resilience and solidarity among sex workers across genders, race, sexualities, identity, experience and geographical borders.

Says Paul-Gilbert, “the sex workers’ rights movement has always brought out the fiercest forms of commitment and passion among so many people. At RUF I look forward to strengthening that legacy by being responsible, transparent, and accountable in our grantmaking and fundraising efforts for the greater realisation of our human rights”.

Paul-Gilbert succeeds RUF’s founding coordinator, Nadia Van Der Linde.  During her tenure, Nadia worked tirelessly to increase funding for sex workers globally. She and her team created platforms for sex workers themselves to elevate sex workers’ rights, made it possible for nascent and unregistered sex worker groups to access funds for the first time, shared RUF’s thoughtful participatory grantmaking approach and encouraged other funders to adopt similar models, and above all, always kept sex worker communities at the center of the work.

While there has been much progress, the worldwide political and financial threats facing sex workers are only intensifying and the need for more funding to build empowered, resilient, and active sex worker-led organisations and networks could not be more urgent. Together with the dedicated RUF staff, we are confident that Paul-Gilbert will strengthen our  programs and fundraising efforts to meet the ongoing challenges of our time. Paul-Gilbert will start on the 3rd of August working remotely from Paris for the remainder of the year. We thank you for your support and hope you will join us in warmly welcoming Paul-Gilbert to the team.

In Solidarity,

Tara Burns & Kay Thi Win
Co-Chairs of the RUF International Steering Committee (ISC)

 

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.

08 Jun

STAR: From the Las Vegas of Macedonia to a pop up red light window

Sex work is a topic that receives ‘bad press’ and is often misunderstood. However, we commonly find written articles that use pictures of high heels, red light districts or the eroticised female body to make their own articles against sex work more ‘sexy’.

Some sex workers fight back against the current double morality discourses. This blog is about the human rights defenders of the first sex worker collective in the Balkans; the power of claiming back the use of their own imagery to make a political campaign and how they are expanding.

We are sitting in a small basement bar in Gostivar. An old gas heater and a fake window seem to be the only light on what is a cold January morning. Gligor is sharing a seat with me, also Slavica’s friend, who hardly speaks any English but was happy to join us. On the other side of the table, Dennis –my partner on my first self-funded field visit to one of our grantee partners- talks with other members. STAR’s success is the result of the joint effort of many individuals.

”This city, Gostivar, has so much to offer to sex workers. Why? Because people has so much money. People go out of the city and work hard and then come back to Macedonia and has money to spend. They spend their money with sex workers. These people treat the girls like princesses. … it is very good that this money is spent here in Gostivar,”  comments Slavica, a member of sex worker organisation STAR in Macedonia.

“We have so much good night life, so many bars, clubs, clients and some people from everywhere from Macedonia coming here for sexual services,” continues Slavica. “We have sex workers on the street, in the clubs, on out-call, in front of the Casinos… For this reason, I tell you, Gostivar is like Las Vegas of Macedonia.”

Expanding

It is not a coincidence that STAR is planning to rent a second office here in Gostivar. Training and workshops have been conducted to build the capacity of the organisation in the area. Now they are looking for the best space to rent their second office. STAR just received a second grant from the Red Umbrella Fund, and to expand their focal points seems to be the logical next step to take.

STAR was created in 2008 and got registered in 2010 as the Association for the Support of Marginalised Workers following a year long struggle with state institutions who refused to recognise sex workers as legitimate agents of a collective. Today, STAR is an active agent of the civil sector, striving for ‘a world without violence where sex workers can perform their chosen profession in a democratic and tolerant society’, as stated on their website.

Migrant sex workers

Gostivar is a city based in the Western part of Macedonia, with a population mix of Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish. 

“Most sex workers are not from Macedonia. They are migrants. We have more than half of workers who come from outside Macedonia. We have girls from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, some girls from Bosnia. They are not officially migrants here because they don’t have a regular status like immigrants. They come here, they work and then, they leave the country”, points Gligor, who works at the STAR office in Skopje

”Some male sex workers from here,”- continues Gligor- “they do the same. They go to Greece to work because the law there affects only women. So, some men can go there and work and then come back and enjoy their money.” 

 Step by Step

Slavica joins again: “Fifteen years ago, here in Gostivar, it was a big taboo to say that you were doing sex work. If a girl said it, she could have had a problem. She had nowhere to go to communicate any of their needs. So, we have started the work that we do at STAR. They can feel good and strong about what they are doing. … These girls now feel they have like a family”.

“Five minutes of talking can change everything… Maybe I can’t help her, but I can listen. It is very good that you have somebody who listens to your problems. It is one step. After that, we are going step by step”, shares Slavica.

I can feel the excitement about the idea of renting a new space and the work of this newly formed branch of STAR, learning from the stories of sex workers here. We have left the bar and we are walking along Vardar River that extends through Gostivar, cutting it in half, passes through the capital Skopje, goes through the country and enters Greece. This river seems to be the moving constant of Macedonian sex work landscape.

Condoms

Gligor joins the conversation and wants to share the importance of having their own organisation.  

‘’Once I was working for a service provider. And everything was different. I was supposed to give condoms only to those people who defined as a sex worker. But a lot of men I reached didn’t want to be referred as such, even if they were doing so. It can be a taboo to define yourself as a sex worker to a stranger. For me, it is not important where people are coming from or if they define as sex workers. It is important to give them condoms, which they need’’, says Gligor with a candid smile.

Close to Parliament

In Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, Borce Bozinov, President of STAR shares with us the story of one of the co-founders of the organization. She passed away two years ago. Her name was Laura Feer. She co-started this group back in 2006. Borce shares his experiences with shared leaderships and involving membership. Decentralising their focal points seems to have been a successful strategy for this group whose members share a passion for the work they do.

The main STAR office is strategically placed close to Parliament. Their dedicated team divide their tasks between communication, finance and outreach activities. With almost all members having a background in the sex industry, they are the ones in the best position to determine sex workers’ needs combined with strategic lobbying.

From advocacy to access to sexual and reproductive health services and the use of the SWIT tool, STAR is the only sex worker’s group by and for sex workers in Macedonia and beyond.

We got to learn about how they managed to improve their office space thanks to core funding. In the picture, Dennis poses with members from the Skojpe branch.

Pop-up in Skopje

The group is excited to talk about their activities. We sit around a table and colorful pictures appear on the screen of a laptop. They are part of STAR’s latest 17th of December campaign. The community organisation rented an empty beauty and nail shop for a day and converted it in what it could have been a window from the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Some members of STAR did not hesitate to jump in sexy clothes and use their seductiveness to… make a point about the need of safe spaces for work in the city!

Using banners, the performers asked the passers-by if they would like to have consented paid sex. It was only a matter of time before traffic had to be closed due to the numbers of curious viewers.

In a context where sex work is a taboo that is starting to be eroded by the actions of this group, the re appropriation of their own imagery in a political campaign is a powerful strategy. The results speak by themselves: 26 positive appearances in the media, including an interview in-situ to Borce on the National News TV which gave a positive approach to the action. The video has been played over 45.000 times so far.

(МАКФАКС ВО ЖИВО) Шест сексуални работнички преку излози нудат услуги на булевар во Скопје

Think twice

Before you close all your global perspective about sex workers, think twice: Why zero tolerance to the oldest profession??? The feminists should answer this!” highlighted Borce.

I would like to conclude by remembering Laura Freer, for what she co-initiated once, for being a pioneer and a source of inspiration for STAR’s current members, to us and to the movement. Thank you so much to Laura and all STAR members!

 

 

 

 

Skopje Red Light District performance organized by STAR. Photo taken by Vanco Dzambaski, Open Society Foundation – Macedonia.

Text and black and white pictures by Vera Rodriguez

 

 

 

18 May

Sex Workers are Feminists Too

“Today I want to talk about sex workers.”

This was not your regular presentation opening at a meeting with funders. But then, it was not your regular meeting. From 11 to 13 April 2018, a unique encounter of very diverse activists and funders took place in Kenya to talk – and dream – about feminist movement building. The methodology required everyone’s participation while innovative scenario sessions forced participants to get out of their comfort zone, think beyond their organisational priorities, and imagine a different future.

“I am a beautiful woman and I use my body to make a living,” the presentation continues.

The speaker is Phelister Abdalla, Coordinator of the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA), a national network with members in each of the country’s districts. In Kenya, stigma against sex workers is rampant, as is violence from police and others. Although sex work itself is not directly criminalised by law, in practice it is. Sex work can be prohibited by municipal bylaw, and to aid, abet, compel or incite prostitution is explicitly illegal. Phelister is also a member of the International Steering Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund, where, as she says, “it is sex workers who are deciding where the money goes.” Standing up in front of a crowd with over a hundred pairs of eyes looking directly at her, Phelister seems fearless and impressive.

“I make people happy and get money for that,” she adds comfortably.

A hundred pair of eyes looked at her in anticipation. Many people in the room had never (to their knowledge) met a sex worker before. Let alone listened to a sex worker speak.

Money & Movements

The entire encounter, called Money & Movements, was organised by a consortium of organisations called Count Me In! with the aim to get new, more and better (more accessible, sustainable, flexible) money to support feminist movement building. Feminist activists from all regions and diverse backgrounds and communities, including sex worker rights activists from Argentina, Guyana, USA, Uganda, Kenya and Myanmar, contributed to the conversations.

Also in terms of funder presence there was much diversity. Multi-and bilateral funders, private foundations, as well as public foundations including regional women’s funds travelled the globe to contribute, listen and learn.

Nothing about us without us

Already in the introductory session, the right tone was set when participants themselves highlighted the importance of the principle “nothing about us without us”. A bilateral funder sitting at my table nodded. Another courageous funder – not from one of the activist-led funds – emphasized that “we need to shift the power of money.” “Indeed,” added an activist at the same table:

“We often hear inclusion is expensive. But what is the cost of exclusion?”

Transformational Stories

Phelister was one of the key storytellers on the first day, following stories from other women activists from different regions who highlighted passions of women with disabilities (“we have passions beyond our disability!”) and indigenous organising. With every activist who spoke out, the urgency of inclusion and the need for diversity in movements became more apparent.

“This world is full of stigma and discrimination,” continued Phelister. She described how twenty sex workers were killed in just a month time.

“We were not sure we would make it home to our children late at night. Or whether our kids would get the news ‘there is no more mother’.”

That year, on the 17th of December, the international day to end violence against sex workers, they decided to march against violence against sex workers.


“We wanted people to see us. We weren’t sure if anyone would show up, but over 1500 people came. We showed people who we are. We are women who believe in our bodies, who believe in our jobs. Sex work is work.”

In the past year, KESWA has been completing in-depth research of human rights violations against sex workers in preparation of their plan to take the government to court. Already, KESWA supports sex workers whose rights are violated in the litigation of their cases. The rulings in each case, along with the evidence they have been documenting, will be used to push for the repeal of laws that work to criminalize sex work and thus harm sex workers in Kenya.

Another country with high levels of violence against sex workers where sex workers are taking their government to court is the US (for example in Alaska and California). Just as people were getting on an airplane to join the Money & Movements convening new legislation was passed in US Congress called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). This immediately resulted in the shutting down of websites critical to sex workers for their advertising and safety across the country. By the end of the convening, our social media accounts were flooding with reports from sex workers who lost their main source of income and were left homeless without the ability to pay rent. Levels of violence against sex workers increased immediately.

“And this is not just in the US,” clarified Phelister.

“It’s also happening right here in Kenya. Backpage – a well-known and established adult ads webpage –  has also shut down here. Sex workers use that page to find clients and screen clients and stay safe.”

Phelister set the scene for a multitude of conversations and plans during the three-day meeting around funding for feminist movements. And for a feminist future that includes sex workers.

“Sex workers are feminists too. We belong in the feminist movement. My body, my business!”


By Nadia van der Linde

28 Mar

Funding a Movement

Introducing the New Grantee Partners of the Red Umbrella Fund

The Red Umbrella Fund received 130 eligible applications from sex worker-led groups and networks during our Global Call for Applications last year. All these applications were reviewed and scored by our 11-member Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) and, after many days of deliberation among the sex worker activists, 26 groups were selected for a new grant. We are thrilled to announce that the total grant amount for all our new grants in 2017 was just over 1 million US dollars!

In fact, since the creation of the Red Umbrella Fund in 2012, we have made 129 core funding grants to 91 different groups and networks for a total amount of just under 4 million US dollars.

Selecting diversity

In the selection of grantee partners, the Programme Advisory Committee always confirms that the final selection reaches a diversity of groups and networks, including those working at local level, like Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS) in Canada or Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Trans de Quito in the capital of Ecuador, those working more at national level, like All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) in India, Desiree Alliance in the US, and Organización Nacional de Activistas por la Emancipación de la Mujer (ONAEM) in Bolivia, as well as those working at regional level such as RedTraSex in Latin America. As well as a diversity of reach, the PAC ensures that groups that work with women, men and trans sex workers are all included. Some new grantee partners have a more specific focus, such as Ashraya in India that works with sex workers who are living with HIV or Rainbow Mirrors Uganda that focuses on young trans sex workers. Another grantee partner, TAMPEP, was recently transformed into a regional network of migrant sex workers in Europe.

Registered or not

The grantee selection includes some groups that are relatively new (two years old or less), such as the Surinamese Coalition of Sex Workers (SUCOS) in Surinam and the migrant sex worker group Red Edition in Austria. About one in three grants are made to groups that are not formally registered, like Asociación de Mujeres Liquidámbar in El Salvador. Reasons for not being registered can be multiple; sometimes it is a political choice of the group, in other cases the registration process is complex, lengthy, or registration is simply denied to self-organising sex workers. For just over one-third of the grantee partners, like for Strumphet Alliance Network in Fiji, this is the first international grant the group has ever received. Other groups, like Organisasi Perubahan Sosial Indonesia (OPSI) in Indonesia and Parapli Rouz in Mauritius, have more experience with international funds but need the Red Umbrella Fund grant to support their organizational development and human rights advocacy costs that are hard to cover with the restricted project and services-focused funding more commonly accessible to them.

Safety

Whereas all grantee partners work in countries where sex work is highly stigmatized and criminalized one way or another, the safety concerns differ greatly per country. In some countries violence against sex workers is extremely high, and some groups have a strong focus on violence prevention and trauma healing services. Many leaders in the movement have shared receiving threats or direct violence related to their public identity as a sex worker. This risk is often further increased when someone also identifies with or demonstrates support to LGBTQ communities. Arbitrary arrests, police abuse and brothel evictions are common among many of our grantee partners. HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Center (HARC) in Bangladesh, for example, has organized strongly around brothel evictions. Numerous groups limit their online presence, and one of our grantee partners remains anonymous in our communications to prevent potential repercussions.

 Visibility

Other groups put in much effort to increase their public visibility. Macedonian sex worker organization STAR-STAR, for example, has organized impressive demonstrations full of red umbrellas and, in December 2017, attracted visibility through their Skopje Red Light District art performance as shown in this video. Also Men Against Aids Youth Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya, Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) in the UK and Unidas en la Esperanza (UNES) in Paraguay have used video as a tool to get their messages out. AMMAR Cordoba in Argentina consistently shows their presence at demonstrations, events, and local festivals and markets.

Dilemma

We are proud to have been able to contribute to getting more and better money to the sex workers’ rights movements, and we thank our institutional and individual donors for their support. But it is also clear that there is a still a significant gap for the movement in accessing the funds needed for their organizing and activism. For two-thirds of the grantee partners, this is their first grant from the Red Umbrella Fund.

“It is exciting to have a fund where we, sex workers, are in the driver’s seat but also very difficult. Each year, we make new grants to sex worker groups in different parts of the world and these groups do such great and important work. But it also means that each year we have to say ‘sorry you were not selected’ to the majority of the groups that apply and this is hard. We know how hard it is because we have that experience too.”
– Tara Burns, International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Red Umbrella Fund

Whereas it is great to be able to support new grantee partners, it also means opportunities for longer-term partnership from the Red Umbrella Fund have not been available for all groups that we would have liked to continue to support.

More grantmaking

Next month, the International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Red Umbrella Fund will come together to make new decisions about the Red Umbrella Fund’s strategies and priorities. Follow us on social media to make sure you don’t miss our next call for applications.

 

By Nadia van der Linde
Coordinator, Red Umbrella Fund

Additional introductions and information about the new grantee partners can be found on the Red Umbrella Fund’s Facebook page.

12 Jul

No Bad Migrants

The passport you hold determines a lot of your privileges, access and protection. I have always been able to benefit from a blue American passport— never being questioned while traveling, never having much difficulty obtaining a work or study visa abroad. My passport, white skin, and blonde hair provide me the privilege to exist and move through the world relatively freely. But in Eastern Europe, for example, a sex worker’s passport may determine whether she is – even with a legal residence permit – “targeted for rescue, detention and re-socialisation or deportation programs” by the government or NGOs.


Control

Last year I spent five months researching and writing a master’s thesis on human trafficking prevention campaigns and EU, Dutch, and UN human trafficking policies. I focused on migrant sex workers from Eastern Europe in the Netherlands. Much of the literature review included theories on state control of female sexuality, particularly the control of ‘foreign’ women by criminalising migration and victimizing migrant women sex workers.

This research, in addition to volunteering at the Red Umbrella Fund’s office in the Netherlands for the last eight months, has led me to think more about the status and labour conditions of Eastern European migrant workers, particularly sex workers, in the Netherlands. These experiences, including acquiring a Lithuanian passport for myself, have made me realize that our nationality, as well as our gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, and choice of work can greatly impact how we are perceived by the state. Whether we are feared or welcomed, and which rights we get access to.

Migrant Sex Workers in Europe

“There are stereotypes for instance— the hyper-sexualisation of women depending on [her country of origin]. This is also very harsh for us [sex workers], because when we travel from one country to another or go through airports, they assume we are sex workers just because we come from a specific country.”

–Pauline (Whores and Alliances) (link) referring to the abuse and discrimination black migrant sex workers face in Spain.

blog.nika

Red Edition, Austria

Migrant sex workers, depending on where they are from, what they look like, and which passport they hold, are treated differently by law enforcement, border control, and society. Migrant sex workers make up approximately 65% of the sex worker population in Western Europe and about 17% of the sex worker population in Central Europe (link). Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have been doing sex work as a means to sustain themselves and their families. The International Committee on the Rights of Sex workers in Europe (ICRSE) recently published a policy brief and recommendations on the rights of migrant sex workers. In this brief, ICRSE highlights that the criminalisation of migration and sex work is extremely problematic and dangerous for migrants and migrant sex workers.

“We want migrant sex workers to be seen and understood, to be acknowledged as migrant sex workers.” (link) -Kemal Ordek, Red Umbrella Turkey

Migrant labour

Structural, political, and economic changes in many regions of the world have led to an increase of migrants, particularly women migrants, seeking work in Europe. May this work be in factories or fields, in domestic or sex work, these are women who are working to support themselves and often times, their families. Migrant sex workers need to be included as part of the larger migration patterns and migrant labour movements, rather than how they are often perceived by the public, law enforcement, and media, as victims of human trafficking. The issue that remains is that sex work is not seen as work, but something that someone ‘must have been forced or tricked into’. So if this is the case, how can migrant sex workers, regardless of which passport they have, be seen as autonomous hard working individuals who moved in order to make a living?

TAMPEP, the European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers, advocates for the human and civil rights of migrant sex workers in Europe. When sex work is criminalised and migration is increasingly controlled, migrants and migrant sex workers are forced even further underground. They can no longer trust the police or government officials, in fear of being arrested, detained, or deported. This is when migrants turn to third parties (i.e., friends, neighbours, family members, acquaintances, travel agents) to assist them in their migration process. This dependency and lack of ability or perceived ability to access justice increases the risk of exploitation.

How to become a trafficker

Unlike the UN’s Palermo Protocol (The UN’s human trafficking article) which clearly states that a human trafficking offense requires a form of coercion or deceit, the Dutch article 273F 1.3 essentially criminalises assisting a migrant in their journey to the Netherlands even without any coercion or deceit. Under this article, taking someone across the border to the Netherlands is enough to be considered human trafficking.

blog.nika2

SWARM, UK

Felicia Anna, a Romanian sex worker and blogger living and working in Amsterdam, discusses this issue in her blog Behind the Red Light District. Felicia Anna uses the following example to illustrate how damaging and infuriating this law is. Someone is driving through Germany heading to the Netherlands, and he or she sees a woman along the road who is looking for a ride to Amsterdam because she wants to work in the Red Light District. She’s alone, no one has deceived her of the work she will do there, or coerced her to go to Amsterdam. The driver agrees, since he or she is already heading to Amsterdam, and why not help a fellow passenger? Once they have crossed the Dutch border together, the driver of the car is a criminal according to Dutch law and the woman is a victim of human trafficking.

It is important to note that this law article only applies to individuals working in the sex industry, even though trafficking and labour exploitation clearly take place in other sectors too. This is one way the Dutch government has problematized migrant sex workers coming to the Netherlands to do sex work. But if the majority of sex workers in Western Europe are migrants, and many of them come from Eastern European countries, why criminalise someone assisting someone else who wants to do sex work in the Netherlands if it is legal for them to do so?

Demands

Based on their own research among migrant sex workers in Europe and Central Asia, ICRSE identifies the following key demands to policy makers:

  • Support the decriminalisation of sex work in order to ensure (undocumented) migrant sex workers’ access to health and justice.
  • Support migrants’ regularisation and an end of deportation of (undocumented) migrant sex workers.
  • Ensure that asylum seekers, refugees and (undocumented) migrants have access to welfare support to economic and employment opportunities.

Sex worker organizing

blog.nika3

SWARM, UK

Last October I was able to observe the Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting of the Red Umbrella Fund as a note taker. Each year, the PAC reviews the grant applications from sex worker groups all over the world and select new grants to be made. In last year’s selection process, the PAC members noted that there seemed to be quite a few new migrant sex worker groups applying for a grant. Migrant sex workers face discrimination on multiple fronts. They face challenges as sex workers and as migrants, and have unique needs to be met. But they are often not included in migrant organisations and not sufficiently included in most sex worker organisations either. This rise in migrant sex worker groups makes me hopeful in that migrant sex workers are increasingly organizing and making their demands heard. To policy makers, as well as the larger sex workers’ rights movements.

 

This blog was written by Nika Norvila, who supported the work of the Red Umbrella Fund as a volunteer for eight months in 2016 and 2017.

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.