Category Archives: Political Issues

This section contains issues that I am working on and communities in which I am active. As well as thoughts and reflections for building articles.

Las trabajadoras sexuales como agentes de cambio en Argentina

A pesar de la violencia y la marginación, las trabajadoras sexuales en Argentina se destacan en el camino de la prevención de VIH/SIDA.

El 12 de Abril del 2008, Carlos García fue condenado por el crimen de Andrea Rosa Machado en Córdoba, Argentina. La sentencia del caso fue (una decisión) histórica, porque fue la primera vez que una persona resultó condenada por el crimen de una trabajadora sexual en este país de América Latina. El juez lo había absuelto en 2005 durante su primero juicio, debido a ‘falta de evidencia’, a pesar del hecho DE que la policía descubriera el cuerpo de la mujer enterrado debajo del patio de la casa del acusado.

La corrupción en todo el sistema legal y el estigma del trabajo sexual implican que la violencia contra las trabajadoras sexuales raramente se tome en serio. Frecuentemente la violencia comienza con la policía, que obtiene coimas y lleva presas a las mujeres hasta por veintiún días. Cuando Mirta, la hermana de rosa, denunció su desaparición y le comunicó a la policía que sospechaba que había sido asesinada, nadie le escuchó. Fue solo después de que AMMAR adoptara la causa que empezaron a prestar atención al caso.

AMMAR es la Asociación de mujeres meretrices de LA Argentina, Y tiene más de 3800 afiliadas a lo largo del país. AMMAR ofrece clases de empoderamiento, capitación, sensibilización de género, micro-emprendimientos y servicios de salud y educación. Elena Reynaga, la Secretaria General, dice que estas actividades son importantes para ‘sacarle a las compañeras toda la culpa que nos metieron en la cabeza: que eres mala, pecadora, sucia, drogadicta, bueno, todos los descalificativos; es importante trabajar con las compañeras, elevarla y decirle que es tan digna como una ginecóloga, como una socióloga’. Además de programas sociales, educativos y políticos, estas mujeres están revolucionando los enfoques DE LOS PROGRAMAS de prevención de HIV/SIDA.

Las trabajadoras sexuales están mejor posicionadas que la mayoría para entender la importancia del sexo seguro. Pueden acceder a sectores de difícil acceso de la población con un discurso relacionado con la práctica real del sexo. Zulema de AMMAR-Rio Negro describió la experiencia de hablar con un grupo de obreros (que estuvieron) en huelga: ‘al principio estábamos un poco nerviosas –afirma- pero después que los hombres nos hicieran preguntas y nos decían que nunca habían hablado de VIH y que no sabían que eran las ITS, estuvimos tres horas charlando’.

Enfoques como estos, que son directos y sencillos están creando un diálogo más abierto para tratar sobre temas sensibles respecto del sexo, aún en el contexto de una iglesia católica conservadora y poderosa que promueve la abstención como la única forma de protección. Las Trabajadoras sexuales tienen crecimiento práctica. Que puede desarrollar y articular modelos pragmáticos para la negociación del uso de preservativos entre personas de todos los sectores de la sociedad.

AMMAR es una entre otras organizaciones en todas partes del mundo que están transformando no solo la prevención del VIH/SIDA sino también sus realidades como grupo estigmizado y excluido. En Brasil, diversos oficios han citado colaboración con organizaciones de trabajadoras sexuales como clave para lograr la disminución de la cifra de mortalidad A causa del sida en el país. Organizaciones similares desde Costa Rica, Colombia y Perú hasta Camboya, India y Sudáfrica, además de muchas otras en el Estados Unidos y el Oeste de Europa se están organizando por temas vinculados al trabajo sexual y se están convirtiendo en agentes fundamentales en la prevención del HIV/SIDA.

Además de servicios al público en general, AMMAR provee servicios especiales a las trabajadoras sexuales. Con contribuciones estatales y municipales, voluntarias de AMMAR recorren las zonas de trabajo, hablando con mujeres sobre sus derechos, salud y distribuyendo preservativos e información.

En La Plata, AMMAR fundó el Centro de Salud ‘Sandra Cabrera’. Es una iniciativa colectiva junto con la CTA (organización paraguas a la que AMMAR está afiliada) y el Ministerio de Salud de la Provincia de Buenos Aires. Se creó un espacio para las trabajadoras sexuales en donde estas pueden realizar todas las necesidades. De salud, además de otras necesidades personales. Apoyado por fondos del Fondo Global contra SIDA, Tuberculosis y Malaria, el centro atiende a mil mujeres por mes y está abierta también al público en general.

Ahora los gobiernos federales y municipales dependen de las activistas de AMMAR para diseñar e implementar políticas de prevención de HIV/SIDA y otros servicios de salud sexual y reproductiva. Pero este trabajo es peligroso. Todavía hoy la policía detiene mujeres que están trabajando en la calle en la mayoría de las provincias de Argentina. En la provincia de Jujuy, la policía hace blanco de las trabajadoras conocidas como activistas. Casos de delitos relacionados con trabajadoras sexuales raras veces llegan A juicio y la policía ha estado implicada en la muerte de trabajadoras sexuales, incluido el asesinato de Sandra Cabrera, Secretaria General de Rosario, ocurrió el 27 de enero del 2004. A pesar de los riesgos, su trabajo está cambiando la realidad en la lucha contra el VIH/SIDA, y está creando formas de diálogos más abiertos y más creativos. Con (un sentido de) orgullo en su voz, Elena demuestra que la participación en la organización puede cambiar las experiencias personales también, y (como me) cuenta que más allá del estigma, ahora cuando gente la cruza por la calle le dice, ay, yo te vi en la tele, qué valiente que sos, las cosas que decís’.

Anti-trafficking law resulting in rights abuses in Cambodia

Sex wrokers protest in Cambodia

The “Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation” passed recently in Cambodia, which aims to eliminate trafficking by stamping out the sex industry, is resulting in serious abuses of sex workers’ human rights. The law was passed in order to meet standards inline with the United State policy on trafficking in persons. However, since crackdowns which began in March when police shut down brothels and rounded up male, female and trans sex workers, sex workers have been forcibly detained and attacked, raped and robbed in rehabiliation centres.

Not only is this affecting the right to coporeal self-determination by the workers and their ability to earn a livelihood, but is also having a profound impact on health. HIV positive sex workers are having difficulty accessing anti-retroviral drugs, condoms are being used as evidence of sex work and many are afraid to access STI services. Andrew Hunter from the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW), one of the organisations condemning the crackdown, additionally claims that ‘national HIV prevention programs for sex workers have completely broken down’.

However, in the face of all this violence and repression, sex workers’ organisations are not sitting down. Three grass-roots sex workers’ oprganisations, The Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodian Prostitutes Union and Cambodian Network for Men’s and Women’s Development, alongside the APNSW organised a day of action. Over two hundred sex workers protested, using role play, speech and video evidence to demonstrate the brutality and misery that the new law is causing.

Attendees at the event also heard from two sex workers from India speaking about their fight against trafficking using an effective model of anti-trafficking that respects human rights and which is not in conflict with HIV prevention programs. Further highlights included a video about the anti-trafficking activities of sex workers in Sonagachi, India and The Messenger Band, presenting songs on sex workers defending the right to livelihood.

Condoleeza Rice speaking for The US government, who demanded the changes and which pumped over $14 million into the crackdown have supported the Cambodian authorities and praised their efforts. Though they stated that Cambodia still needed to do more to comply with US anti-trafficking standards.

How you can help
APNSW calls on all those organisations who support the human rights of sex workers to sign onto demands by declaring their support for WNU’s call for this situation to be urgently addressed by the government of Cambodia and for UNAIDS and other UN agencies to openly declare their support for sex workers human rights and to reject the anti-trafficking law itself as a violation of sex workers human rights.

For more information contact Andrew Hunter at www.apnsw.org

Photo credit: WTOP News

Report on demand found to be unethical, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘disrespectful’

‘Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution’ a report on male clients of female sex workers released this month, has been criticised in an open statement by a group of prominent academics from the UK, the US and Canada.

The report, published by the Women’s Support Project and funded by Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS Health Board, Scottish Government Equality Unit, Community Regeneration Fund (via Routes Out of Prostitution Partnership), and Glasgow City Council, has been lambasted for amongst other criticisms, failing to fulfill ethical criteria. The commentary released by the group argues that that the report divorces sex work from the economic, cultural and social nexus in which the exchange of sex for money takes place and reduces it to an over-simplified issue of violence. At the extreme, this results in a call to categorise men who buy sex alongside ‘rapists, paedophiles and other social undesirables’ (Challenging Men’s Demand in Scotland 2008: 27).

‘Gladiatorial conditions’

The central criticism of the commentary is founded on a lack of evidence of ethical process in undertaking the research. The group claims that the research design violates ‘fundamental principles of human research’ to which all research should be subject. They also point to an absence of submission to an ethics committee, a process which is increasingly mandatory for research projects in all academic institutions and the NHS.

The statement accuses the report of evading ethical procedures including gaining informed consent, providing control groups, engaging in peer review and the inclusion of research tools in appendices. It is claimed that the apparent lack of ‘informed consent’ – the principle that all participants should be fully aware of the purposes of the research – could result in significant psychological damage and social stigmatisation. Further still, it states that the failure to include a risk assessment in the research design also shows disregard for the researchers on the project, who claimed to have been traumatised through their experiences during the investigation.

Peer Review/Under Review

At at time in which the government is reviewing the demand for sex work, contributions to the debate are timely, but they must also be constructive. There is already a wealth of research on the clients of sex workers, published in peer reviewed journals, which meets academic criteria and which has undergone processes of ethical approval. The commentary demonstrates that the majority of this research was excluded by the authors of ‘Challenging Demand’. It is this rich body of literature which should be referred to in the government’s review of demand, rather than commissioning expensive and unhelpful research which falls short of basic parameters to ensure the protection of participants and researchers.

For more research on sex work and clients:

Brooks-Gordon, B. (2005) ‘Clients and Commercial Sex: Reflections on Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Criminal Law Review: 425-443.
— (2006) The Price of Sex: Prostitution, Policy and Society: Willan Publishing.

Campbell, R. (1998) ‘Invisible Men: Making Visible Male Clients of Female Prostitutes in Merseyside’, in J. Elias, V. Bullough, V. Elias and G. Brewer (eds) Prostitution. On Whores, Hustlers and Johns, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 155-171

Campbell, R. and Storr, M. (2001) ‘Challenging the Kerb Crawler Rehabilitation Programme’, Feminist Review 67(Spring): 94-108.

Grentz, S. (2005) ‘Intersections of Sex and Power in Research on Prostitution: A Female Researcher Interviewing Male Heterosexual Clients’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30(4): 2091-2113.Kinnell, H (2006) ‘Clients of Female Sex Workers: Men or Monsters?’ in R. Campbell and M. O’Neill (eds) Sex Work Now, Cullumpton:Willan. pp. 212-262

Lowman, J., and Atchison, C., (2006) ‘Men Who Buy Sex: A Survey in the Greater Vancouver Regional District’, Canadian Journal of Sociology and Anthropology 43(3): 281-296.

Monto, M. A. and Hotaling, N. (2001) ‘Predictors of Rape Myth Acceptance Among Male Clients of Female Street Prostitutes’, Violence Against Women 7(3): 275-293.

O’Connell Davidson, J. (2003) ”Sleeping with the Enemy’? Some Problems with Feminist Abolitionist Calls to Penalise Those Who Buy Commercial Sex’, Social Policy and Society 2(1): 55-64.

Peng, Y. W. (2007) ‘Buying Sex. Domination and Difference in the Discourses of Taiwanese Piao-ke’, Men and Masculinities 9(3): 315-336.

Phoenix, J. and Oerton, S. (2005) Illicit & Illegal. Sex, Regulation and Social Control, Cullompton: Willan.

Perkins, R. (1999) ‘How much are you love?’ The customer in the Australian sex industry. Social Alternatives 18(3) 38-47

Sanders, T (2008) Paying for Pleasure: Men who Buy Sex, Willan, Cullompton

Scoular, J. (2004) ‘Criminalising ‘Punters’: Evaluating the Swedish Position on Prostitution’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 26(2): 195-210.

Van Brunschot, E. G. (2003) ‘Community Policing and “John Schools”‘, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 40(2): 215-232.

Defending women’s right to choose: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

On May 20th, the Commons will debate the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Anti-choice campaigners have proposed a number of reactionary amendments include reducing access to abortion and reducing

Despite anti-choice scaremongering that survival rates have increased under 40 weeks, scientific evidence points to the contrary. On 29th October the Commons Science and Technology Committee published a review of the 1967 Abortion Act. They made three main recommendations:

• Upholding the 24 time week time limit for abortion
• Removing the need for women seeking an abortion to get two doctor’s signatures
• Allowing nurses to perform first trimester abortions

All of these recommendations ensure that women can access the reproductive health care they need with minimal delay. Few women need an abortion beyond the 24 week limit, but evidence shows that those that do are often the most vulnerable, often resulting from rape or for women in situations of domestic violence.

The eight amendments threaten constitutional rights which have been enshrined as women’s rights for forty years. Fortuately the amendments are opposed by the British Medical Association, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Association of Perinatal Medicine, Royal College of Nursing, TUC and national trade unions, the Department of Health and MPs across all three major parliamentary political parties.

However, it is essential that you support them and stop the amendments going through and attacking the principle and the actuality of women’s right to choose.

Two things you can do:

1) Protest ‘Defend 24 Weeks – no reduction in abortion time limit’

Outside Parliament on 20th May, 5.30pm, Old Palace Yard, opposite St Stephen’s Entrance

Tube: Westminster

2) Consider writing a letter or copying and pasting (changing the names and the name of the constituency) the one I have written below:

Dear Jim Fitzpatrick,

Women’s right to choose, established constitutionally in 1968, heralded a great leap forward for women’s ability to control their fertility and for self-determination over their own bodies.

It is essential that this right is defended. Recent attacks by anti-choice campaigners, made up of the religious right wing threaten the gains won by the women’s movement. The proposed amendment to reduce the limit to between 12 and 20 weeks and an enforced “cooling off” period of two weeks, not only threatens rights, but also puts women in danger, particularly those who are already in danger from domestic violence, lack of access to health care and knowledge about reproductive health.

Contrary to the claims of the anti-choice voice, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that a baby can survive at less than 24 weeks. This was confirmed on 29th October by the Commons Science and Technology Committee published a review of the 1967 Abortion Act. They made three main recommendations:

• Upholding the 24 time week time limit for abortion
• Removing the need for women seeking an abortion to get two doctor’s signatures
• Allowing nurses to perform first trimester abortions

I urge you to support these recommendations in the discussion of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill on 20th May.

This is particularly salient for your constituents in Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest boroughs of London, in which access to healthcare, especially for those for whom English may not be a first language can be a complex, difficult and delayed process.

Yours sincerely,
Kate Hardy

Simply go to http://www.writetothem.com/ and follow the instructions.

Repression Against Sex Workers Continues in Argentina

On Monday 5th May 2008 Marcela Ocampo, the Communications Secretary of
AMMAR (The Argentinian Female Sex Workers Union) was detained in
Córdoba, Argentina.

This has occurred at a time when AMMAR is in discussions with the
Provincial Government to end police abuse against sex workers.

Representatives from AMMAR met with the Head of Security of the
Ministry of the Government with the intention of making progress with
signing an agreement to stop the detentions without reason of workers
affiliated to the organisation.

At the end of the meeting and after informing the other members, the
secretary of communication, Macerla Ocampo went to her place of work
en Alta Córdoba, where two polic men from the Provincial Police were
waiting for her. They took her into detention together with another
activist to the Police Station 7 ‘on the orders of a boss’.

Once in the police station, they not only denied her the right to a
telephone call, but their detentions were not recorded and they were
not checked by a medical examiner. Later they were moved to Police
Station 17, where they were seen by a doctor. The women were charged
at 2.30am and later freed after negotations by the association.

Eugenia Aravena Secretaria (General Secretary of AMMAR-Cordoba) and
Oscar Mengarelli (General Secretary of CTA-Cordoba) stated that they
were worried by this reaction by the police. They claim it hinders
negotiations with the Minister of the Government, although state that
government officials are aware of the situation and have promised to
investigate so that discussions are able to continue.

Likewise, AMMAR and the CTA have demanded a meeting with the governor
of the province, Juan Schiaretti, to make him aware of this situation
and the demands of the organisations.

For more information, contact:
Eugenia Aravena Secretaria general AMMAR cordoba@ammar.org.ar