The NSWP : sex workers rights in action.
by Cheryl Overs
At the Vienna Aids Conference earlier this year I arrived to the finale of the NSWP pre-meeting for sex worker delegates. It was a great moment to go in to a room with over a hundred activists from all over the world who had been working all day planning sex worker participation in the conference. There were many I have known for many years, some of whom I have had the opportunity to see working in their own countries, and lots of exciting new faces, and bodies ( as the conference was soon to find out ! ) I was so struck by the mix of activists from different cultures, generations and genders and by non sex workers there who were all true allies who have earned sex workers trust by contributing their skills and time. I so well remember when the entire NSWP pre meeting could fit around a single table. And there was no money for translation. What a long way the NSWP has come. While most of the credit goes to sex workers themselves, OSI deserves huge credit for the resources they have provided to sex worker networks and their commitment to our rights agenda.
That meeting wasn’t an isolated good moment for sex workers networks. Since then the APNSW has pulled off a wonderful meeting with UNFPA and UNAIDS in Thailand where sex workers voices from 9 countries were truly heard and treated as full partners, many people thought for the first time in such a UN meeting. Again most of the credit goes to sex workers themselves and to their leadership who have sometimes been treated badly, but a lot of it goes to Jenny Butler and Steve Kraus of UNFPA, Michele Sidibe and other UN folks who are taking partnership with the APNSW and NSWP seriously.
The NSWP board is meeting this week in Amsterdam and I am sure that this diverse and vibrant group that had everyone amazed in Vienna will have a great meeting that takes the NSWP and the regional networks forward at the same cracking pace as we have seen these last few months. The NSWP has a great new website thanks to communications officer Audacia Ray and preparations are underway for the next edition of Research for Sex Work whose editor is long time ally Nell Beelan.
Great credit goes to NSWP Co-ordinator Ruth Morgan Thomas whose leadership, dedication and sanity in the face of chaos is remarkable. Thanks to Ruth and Andrew Hunter the president and other leaders, the NSWP is in great shape to deal with persistent challenges in international policy – Pepfar, the anti-trafficking movement, travel restrictions, access to HIV meds etc. Crucially it now has many of the partnerships and support needed to address them.
Every day brings news on sex work and law from one country or another. We are seeing law reform and recognition of sex work as an occupation expanding not just through legislatures but through courts that are giving weight to human rights and constitutional obligations. Although much of the news is still about crackdowns of course, it is more and more frequently about conversations about decriminalisation. The Commission on HIV and Law is looking at criminalisation of sex work so there is work to do there to ensure that sex workers demands around human rights and law are well understood by the Commission. Its all about opportunities and challenges.
See NSWP website for more news. ( www. nswp.org)
What bought on thinking about the NSWP this week as its new board is meeting was pictures I came across while doing some much overdue filing. This is a previous board of the NSWP at Robin Island, Cape Town in 2002. Dr Melissa Ditmore (USA) ; Shane Petzer ( Sth Africa) ; Dr Smarajit Jana (India) (EU) Khartini Slamah (Malaysia); Paulo Longo ( Brazil) ; Dr Anna Lopez (EU) . Dr Penny Saunders ( USA) ; Dr Jo Doezema. And lots of gorgeous people at an
APNSW meeting in Yokohama in ?
Entry filed under: health, HIV and AIDS, sex work. Tags: Un; sex work; UNFPA; Commission Law HIV; OSI; Morgan Thomas; Cheryl Overs.