Posts tagged ‘rights’

Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia : can a sensible judgement stem the trafficking hysteria ?

On 7 January 2010, in an historic first judgment concerning cross border human trafficking in Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has found that Cyprus and Russia committed a number of human rights violations. In a judgment which confirmed the obvious –  that trafficking cannot be considered compatible with the values of the European Convention on Human Rights, or with a democratic society – the Court  further clarified states’ obligations to protect against, as well as to investigate, trafficking. It is an important judgement because it links trafficking to the human rights that are aimed at preventing violence and forced labour, not at those ‘human rights’ that aim to protect women from the indignity of selling sex ( sexual exploitation as defined by CEDAW). In other words, it targets the violence not the sex work.

The case concerns the death of a twenty year old Russian  sex worker Oxana Rantseva in Cyprus where she had arrived under the “artiste” visa scheme. She was working in a cabaret in the island’s largest coastal resort, Limassol. Ms Rantseva was found dead below the balcony of an apartment belonging to an employee of the cabaret, having been taken there from a police station by the cabaret’s owner. The police found a bedspread tied to the railing of the balcony on the upper floor of the apartment. An inquest in Cyprus found she had died as a result of injuries sustained when she jumped from the balcony. In describing the nature of human trafficking the judgment states that, “by its very nature and aim of exploitation [human trafficking] is based on the exercise of powers attaching to the right of ownership. It treats human beings as commodities to be bought and sold and put to forced labour, often for little or no payment, usually in the sex industry but also elsewhere…It implies close surveillance of the activities of victims, whose movements are often circumscribed… It involves the use of violence and threats against victims, who live and work under poor conditions.

Noting that, as a relatively modern phenomenon, human trafficking is not mentioned in the 1950 European Convention, the Court found that it nevertheless fell within the scope of Article 4 of the Convention (prohibiting slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour). The Court elaborated on the positive obligations of states in the context of Article 4 with respect to trafficking, holding that there is a positive obligation on states to adopt appropriate and effective legal and administrative frameworks, to take protective measures, and to investigate trafficking where it has already occurred. The Court described as “indisputable” that the latter obligation involved the need for a full and effective investigation covering all aspects of trafficking allegations, from recruitment to exploitation. The Court noted that these positive obligations applied to the various states potentially involved in human trafficking – states of origin, states of transit and states of destination.

One way forward is to allow migrant women to work on their own as sex workers, if they so wish, with equal rights under the law as Cypriot workers and increased protection because of the risks and vulnerabilities of the sector. But this is unlikely to be permitted, as it is likely to seen by the authorities and the prevailing conservative public opinion as sanction prostitution and migration for the purpose of prostitution. One needs to deal with each component part of ‘trafficking’ as a form of distorted migration hence the question of freedom of movement/ border need to be addressed in the same way as with other irregular or undocumented workers. Regularisation is the only way to deal with ‘irregular migration’ therefore trafficking must be dealt with by abolishing visas that produce/reproduce trafficking (i.e. artistes) visa and regularisation of the work of foreign prostitutes. Monitoring, implementing labour standards and unionising sex workers is crucial.

PS :   The judgement says trafficking is not proscribed in older law because it is a new phenonomenon. But it seems to me that ‘procuring’ became ‘trafficking’ at some point.  What drove this change ? What does it mean? Answers on the back of an envelope.

for more see http://www.interights.org/rantsev  and http://thetrim1.blogspot.com/2010/02/compating-traffficking-in-cyprus.html

06/10/2010 at 00:05 Leave a comment

Why Pimping Must Be Legal Too. by Cheryl Overs with special thanks to Marc of Frankfurt for giving this article a much better name.

Sex workers rights activists are living in exciting times. We now have a formal mechanism for inputting into UN policy, the NSWP UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work and the Commission on HIV and Law convened by UNDP is a golden opportunity for an authoritative recommendation that sex work be decriminalised. Substantial support for such a recommendation has already come from senior UN officials including the Secretary General and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

When sex work began to be decriminalised in Australia more than 20 years ago I thought we were the first in a domino effect of collapsing sex work laws globally .   I knew hardly anything of the outside world then. I now understand much better why the opposite has happened and why, with a couple of exceptions, laws against sex work have worsened for sex workers globally.  Although those reasons are obviously varied and complex, I think the issue of removing laws against living off immoral earnings, brothel keeping etc has functioned as a ‘deal breaker’  that has impeded us forming the alliances we need to move the decriminalisation agenda forward globally.

Most of the agencies who support removing the offences that are used against women who sell sex ( and less often against men and transgenders) at the same time support retention  of the offenses that are used against people that operate or service  the sex industry. (pimps)

Why is this ? It’s the fashion in literature on sex work and law  to follow any mention  of  sex business operators with (pimps) in brackets.  At first I just thought the use of bracketed American slang to clarify who is being discussed was just another amusing folly fromAmerican friends. But perhaps by invoking this stigmatising term authors are providing a clue to better understanding  the disconnect between sex workers and the allies we need to support our demands  if we are to be successful.  That we don’t have that support is clear.  Of all the agencies and individuals calling for ‘removal of punitive laws against sex workers’ almost none are expressing support for removal of the laws against operating or servicing sex businesses ( pimping) . The ‘best’ we get is a call for better enforcement to ensure that innocent family members are not ‘wrongly’ charged with living off immoral  earnings ( pimping ) .

Like all movements the sex workers rights movement is diverse so there are few policy positions that everyone in the global sex workers rights movementfully  agrees on beyond the basic principles of the Network of Sex Work Projects.    ( http://www.NSWP.org).  However there is one proposition that stands out as  universal  – sex work is work.  It’s written on our placards, chanted at our demonstrations quoted on our websites and publications.  What this slogan means is that sex workers demand that labour law  not criminal law is used to govern the sex industry and protect the conditions of the workers in that industry.  For this to happen sex businesses  and brokering commercial sex must be legal.  To benefit from labour rights sex workers who are employees must have legal employers. To benefit from health and safety regulations self employed sex workers must have access to legal workplaces and the same legal structure around their work as other self employed workers. There is no point the sex workers role in commercial sex being legal while  her employers or people from whom she rents space or advertises are criminalised. In fact in many countries where sex work  highly criminalised in reality, the law on the books only contains brothel keeping, recruiting ( pimping) type offenses.(  See http://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000772)

It’s not surprising that sex workers look to labour law.  Labour law and regulations and their important corollary, trade unions, are the  mechanisms that have actually delivered improved working conditions to hundreds of millions of workers as they have been introduced over the last two centuries.  Labour law is not  a magic bullet,  especially in poor countries,  and sex workers know that.  I remember I was fascinated when I first heard Cambodian sex workers passionately demanding ‘we must come under labour law’. They had learned a lot about workers rights issues from garment workers. ( in one of the most inspiring ‘civil society’ alliances I have ever seen)  They  knew that Cambodian garment factories  haven’t  transformed into perfect workplaces but equally they understood the role of labour law in garment workers’ journey from near slavery in dangerous sweatshops via the contemporary garment factory to their vision of the factory of the future. In this context the sex workers could very easily locate two primary differences between their struggle  and that of the  garment workers  – the stigma and the law that criminalises ‘sexual expolitation and trafficking’ .

So why can’t our allies among  academics, feminists and human rights agencies  accept this ?  Why do we so so many advocates argue for repeal of laws against soliciting and selling sex but not laws against brothel keeping and profiting from, organising or brokering commercial sex ? ( pimping) . Why do they make an argument for ‘decriminalisation’ of sex workers and  suport laws that prevent ‘economic exploitation of sex workers’  (pimping) ? ( eg Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Networkhttp://www.aidslaw.ca/publications/publicationsdocEN.php?ref=199)

I have been surprised to see human rights abuses associated with anti-trafficking/sexual exploitation law attributed to poor enforcement of otherwise sound laws against  people that operate sex businesses ( pimps)  ( e.g. Off the Streets by Human Rights Watchhttp://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/07/20/streets-0) Why do human rights advocates  dismiss  sex workers view that the trafficking paradigm itself is flawed and the demands to repeal laws that prohibit sex buinsiness  (pimps)  ?  I can’t understand support for banning sex work advertisements because the advertisers ( pimps) have failed to prevent the abuse of women.  ( see about 2 million internet posts about  Craigslist )

What do people want for sex workers ?  A cosy cottage industry of all female sex worker collectives in which no sex worker facilitates or profits from the prostitution of another ? ‘ (pimps) ( or ‘pimps herself’  – I have actually read people talking about women trafficking themselves !) Although some sex workers might agree that a cottage industry of worker collectives would be nice, there is no sex worker in the world who doesn’t know that if you work in a criminalised environment you are affected by that criminalisation even if  there is no specific law against what you are doing.

Of course I understand that people feel sorry for sex workers who work in horrible conditions and feel angry about the people that exploit them.  We all do.  I am sure the same well intentioned people feel sorry for garment workers too but the difference is they recognise their right to be employees and they don’t advocate criminalising the people that run garment factories .  It doesn’t help sex workers struggle for rights to work these sentiments into professional policy advocacy.  After all,  sex workers know (pimps) best and they are demanding a fully legalised sex industry. The DMSC in India, the well known sex worker rights group, challenged (pimping) laws in court.

So here is an open message to all  those who are  advocating around sex work law reform.    Please use precious advocacy opportunities to support sex workers position that sex work is work. This means that sex workers, like all other workers, need labour rights to reduce their vulnerability including to  unscrupulous and abusive service providers and employers. To reach our agreed goal of being governed by labour law not criminal law, organising sex work and employing sex workers  must  be legal. Please don’t give expression to understandable disdain for the stereotypical violent male pimp by supporting laws against organising commercial sex or providing services and workplaces to sex workers.

There are excellent laws against kidnapping, assault, robbery and rape.  Please use precious advocacy opportunities to press States to use them properly to address criminal abuse of sex workers, including by police who are the main perpetrators.

And please, please  stop using the term (pimp).


11/09/2010 at 06:04 7 comments

Now that sounds familiar…40,000 sex workers on the move…again

Our media monitoring over the last week or so has picked up a steadily increasing number of news stories in which it is claimed that 40,000 sex workers will descend on South Africa in response to the increased demand for sexual services from football fans enjoying the World Cup. But where does this figure come from and what does it mean for sex work policy? 

Matt Greenall has picked up this issue on his blog  and, with his permission, I have posted it below. 

40,000 new sex workers for the South Africa world cup? Really? Anatomy of a number

David Bayever of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority’s announcement that the World Cup in South Africa would lead to 40,000 foreign sex workers being brought to South Africa (“many… from Eastern Europe”) has received blanket coverage in the press (http://tinyurl.com/ygpz8wp; http://tinyurl.com/ya35p3k; http://tinyurl.com/yfwfluh).  The only hint of a source for this very high figure is the “event organisers” (in the Telegraph article). 

But it looks like this particular figure wasn’t made up on the hoof by anyone in South Africa.  Try googling “40,000, world cup, prostitute, germany” and you’ll see that exactly the same figure was being given in the run up to the Germany World Cup in 2006 (http://bit.ly/clc6dN; http://bit.ly/c44hgv;  http://bit.ly/aLuhoM), amid accusations that the German government, having legalised prostitution in 2002, was facilitating trafficking and coercion.  (more…)

11/03/2010 at 16:00 Leave a comment

Website launched on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. The Paulo Longo Research Initiative (PLRI) marks this important day with the launch of its new website, www.plri.org.

The PLRI website is a substantial library of resources about sex work in the context of economics, law, health, gender and sexuality, and migration. As it grows the site will increasingly showcase important research findings, host discussions among academics and sex workers and provide text and video news about relevant events and publications. The site will provide health service providers, policy makers, social workers, human rights advocates and students invaluable opportunities to learn about issues that affect sex workers.

December 17 provides an opportunity to reflect on why research is needed to provide evidence to guide measures to protect sex workers from violence and exploitation.  Sex workers from all over the world have long argued that criminal laws against sex work render them vulnerable to abuses, including unprotected sex and lack of access to services and justice. But many countries continue to criminalise sex workers and sex worker organisations everywhere receive frequent reports of violence.

Sex workers all over the world are subject to violence, exploitation and abuse.  For example:

  • USAID research conducted in 2006 in Cambodia found that of the female and transgender sex workers surveyed approximately half were beaten by police; about a third gang-raped by police and about three-quarters were gang-raped by other men during the past year.
  • In Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa Jane Arnott and Anna Louise Crago found that repeated violence, extortion and detention by law enforcement officers leave sex workers feeling constantly under threat in a climate of impunity that fosters further violence and discrimination against sex workers from the community-at-large. Migrants and transgender sex workers are particularly affected.
  • In Pakistan research into sexually transmitted infections by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that HIV services need to be tied in with efforts to reduce discrimination, exploitation and violence against sex workers if they are going to be effective. This includes support programmes designed to increase sex workers’ abilities to defend their own human rights.

The World Health Organisation has recognised clear links between violence and sex workers’ vulnerability to HIV and recently both Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, and Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, have recommended that laws that punish sex workers be repealed in the light of evidence that they increase HIV vulnerability.

On December 17 sex worker organisations in dozens of countries demand an end to violence. Browse the PLRI website to read about the nature and causes of violence against male, female and transgender sex workers and the successes and failures of efforts to reduce it. Help to promote the site by circulating the press release to your contacts.

17/12/2009 at 10:55 Leave a comment

‘Rights not Rescue’ Mama Cash meeting in Amsterdam, November 10

Recent laws and policies put in place to protect sex workers have in fact resulted in widespread abuses of their rights. Programmes aimed at sex workers often attempt to ‘rescue’ them, without addressing their human rights. Despite enormous challenges, sex workers are calling for legal reform and programmes to end violence and discrimination. They advocate for safer working conditions and access to health care. They want rights not rescue. On November 10 Mama Cash will give the floor to sex workers and activists from around the world for a discussion about sex work and human rights.

The panel discussion features Ruth Morgan Thomas (Scottish Prostitutes Education Project), Pye Jakobsson (Rose Alliance, Sweden), Marianne Jonker (Soa Aids Netherlands) and Macklean Kyomya (WONETHA, Uganda).

Moderator: Marjan Sax.

Mama Cash is organising the event in cooperation with the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). Date: Tuesday, November 10

Location: De Balie, Amsterdam Grote Zaal

Time: 20.00 – 21.30

Language: English

Download the flyer for this event.

03/11/2009 at 10:36 Leave a comment

Untying Development’s Straightjacket: Masculinities, Sexualities and Social Change

If development really did justice to the diversity of people’s social and sexual identities, livelihoods and living arrangements, how would it be different to the approaches we see today? What would be done differently? How can practitioners, activists, academics and policy actors concerned with challenging and changing oppressing gender and sexual norms work together to loosen development’s “straightjacket”? What is needed – in terms of knowledge, skills, practices, alliances – to enable those who seek to bring about positive social change to address the violence and oppression that development policies and practice may implicitly sustain because of a failure to recognise or engage with those who do not conform to taken-for-granted norms, and work together to make the world a fairer place?

PLRI members are attending a four-day symposium in Cape Town from the 18-22 September, which will bring together theorists, researchers, activists, policy actors and practitioners working on gender and development, men and masculinities, HIV prevention, gender violence and sexual rights. It will be convened as a collaborative initiative involving a number of programmes co-ordinated by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK – Participation and Development Relations, Sexuality and Development, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment, HIV and Development – in partnership with Sexuality Studies at York University in Canada, the Dissident Men Programme, UNDP and UNAIDS. (more…)

10/09/2009 at 10:38 Leave a comment

New Ugandan sex worker organisation founded

Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy released the following information on their newly founded organisation:

Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) is a  Ugandan sex worker led organization established in August 2008 by 3 passionate and determined sexworkers who have faced harassment, insults, stigma, discrimination and arrest without trial by misinformed societies and who have been stirred into  responsive action concerning the plight of other sexworkers in the same working conditions. (more…)

02/07/2009 at 07:46 4 comments

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