Posts tagged ‘violence’
In a post script on Somaly Mam and Afesip Cambodia, the Cambodia Daily ran a story today based on a visit to AFESIP shelter in which Andrew Hunter’s claims that unethical and possibly unlawful practices occur there were investigated. The journalists were not allowed to interview inmates without supervisors to ask if everyone there is voluntarily and knows they can leave. Even with the supervision one of the interviewees said she ‘did not want to be there at first’ but became used to it, which obviosuly suggests her original detention was unlawful.
The article said that sex workers were captured by pimps that broke in the Afesip compound a couple of years ago. Infact the women managed to breach the gate and barbed wire and got away on local moto-taxis. Several of the women later protested against the outside the US Embassy at US officials falsely claiming that their escape was a ‘re-capture’ by ‘pimps’ rather than an assertion of several of the most fundamental human rights.
I really like the following extract from an editorial on Prostitution and the Law in the Ottawa Citizen (Sep 30 2010.) It captures an issue that I think is not well understood – that removing criminal laws against sex workers is only the first stage of the reform needed to improve sex workers lives. Many people in the movement are struggling to respond to the demand for ‘evidence’ that removing the criminal law will itself achieve a whole lot of desirable outcomes, such as reducing HIV or human rights abuses. But no such evidence exists. The question is wrong. The fact that sex workers are subject to abuses where sex work is legal, as well as where it is semi legal and completly prohibited, tells us that more than absence of criminal law is needed.
Removal of the criminal law is essential. It removes the main barrier to sex workers achieving justice. It creates a space that can be filled by effective rights based policy and labour regulations and law. This is what happenned in the much touted example of New Zealand. But ‘decriminalisation’ is not a solution in itself, and it is not a solution if the gap it creates is filled with wrong policy and law. Good regulations and policy don’t automatically kick in when criminal laws are removed – even in rich and well governed countries, let alone where regulatory systems generally are not well organised. The process of struggling for effective rights based policy and labour law must now take place in Canada and it’s regrettable that the energy of activists there will first be diverted by an appeal against Justice Himel’s judgement. What happens next in Canda will be important for the world and we are lucky indeed to have such strong and determined sex workers activists there to drive that process. Forward and Upward !
The judge who struck down Canada’s prostitution laws was doing her job, and doing it well. It will be up to our elected officials to ensure that the removal of those laws does not create new problems…Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court found that the laws “force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
She did not take it upon herself to rewrite Canada’s prostitution policy. In fact, she went to great lengths to explain that her job was merely to determine whether government had overstepped its constitutional bounds in creating the current laws. She admitted that in removing those laws, she is opening the door to unlicensed brothels. “It is legitimate for government to study, consult and determine how best to address this issue,” she concluded, and therefore stayed her decision for 30 days. That stay could be extended.While the Ontario and federal governments have vowed to appeal, Parliament still needs to update the prostitution laws. Constitutionality aside, it’s clear that these laws have done nothing to make marginalized women less vulnerable to the monsters who prey on them.
Criminal law that targets the prostitutes themselves might not be the best way to protect prostitutes and their neighbours, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes. The ruling does not require cities to set up red-light districts. There are many ways to regulate prostitution to minimize the harm to women and to their neighbours. And there is certainly nothing in the ruling to prevent governments, at all levels, from working to help prostitutes get out of the business and, in many sad cases, get off of drugs and alcohol.
While Himel did provide a review of practices and policies in some other countries, it’s not her job to choose among them. Parliament should consider which model would work best for Canada. The city governments should have a voice in that discussion and, perhaps, a role in implementing any new policy regime.
The worst mistake would be for Parliament to avoid this question, as it has avoided abortion, same-sex marriage, polygamy and other difficult social issues. In the absence of appropriate regulation, communities could find themselves powerless to stop dangerous activity. This is a conversation Canadians need to have
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.
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…)
From March 12-14 sex workers and violence against women advocates met in Bangkok, Thailand. The ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ meeting aimed to forge stronger connections between sex workers’ and violence against women’s movements.
The dialogue was organised by CREA (Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action, India) and PLRI partner CASAM.
One outcome of the meeting was the conceptualisation of a campaign titled ‘Ain’t I a Human? Where are We?’ The campaign aims to bring violence against women within the purview of human rights, labour rights and international organisations and donors. The campaign, which will be virtual, will involve:
* A secondary research study on violence against women initiatives to look for gaps in relation to sex workers’ rights and to make suggestions based on this research;
* The production of a briefing paper on sex workers’ rights that can be used as an advocacy tool nationally and globally;
* A petition and open letter on sex workers’ rights that can be sent to international organisations, donors and the media;
* The generation of greater awareness in the public sphere on sex workers’ rights through creative media such as film clips, print media and interactive websites.
Kathambi Kinoti has written a report of the meeting for the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) website.