The sex worker struggle - Page 2

From Google to Whorespeak: SF's activists fight a complex, uphill battle but keep the dream of decriminalization alive

The Lusty Lady in North Beach remains the nation's only unionized strip club


Activists are currently planning for the July, 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

Many international sex workers rights advocates have been denied visas to get to the conference. The U.S. typically bars convicted felons — but there's a special exception for people guilty of misdemeanor prostitution charges.

"SWOP has an idea of getting in touch with some of the people denied entrance and asking them what they were going to present on and to try and present their papers in their place, to make sure these organizers voices are heard," said SWOP-Bay Area spokesperson Shannon Williams.

But that's not where the government's weird exclusion of sex workers from its efforts to fight AIDS ends.

The Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) fund allocates $48 billion to organizations around the world engaged in AIDS treatment and prevention. But thanks to the religious right, the law, approved in 2003, includes a stipulation that all recipient groups must make a pledge decrying prostitution. It's known as the "anti-prostitution loyalty oath."

A court ruling July 6, 2011 declared the oath a violation of the free-speech rights of organizations in the United States, but the U.S. still blocks PEPFAR funding for international organizations based on the "loyalty oath."

"Sex worker activists are going to converge in D.C. for the AIDS conference and talk about the loyalty oath. The US is exporting its ideology through this funding requirement" said Carol Leigh, a longtime activist who curates the annual San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Art Festival.



Sex workers rights activists continue to be engaged in their complex, decades-long struggle with anti-sex trafficking organizations.

People who want safer working conditions say that decriminalization would make it easier for police to distinguish between coerced and consensual prostitution and encourage those with knowledge of crimes perpetuated against sex workers to come forward without risking prosecution for their own illegal work.

But many anti-trafficking advocates dismiss the distinction between forced and consensual prostitution in their efforts. According to a document called "Ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution," on the website of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, "There is no doubt that a small number of women say they choose to be in prostitution, especially in public contexts orchestrated by the sex industry... In this situation, it is harm to the person, not the consent of the person that is the governing standard (emphasis theirs)."

It's this refusal to acknowledge the importance of consent that really pisses off advocates —and has a powerful effect on the policy that governs them.

The federal definition of sex trafficking includes consensual prostitution, and defines coerced prostitution as "severe sex trafficking." "Law enforcement agencies can use anti-trafficking funds to arrest sex workers in prostitution, on the grounds that the feds define all prostitution as trafficking, even though the government distinguishes between trafficking and severe trafficking," said one sex workers rights activist.

According to Leigh, anti-trafficking organizations are not all bad; she named the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women as an organization that "has been allied with sex workers rights movement and takes rights-based approach."

But organizations that conflate consensual and coerced commercial sex are often big-time recipients of public and private funding.


Hi - Thanks for this article.

We have been on the frontlines of the protests at backpage and craigslist for the past 3 years and respect SWAAY's position.

We want to work with everyone to simply stop the enslavement of other human beings against their will.

We are not political, not religious, not professional protesters.

We are simply normal people who are sick of the status quo and saying SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!

We welcome all members of the SF community to join us in fighting the slavery of children (and adults) who are forced into the sex industry (or other labor industries) AGAINST THEIR WILL.

Our website is stopslavery2012 com and I can be reached directly at phil @ stopslavery2012 or 888-206-3264

As a start, we welcome all your readers to view the short video from SARA KRUZAN, a child victim of human trafficking in prison in California for the past 17 years, and then call the Governor's office tomorrow - on SARA KRUZAN WEDNESDAY! more info at:

phil cenedella
exec. dir.

Posted by Phil Cenedella on Feb. 14, 2012 @ 8:42 am

It seems that you really feel that your approach is simple, direct and most helpful. Yes, of course Sara should be released and working for her release is important, and there are ways to do that without supporting laws and policies that oppress women and prostitutes.

I am glad you say you want to communicate with sex workers. You can imagine that, if people are criminalized, they wouldn't necessarily jump for a chance to talk to someone who is part of a movement that is responsible for harm to sex workers. A person would have to make special effort to understand the diverse predicaments of sex workers and the ideas of the movement for sex workers rights.

Please feel free to email me if you are interested in communicating about these issues and being educated about just what the sex workers' rights movement is talking about in relationship to solutions to abuses of people in the sex businesses/trades.

Carol Leigh

Posted by Carol Leigh on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

Decriminalize sex work NOW!

The reasons for the need for anti prostitution laws are only bogus excuses on the part of law enforcement for their incompetance and non profit groups that take in lotsa money using it.

There are laws against kidnap and rape of adults and minors.
If the police or DAs are unwilling or incapable of enforcing these law they should show some self respect and find another career so our hard earned tax dollars can hire someone who will get the job done!!

Support ur local sex workers!

Put governments scarce resources into putting away kidnapers, rapist, child molesters and finding missing chidren, solving all the unsolved murders, arresting burglery suspects.

NOT persecuting consentual sex workers and their clients!!!!!!

Posted by sf T party on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

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