In 2015, Jill McCracken prepared for a TEDx talk on the topic “Selling Sex: Contradicting Violence with Choice” amassing a great deal of the current research on the topic. Later in 2015 Jill joined BPPP’s research advisory committee for the Nothing About Us, Without Us Project, and these references and summaries proved to be an extremely valuable resource as we developed our work on HIV policy and sex worker rights. She has now kindly provided us with a comprehensive blog posting collating key research summaries. We are publishing her post in two parts, the first focusing on the intersections of sex work, HIV and health, and the second part will focus on references referencing trafficking in persons. Jill is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and author of the book Street Sex Workers Discourse.
Navigating the References Connecting Sex Work, Criminalization, and Violence
By Jill McCracken, PhD
You may not learn a great deal of new information in this blog. I say that truthfully and also to acknowledge the incredible work that has and continues to be done and shared within the sex worker rights movement and beyond. As I was compiling these sources and writing the blog, explained more fully below, I was continually hearing myself say, “Well, this is nothing new. This is what we have been saying all along”. And yet, because sources are making this information known through case studies, sites of analysis, research methodologies, and community organizations and perspectives, it becomes extremely helpful to reiterate this information and put it in one place for easy reference; at least it has been helpful for me.
When I found out I was going to give a TEDx talk at the University of South Florida, I was instantly terrified. My terror is usually linked to not only my high expectations for myself, but also my fear of disappointing my audience. And when I considered my fear in relationship to this project (working through my fear has become my new way of being of late), I realized the audience I was most afraid of disappointing was my sex worker and sex worker rights colleagues and organizations. I also knew that in order to give a talk that was worthy of the subject matter: A World Beyond Ourselves, I would need to, once again, rely on my sex worker and sex worker rights colleagues and friends. I therefore went to my many online lists and organizations and asked for help. I also did a great deal of research. Ironically, most, if not all, of this research did not actually make it into the talk, because I later found out that TEDx talks were not meant to include lots of statistics and facts, but rather stories and information the audience can relate to. But what I did find in doing all of that research was that I became even more convinced of my (and many others’) central idea for this talk: that sex work must be decriminalized if we are to reduce violence against sex workers, sex workers must be at the forefront of any discussions about these policies, and that we must focus on a rights-based approach rather than a prosecution or criminal-based approach.
Today Derek Demeri, representing SWOP USA, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and the Best Practices Policy Project, is attending a civil society hearing convened by the United Nations as part of the preparatory process towards a “high level meeting on HIV/AIDS” that will be held later this year in June. The official purpose of this meeting is to “provide civil society and all relevant stakeholders an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing preparations in a day of interactive panel discussions with Member States and representatives from civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, organizations and networks representing people living with HIV, women, adolescents and young persons and other relevant stakeholders.” For sex worker rights representatives from the United States and beyond, this meeting is another opportunity to raise red umbrellas and state the obvious truth that we cannot “end AIDS” without full and meaningful participation of sex workers in all aspects of policy, HIV service provision, leadership and more. The New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and the Best Practices Policy Project have created a set of talking points for use during today’s meetings.
BPPP and NJRUA note that, “globally only a tiny portion of all funding for HIV prevention and treatment activities is given to sex worker-led organizations. This practice must immediately change because we cannot end AIDS without sex workers as equal partners in this effort.” Within the United States sex worker rights organizations, “are also highly marginalized from funding and other resources, a situation made far worse because of the government’s failure to include any approaches to address sex work and HIV in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The US government must adopt a scientifically based rights approach to working with sex workers and provide adequate funding for sex worker led organizations to implement this approach.”
TWEET IT OUT: Nothing About Us Without Us, Decriminalize #sexwork to #endHIV
Direct HIV $ to #sexworkers in all National HIV Strategies, end the silence #UnitedStates about #sexworkerrights
VIEW THE UN Civil Society hearing online.
AIDS2016: the next International AIDS Conference will be held in Durban, South Africa in July 2016. The deadline to submit an abstract (a presentation in the main conference) or a workshop/Global Village close February 4, 2016 at 5.59 pm EST/2.59 pm Pacific (NB: this is an international deadline and so closes at 11.59 pm European time/CET, do not be fooled into thinking this is midnight US time!). BPPP is currently working on several proposals with community members to highlight HIV policy concerns in the US for sex workers and for cultural events. Contact BPPP if you need any last minute advice or to join us, having your name linked to an abstract or workshop is very important if you wish to get a scholarship. Scholarships applications are due February 12, 2016 but we advise getting applications in by February 11 if possible because this is an international deadline. Applicants need a reference letter. If you are a community member, organizer, or volunteer, please contact BPPP if you would like to be considered for a reference letter by noon EST February 9, 2016.
HIV IS NOT A CRIME II CONFERENCE: Scholarship applications for this ground breaking event on HIV criminalization law and policy are open until February 5, 2016. Applicants need a reference letter. If you are a community member, organizer, or volunteer, please contact BPPP if you would like to be considered for a reference letter by noon EST February 4, 2016. HIV is Not a Crime II is three days of workshops and practical trainings on state advocacy, grassroots organizing, criminalization reform messaging, and familiarity with the related legal, medical, media, and public health issues. Attendees will include advocates living with HIV, community organizers, activists, and experts in public health, law and public policy from across the country.
DESIREE ALLIANCE: Early registration for the much anticipated 2016 Desiree Alliance conference in New Orleans this summer is available until February 28, 2016. If you or your organization are able to register early, this will greatly help Desiree Alliance. Early registration is more than just paying to attend, it supports our sex worker rights movement. Registering is almost as good as a donation to our cause.