Tag: SWOPUSA

Notes of exclusion: the US Conference on AIDS, 2015

Earlier this year the Best Practices Policy Project contacted the organizers of the 19th Annual US Conference on AIDS to inquire as to how we might convene a panel or event about the impact of HIV related issues and policies on sex workers and people in the sex trade. During our initial call, we explained that sex worker lead organizations are now creating the first national level report on these issues and wanted to share our progress during the conference. Despite follow up communications to numerous USCA representatives in the months that followed, we never received any formal reply and not one of our applications for scholarships to attend was successful. The financial barriers to attending are significant: for all intents and purposes costs preclude any member of a sex worker lead organization from attending or even applying to attend. In order to even apply for scholarships, small and minimally funded organizations like BPPP are required to pay a fee of $250 or more. The conference registration fee itself is $800 and a sandwich bought at the conference site costs $18. Even though we received no support to attend some of our representatives–Derek Demeri of New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Sharmus Outlaw and members of SWOP USA and chapters–have found a way to enter the event. The USCA belatedly responded to pressure from sex worker organizations to provide space for one panel Sex Worker Visibility and the United States’ National HIV/AIDS Strategy which conference organizers scheduled on the last day of the conference at 8.30 am (Sunday morning). Please join us on social media to learn more about the presentations #nothingaboutuswithoutus #USCA2015 #sexworkerrights
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US Sex Workers Respond to Visa & Mastercard Dumping Backpage

Sex workers and people in the sex trade are once again facing the brunt of misguided anti-trafficking efforts. Sex workers and people profiled as such face arrest and incarceration all in the name of “ending trafficking” and now low income people are being denied access to a place where they could advertise. Miss Andrie has written an excellent piece on the situation at Backpage, concluding that, “Like many ostensible anti-trafficking efforts, this will do very little to actually affect human trafficking. It will, however, impact free speech, and serve to make many sex workers’ lives more difficult.” Organizations across the United States, including BPPP, have united to publicize the issues in the following press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Derek J. Demeri| Atlantic City, NJ | 973.356.4456 | jdemeri20@gmail.com Lindsay Roth | Philadelphia, PA | 443.370.7626 | lindsay@swopusa.org

SEX WORKERS, TRAFFICKING VICTIMS MORE VULNERABLE AS VISA, MASTERCARD CUT TIES TO BACKPAGE.COM

Sex workers and advocates are denouncing a move by Visa and Mastercard to discontinue processing credit card transactions for Adult Services ads on BackPage.com. “This policy effectively disenfranchises thousands of sex workers across the country who do not have access to any other means of online-advertising,” said Lindsay Roth, Board Chair of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. “Those who may have worked independently prior to the policy change may now have to rely on third parties, including traffickers, in order to meet their needs.” “

Risk to violence is multiplied for workers who belong to other marginalized groups,” Derek Demeri of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance said. “This will especially impact women of color, queer youth, transgender women and immigrants who will no longer have access to web-based safety tools like client screening.” Demeri and other advocates report that multiple communities were deeply affected after last year’s closure of MyRedBook.com, a site where sex workers and their customers met and reviewed each other. Advocates say that like MyRedBook, BackPage.com enables people to work independently, reduces their dependence and vulnerability, and allows them to share harm reduction information online. Pushing these workers even further into the shadows cuts them off from social services and makes them more vulnerable to violence and coercion. “These efforts are misguided and will cause significantly more harm to those in the sex trade, including trafficked individuals,” said Kristen DiAngelo, a trafficking survivor who recently co-authored a study in Sacramento that showed 18% of street-based prostitutes interviewed in the last nine months had returned to the streets after the closure of MyRedBook.com.

Many are concerned about the root of the changes that are occurring in the name of “ending trafficking.” “It’s alarming when bank and credit institutions can decide how money obtained legally can be used based on their ideas of morality,” Monica Jones, a national transgender and sex worker activist in Phoenix remarked. Penelope Saunders, the coordinator of the Best Practices Policy Project, shares Ms Jones’ concern. “The general public has been mislead into believing that cracking down on civil liberties is a way of ‘saving’ women from trafficking,” she said, “but once people look more closely at what these so-called anti-trafficking restrictions actually do, they are appalled by the real consequences to low income people and the rights violations that ensue.”

Viable solutions to address human rights violations are well known in the social service sector, but often receive much less media fanfare than hyped stories of sexual exploitation. “If there is a genuine desire to end human trafficking,” Kate D’Adamo of the Sex Workers Project in New York states, ”Then there needs to be a focus on key factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking: access to public services, youth homelessness, and additional employment opportunities.” Opponents of the decision are circulating a sign-on letter amongst sex workers and supporters, in which they ask Visa and MasterCard to “Appeal to reason…” and reconsider their move to stop allowing transactions for Adult Services on BackPage.com. ###