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Press conference report, Sex Workers Freedom Festival, XIX International AIDS Conference HUB, Kolkata, 2012

By Radmila Vasiljkovic, NGO Equal Rights, Serbia (read article in Serbian here)

During preparatory day for Sex Workers Freedom Festival, July 21st in Kolkata, Aliya Rakhmetova (SWAN coordinator) held a meeting at 10 AM near the pool of Hyatt hotel. 8 representatives of SWAN: Inna Semina from Dignity initiative group from Tajikistan, Irina Maslova and Viktoria Afanasieva from Silver Rose, Russia, Dina Bakirova and Maha Tolegenova of Tais Plus in Kirgizstan, Biserka Lekić, Elena Santovac and myself from Equal Rights, Serbia were present at the meeting.
During the short meeting it was decided that I should take part in press conference which will be held in the next 10 minutes at the press-room (5th floor) of our hotel. That was the first time for me to participate in press conference ever.

All participants of this press-conference were representing sex workers’ issues in 5 geographical regions of the world and spoke in one voice of the Global Network or Sex Work Projects (NSWP).
Participants of the press conference: Andrew Hunter, president of NSWP; Anna Pickering, NZPC, New Zealand; John Mathenge, HOYMAS, Kenya; Thierry Schaffauser, ICRSE, France; Laxmi Chandradev Tripathi, India and us, SWAN.

Young journalist of India television gave an impression of unbiased person and the set of questions related to different legal frameworks for sex work worldwide didn’t violent the rights and rules of both professions: sex work or journalism. I had a chance to introduce several sex work issues in the SWAN region such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, condoms as a proof, jail sentences, repeatedly arrests and judicial practices.

Kenya representative pointed out problems of USA donations to AIDS prevention related to anti prostitution pledge. Considering HIV prevalence in Africa this policy has to be change as soon as possible.

New Zealand representative presented good practices of the country that decriminalized and depenalized all aspects of sex work. New Zealand sex worker are in a position to press charges against client who didn’t pay.

Laxmi, transgender sex worker from India, celebrity in her own country as well as worldwide, has been presented as “bad girl ambassador of NSWP” (as a balance to UN’s ‘ambassadors of good will’). She pointed out two big problems of India:
1. Even women groups / organizations who supports India’s widows (highly vulnerable group in this country) are opposing sex work
2. Increasing violence against transgender sex workers (hidzra - hijra) in India

It can be concluded that sex workers all around the world are unified in struggle for sex workers and human rights and presented the same goals at the press conference.