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SWAN News, Issue 7, Year 2, January 2007


Over 300 Sex Workers Sign Petition In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, On The Occasion Of December 17. Police Raids Against Petition Stalls
Petition On The Occasion Of The International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers
Policy Regulating Sex Work Should Be Pragmatic, Not Moralistic
First Drop-in Center Opened in Skopje, One Sex Worker Employed
Bulgaria: Oscar for Innovative Solutions in Tackling Sex Work Issues
Poles United Against Legislation Targeting Clients of Sex Workers
Association of Hungarian Prostitutes: Fact and Figures
Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe Available in Albanian, Kyrgyz and Romanian Languages
A study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws
Protest French Law Criminalizing Sex Workers for “Passive Soliciting”
How To Get Most Out Of Your Web Site
About us


The petition was initiated by Tais Plus, SWAN member from Kyrgyzstan.  Signatures were collected on the streets of the capital Bishkek and in several provincial cities between December 1 and 17.  Says Shahnaz Islamova from Tais Plus: “Unfortunately we did not manage to collect as many signatures as we had hoped to, due to the police raids. Right on the spot, before our eyes, all of the sudden, police officers started to grab sex workers and place them into their cars. Allegedly they were ordered to bring all our women to the police”. More


Today, on December 17, we would like to draw public attention to the fact that sex workers are more vulnerable to human rights abuses than the rest of the population. Sex work in Kyrgyzstan is decriminalized, but we, sex workers are still being bitten up, raped, and blackmailed. The law does not protect us. Our basic human rights are not acknowledged and are constantly violated.  Since we are powerless, any man can do to us whatever he wants. This makes us even more vulnerable to the risk of HIV. More 

Interview with Gulinara Kurmanova, Director of Tais Plus, SWAN member from Kyrgyzstan, published in “Social Rating” a weekly newspaper on social and political issues, December 21, 2006.
On December 17 the world celebrates International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. We understand that Kyrgyzstan has also faced this problem, and we tried to elaborate on this topic with the help of an expert Gulnara Kurmanova, Director of the NGO “Tais Plus”.
This organization is founded by sex workers and female pimps in 2000, with the aim to strengthen HIV and STI prevention among sex workers and their clients. More


First Drop-in Center Opened in Skopje, One Sex Worker Employed
Healthy Option Project Skopje (HOPS), the SWAN member from Macedonia, established in December the first Drop-in Center for sex workers in this country. The center is opened in the national capital Skopje, near the street sex work scene and is the first such place in the country where sex workers in a friendly atmosphere can hang out together, have a free coffee or tea, get free condoms, lubricants, informative materials, attend educational workshops, or get social or legal assistance from professionals. The center also offers a voluntary and confidential testing for HIV, and other supportive services such as laundry, showers, cooking, beatifying before work, etc. More


Bulgaria: Oscar for Innovative Solutions in Tackling Sex Work Issues 
For the first time ever, an Oscar-granting ceremony for chief achievements in prevention projects among sex workers was organized in December in Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Plovdiv by HESED, SWAN member from Bulgaria. Some of the categories were: the most innovative outreach work; work in criminal conditions; work in the MSM community; largest number of reached sex workers; best referral system with other social services, etc.  Total nine categories, with three nominations in each. More 


Poles United Against Legislation Targeting Clients of Sex Workers
First days of the New Year in Poland were marked by a passionate debate pro and contra an initiative brought up in the national Parliament, to introduce legislation prosecuting clients of sex workers.
Parliamentary Committee for Family and Women’s Affairs, the initiator of the draft law, justified the initiative by pointing to the Swedish model as their benchmark. Prosecution of clients, they say, significantly limited sex work in Sweden. More 


Association of Hungarian Prostitutes: Fact and Figures
With financial support from the Hungarian Ministry of Health, the Association of Hungarian Prostitutes, SWAN member from Hungary, operated in the first half of 2006 an HIV/AIDS health-check bus. In six months the bus provided 502 sex workers with free and anonymous testing against sexually transmitted infections. Compared with total 282 sex workers that were in previous five years examined in 92 official national health institutions, that was a great result. Nevertheless, facing the huge public deficit, Ministry of Health suspended the project. It agreed to lend the bus to the Association for the next two years. The Association intends to continue the project through the grants provided by EEA and the Norwegian Government. More


Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe Available in Albanian,  Kyrgyz and Romanian Languages.
Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, one of the cornerstone documents on human rights for sex workers, adopted by more then 200 delegates participating at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration held 15 to 17 October 2005 in the European Parliament in Brussels, is now available in Albanian, thanks to the Aksion Plus, in Kyrgyz, thanks to Tais Plus and the Manifesto was translated into Romanian, thanks to ARAS. More 



A study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws
The Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the Canadian Parliament recently completed its report on prostitution laws, The Challenge of Change: a Study of Canada's Criminal Prostitution Laws.
The Committee began its work October 2, 2003 and interviewed more then 300 prostitutes, social workers, lawyers and other members of the public.
The report outlines the failure of the criminal code to protect sex workers and local communities. It made several recommendations, including advising Parliament to treat addiction, poverty, underage prostitution and human trafficking as serious issues, and recommends that sufficient resources be provided to tackle these problems.
However, human rights groups criticized the report for its “failure to make any recommendations regarding solicitation laws” and for not recommending the decriminalization of sex work or the protection of the human rights of sex workers.Integral text of the report is available here. An analysis of the report is available here.

Source: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network



Protest French Law Criminalizing Sex Workers for “Passive Soliciting”
France introduced a few years ago a very bad law criminalizing street workers for 'passive soliciting'. Our friends from Les Putes Paris, a sex workers' group, asked us to sign an online petition against it.

The petition is in French. Petra Timmermans from International Committee for Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) ran the petition letter through the online translator and this is what came out the other end.

Read the English translation of the petition here.
Sign the petition here.




In this new column, SWAN News publishes articles that could help sex workers’ rights advocates in their daily work: how to challenge the myths surrounding sex work, how to fight abolitionists, how to work with media, communicate, create an effective message and get it across… 

A recent review of SWAN members’ websites revealed that there is a room for improvement in using the Internet to send our message out.  While most of us (but not all!) do have our own websites, in most of the cases they are not regularly updated. Sometimes they are identity brochures, having general info about the organization, program activities and contact details – and not news and updates whatsoever. Some websites have news features but “buried” on second or third level of the site.  They are updated two-three times a year or - only in two-three cases - on a weekly-monthly basis. Some members translate SWAN News but do not publish them on their website.

That is why we decided to talk in this issue’s Sex Worker’s Rights Advocacy School about developing effective websites. We will also talk about it at the next annual SWAN Meeting to be held in April this year. Your comments and contributions are warmly welcomed. 

The Internet provides excellent communications opportunities - it combines good features of electronic and print media.  In order to get the most out of it, think of doing the following:

  • Update the website continuously.  Internet-based web sites can be updated continuously, in real time, similar to the radio.  That is their advantage against print media, which are updated weekly or daily.  Put online parts from your reports, new issues of SWAN News, press clippings where your organization or issues surrounding sex work are mentioned, etc.
  • Use the photography, if possible sound and movie.  The Internet enables convergence of media – photography, film, radio and TV.  Your website can contain sound, movie, text, and photography files.  This possibility is revolutionized by the appearance of the reasonably priced digital cameras and voice recorders.
  • Try to make your website a dynamic, interactive news-carrying multi-media publication, rather then a static “identity brochure”.  So have the news from your organization or about sex work issues on the front page, rather then deep down on the third or fourth level under the “news”. More 




The Leading Article

Triggered by the murders of prostitutes in Suffolk, England, and the trail of Robert Pickton, charged with murder of 26 women in Vancouver, Canada, international media gave in December 2006 and January 2007 an unprecedented attention to the issue of violence against sex workers.

Around December 17, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, numerous radio and TV stations, print and the Internet publications had reports, interviews and editorials focusing on the human rights of sex workers.  

This month’s SWAN News Leading Article tackles the same issue. In an interview given to BBC Radio, Petra Timmermans, SWAN Member and the coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE, www.sexworkeurope.org), points to the deeply rooted negative attitudes that the society has against sex workers as the primary cause of violence against them.


BBC News, UK:
Social Attitudes Cause Violence Against Prostitutes
Amsterdam, 19 December 2006 -- As the murder of prostitutes in Suffolk grips the UK, BBC News looks at some of the safety mechanisms being used in the Netherlands to protect local sex workers there from violence.
This Sunday, campaigners in North America and Europe will be marking an End Violence Against Sex Workers Day with vigils, demonstrations and posters.
The murders in Suffolk "are another horrifying chapter in a long history of violence towards sex workers", says Petra Timmermans, a Netherlands-based campaigner for the human rights of prostitutes.
For Ms Timmermans, the coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), the vulnerability of prostitutes to violence is inextricably bound up in social attitudes. More 


Vancouver Province, Canada:
Let us Take Time to Remember the Casualties of Canada's Quiet War
Vancouver, 15 December 2006 -- As International End Violence Against Sex Workers Day approaches, I remember my friends and fellow sex workers who I have lost to violence: my friend, Brenda Way, murdered, and her body thrown into the garbage -- and Kelly, whose last name I never knew, murdered and mutilated in the East End hotel where we lived.
I imagine sex workers all over the world remembering their friends, and wonder whether reason will ever prevail? Will the safety of sex workers ever become a priority? More 


Winnipeg Free Press, Canada:
Memory of Murdered Sex Workers Will Live on
Winnipeg, 23 January 2007 -- If there are any blessings to come from Robert Pickton's murder trial -- and I am searching for just a shadow of a silver lining here -- it is that the sex-trade workers he is charged with killing will not be forgotten. The gruesome Pickton trial, which began Monday, will give the slain women the recognition in death they were almost certainly denied when they were alive and working the streets of Vancouver. More 

Scotsman, UK:
Prostitutes to Try Out Attack Alarms in Bid to Reduce Red Light Risks
Edinburgh, 30 December 2006 –- Satellites will be used to pinpoint prostitutes in danger following the murders of five sex workers in Suffolk, The Scotsman can reveal. Prompted by the killings, new locator devices will be piloted with prostitutes in Edinburgh from February.
Police say that by alerting them immediately to the whereabouts of prostitutes being attacked, the alarms could save lives. More 


Palo Alto Daily News, USA:
Sex Workers Protest Against Violence
Paolo Alto, California, 15 December 2006 -- A group of sex workers and their supporters staged a "die in" Friday at Berkeley City Hall to call for the decriminalization of prostitution in order to end related violence.
Organizers at Friday's event said because prostitutes are considered criminals - it's a misdemeanor in California - most feel they cannot go to police when they are raped, robbed or beaten. If the criminalization of prostitution were lifted, more prostitutes who become victims would report the crimes, they said. More 


Vancouver Province, Canada:
Sex Workers Hatch Plan to Cope With Media
Vancouver, 23 January 2007 -- More than 100 prostitutes met a week ago to devise a plan on how to deal with media descending on New Westminster for the Pickton trial.
With 350 news people accredited to cover the anticipated yearlong trial of Robert Pickton, the sex-trade workers are bracing for prying photographers and on-the-street requests for interviews.
The women were given printed lists outlining "Sex Worker Rights Around Media," and "Most Commonly Asked Questions" to help negotiate requests. "You have the right to refuse to be interviewed," tops the list of sex-worker rights, followed by "the right not to answer questions you don't want to answer."
In order to dissuade reporters from approaching sex workers, several items were handed out yesterday at a Vancouver police briefing -- a list of media contacts, a sheet entitled "Background information for the media," and another entitled "Facts about sex work." More 


Deutsche Welle, Germany:
A Job Like None Other: Being a Prostitute in Germany
Cologne, 30 December 2006 -- Morning, noon and night -- the demand for prostitutes is huge. The German Statistics Office estimates that around 400,000 women work as prostitutes. It's a normal job in Germany -- at least on paper. With annual turnover estimated at 15 billion euros (nearly $20 billion) a year, it's a business that cannot be ignored.

European Union members states vary in their policies concerning prostitution. In Sweden, prostitutes are fined when caught turning tricks. The Netherlands and Germany, however, have pushed for complete legalization, with German prostitutes able to receive vacation and health benefits. More 


Business Report - South Africa:
Soldiers, Sailors and Sex Workers Dig Their Heels in
Johannesburg, 18 January 2007 -- Section 23 of the constitution states that "everyone has the right to fair labor practices" and that "every worker" has the right to organize and act as part of unions. It was on this basis that members of the military took the issue of their rights to the constitutional court and won. ... Representatives of a group of marginalized workers, partially inspired by the success of the "workers in uniform", met with lawyers to discuss a judgment that recognizes hypocrisy between law and practice, but refuses to accept sex workers as legally protected laborers. More 


USA Today, USA:
Brothel Owners Take Amsterdam to Court Over Threatened Closures
Amsterdam, 29 December, 2006 - A group of brothel owners representing nearly a third of the "windows" prostitutes in Amersterdam's famous Red Light District have filed legal protests against a city decision to revoke their licenses.
"The court has told the city that all operators of the 37 cafe and brothel businesses who have received closure notices — are fighting it," the city said in a statement. "The city...will wait with further measures until the court has ruled." More 


www.NEWS.com.au, Australia:
All Sorts Dabble in Sex Trade
23 January 2007 -- Lawyers, nurses, teachers, bank workers, cleaners, students and public servants had worked part-time as prostitutes, industry figures said.
While selling sex remains an occupation mainly for poorer, less educated, and unemployed women, and for struggling single mothers, a growing number of women and even men moonlight in the sex industry part-time to top up their incomes. More


Kaiser network.org, USA:
Southern African Leaders Discuss HIV/AIDS Among Sex Workers, MSM
Blantyre, 14 December 2006 -- Leaders from 14 member nations of the Southern African Development Community on Tuesday gathered in Blantyre, Malawi, for the third annual forum of national AIDS authorities to discuss ways to reach out to commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men to help control the spread of HIV. Malawi's Health Minister Marjorie Ngaunje speaking at the opening of the three-day conference said Southern African countries must break the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS in vulnerable populations. "To make advances in prevention, we must begin to tackle honestly the difficult questions that the epidemic raises ... addressing positively the needs of sex workers and of men who have sex with men." More 


Kaiser network.org, USA:
Richard Gere Urges Sex Workers in India To Refuse Sex Without Condoms
12 January 2007 -- Actor and HIV/AIDS advocate Richard Gere at an HIV/AIDS awareness event in Mumbai, India, urged thousands of commercial sex workers to refuse sex without condoms. Gere urged the crowd of roughly 15,000 sex workers from Mumbai and the neighboring Thane district to say after him, "No condoms, no sex." More 


Sydney Morning Herald, Australia:
Sex Workers' Line Hits Street Catwalk
Rio de Janeiro, 23 January 2007 - As the rich and slim flocked to waterfront convention center for Rio de Janeiro's glitzy biannual fashion show, prostitutes in a downtown square took to a cobblestone catwalk for a show of their own.
Sex service workers from Davida, a Brazilian organization that defends the rights of prostitutes, strutted through the streets wearing their new line of fall/winter clothes. More


Amsterdam to Get Statue to the Prostitutes of the World
The Hague, 16 January 2007 -- Amsterdam's red light district is reportedly to receive a bronze statue dedicated to prostitutes around the world. According to the Dutch agency ANP, sculptress Els Rijerse made the statue at the request of a former prostitute Mariska Majoor, who a decade ago founded a centre on prostitution in the Dutch capital. More


“European countries have a negative experience with registration and compulsory testing. We don’t need to employ negative examples.”
-- Gulinara Kurmanova, Director of Tais Plus, an NGO from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in an Inetrview on the occasion of December 17, International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers 

“Commercial sex work is not officially accepted in Malawi and other countries, but the truth is that it happens, and let's open up, we need to start talking about these issues."
-- Marjorie Ngaunje, Malawi's Health Minister at the third annual forum of Southern African national AIDS authorities held in December 2006 in Blantyre, Malawi, to discuss ways to reach out to commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men to help control the spread of HIV. 

"Decriminalization is a big step toward ending violence. We want people held accountable for the violence, our safety and dignity assured - our human-ness recognized."
-- Nicole, one of the sex workers and their supporters who staged a "die in" in December 2006 at Berkeley, California City Hall, to call for the decriminalization of prostitution in order to end related violence. 



Dear readers,

The list of SWAN News subscribers is getting bigger by the day. Please let us know if you receive the News regularly (we hope we are not discarded as mass-mailing spam by your email filter?) and give us suggestions for improvement. If you have news or stories on the sex work issues that you think are interesting and/or relevant for the advocates and policy makers who receive the SWAN News, please send them to us. We will carefully read and seriously consider publishing them. Our email address is sexwork@tasz.hu

Thank you.

The Editor 

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About us:
SWAN newsletter is the voice of the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network, a network of civil society organizations engaged in advocating the Human Rights of the sex workers in Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and South-East Europe. More

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