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Interview: global anti-prostitution policy

SWAN News: How do American sex workers feel about the US prostitution policy abroad?
The sex worker activists I have worked with are angry, sad and disempowered by the [anti-prostitution] Pledge, the devastating impact this has on the lives of sex workers around the world and the ways this has effected our communities, rendering us estranged from broader liberal/left communities.

SN: Are American sex workers affected by the anti-prostitution pledge and Trafficking In Person report?
We are effected in that there is a general repression of sex worker rights in tandem with the values of the pledge. Even US-based groups which work in the US are impacted. We often (rightly) note that funding for sex workers who are less-than-repentant, who don't see all sex work as trafficking, is scarce. To a long time activist who saw the HIV/AIDS health activists rally to support sex workers, this turn of events represents a serious step backward in sex worker rights. Many organizations and activists seem to keep their distance from sex worker rights activists, and that was not so much the case in the late 80s and early 90s. This is disheartening, however the sex workers' movement has a great momentum and is growing.

I personally feel hope and look forward to dedicated activism targeting the [anti-prostitution] Pledge. I believe this is one of the primary issues and the sex worker rights perspectives will come to the forefront soon. The anti-trafficking/anti-prostitution movement will take some time to "wind down", however.

SN: Does it feel like anything has changed for sex workers' rights under President Obama (in the US and abroad)?
Secretary Sebelius threw us under the bus in her last modification of funding guidelines. Obama has a tendency to choose a "bipartisan" strategy, and one of the few things that the Republicans and Democrats can collaborate on is finding ways to increase repression of sex work, and, of course, exporting that ideology globally.

SN: Did the American petition against the anti-prostitution pledge have any positive outcomes?
Secretary Sebelius ignored the petitions, not admitting that she received 4 or 5 hundred signatures. Instead, in her report, she mentioned only a few letters, on both sides. The positive outcomes include a first step in organizing on a broad basis as a response to the Pledge. The 2005 petition which 200 global organizations signed on to had little success in terms of effecting policy, but did go far in educating left/liberal communities.

SN: What strategies would you recommend to sex workers all over the world to pressure the US government for change?
We launch a targeted, focused international campaign. An international petition would be valuable even as a teaching tool. It has also been apparent to me that sex worker activists from the US receive little or no support for work addressing these issues. This is starting to change, but I noticed, since the advent of this wave of repression, that sex worker activists are not included as PARTNERS with non-sex worker organizations, that funding opportunities often exclude US-based sex worker activists and that there has been a lack of support, especially when compared to conditions in the response to the AIDS crisis.

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