News / Africa

Sex Workers Demand Rights at AIDS 2012

AIDS2012AIDS2012
x
AIDS2012
AIDS2012

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Sex workers say stigma, discrimination and antiquated laws make them more vulnerable to HIV infection, exploitation and violence. They spoke out at 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington.



Sex workers, along with men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users are three groups where HIV infection is rising rapidly. At AIDS 2012, a symposium featured members of the international sex workers rights movement.

Sienna Baskin, of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, said, “In 2011, the U.N. Global Commission on HIV and the Law held regional dialogues around the world. Sex workers participated in every dialogue sharing how laws affect their access to HIV prevention and treatment, testimony about human rights abuses and practical recommendations for change. We thought that the International AIDS Conference needed to hear these same messages.”

Baskin said they had wanted more sex workers to attend the session, but they couldn’t get into the U.S. That’s despite the elimination of the travel ban for HIV infected people.

“Unfortunately, even as we celebrate the lifting of the HIV ban, U.S. immigration laws exclude most sex workers from even attending this conference,” she said.

Kholi Buthelezi is South Africa’s country coordinator for the African Sexworkers Alliance and trains sex workers in achieving better health, human rights and better working conditions. Buthelezi said criminalization of sex work violates human rights. She said sex workers in South Africa have been raped and gang raped, even by members of the police force. She adds harassment takes many forms.

“One of the examples, in Mpumulanga, police go to sex workers where they stay because they know where they live. And then when they get there they destroy condoms. They also force sexworkers to eat condoms that had been used. They also force sex workers to jump over the bridge so that it would look like they committed suicide. In Limpopo, police also ask for bribes from sex workers,” she said.

Joining Buthelezi at the AIDS conference was Sian Maseko, director of Zimbabwe’s Sexual Rights Center.

“Criminal laws are often used as a justification for stigma and discrimination against sex workers from various service providers, institutions and in general the wider community,” she said.

Maseko said the criminalization of sex work makes it impossible to challenge abuses in conventional ways. She describes what she calls “multiple discriminations.”

“Female sexworkers are discriminated against on the basis of being women as well as being sex workers. But it’s also important to note the issues around the sodomy laws, for example, that often violate the rights of male sexworkers. Trans-sex workers often experience humiliation and ridicule at the hands of healthcare service providers. So there are additional factors that violate and infringe the rights of sexworkers,” she said.

She said good health is more than physical. It’s also a sense of well-being, along with personal safety and security.

The panel also criticized a provision in PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath. It’s more commonly known as the anti-prostitution pledge and is contained in the 2003 United States Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act. It requires groups receiving U.S. funds to fight HIV/AIDS globally to agree to a policy of opposing prostitution and human trafficking.

In 2001, a federal appeals court ruled that the government cannot require U.S. organizations to take such a pledge against prostitution. But international organizations face either taking the pledge or losing funding.

Melissa Ditmore, an independent consultant on sex work and HIV, praised PEPFAR for helping to get millions of HIV positive people on antiretroviral treatment. But she said the pledge or oath creates many problems.

“Despite the fact that sex workers face disproportionate risk for HIV and despite the current U.S. administration’s efforts to base policy upon evidence, we found in our research that the pledge is not grounded in evidence, or is grounded in a very partisan interpretation of evidence. By inadvertently promoting stigma against sex workers in health programs the pledge in all its forms increases sex workers vulnerability to HIV infection.” She said.

The international sex workers rights movement and others have launched a campaign to repeal the pledge, as well as provisions that block immigration based on sex work. They also called for an end to criminalization of sex work. They said it drives commercial sex underground while increasing the risk for violence and isolation from health services.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid