Concerns for Sex Workers Amid Serial Killer Investigation

Sex workers are being advised to use the buddy system so that someone knows where they are.
Tuesday, Apr 12, 2011 | Updated 3:12 PM EDTBy Chris Glorioso

The investigation into a suspected serial killer who may have preyed on prostitutes, dumping their bodies near beaches on Long Island, has spawned new warnings for sex workers who advertise online.

Police have yet to identify all the victims, or even say whether the latest six sets of remains are linked to the first four found last December.

But the first four bodies were identified as young women who all posted sex ads on Craigslist. And that has advocates for sex workers making extra efforts to counsel the women on best practices to avoid violent clients. Continue reading

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SEX WORKER GROUPS RESPOND TO LONG ISLAND MURDERS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, April 8, 2011
Contact: Dylan Wolf, SWANK, 347-748-9163, swank@riseup.net
Sarah Jenny Bleviss, SWOP-NYC, 347-841-4908, swop.nyc@gmail.com

New York – Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK) and Sex Workers Outreach Project NYC (SWOP-NYC) are dismayed that four more bodies were discovered on Long Island earlier this week. Police believe that a serial killer is responsible for murdering at least eight people found on a remote Suffolk County beach since December. Reports indicate the murder victims were in the sex trade. As sex workers and allies, SWANK and SWOP-NYC mourn the lives of these individuals and extend our sympathies to their families and communities.

“Sex workers are targeted for violence because of the stigma against what we do,” Dylan Wolf, a SWANK member said, “People think they can do whatever they want to us and they won’t get caught. And because of bad laws, social isolation and discrimination, they get away with it all the time. But like those murdered, we’re not disposable, bad people – we have lives that matter and people that love us. No matter who we are or what we do to make ends meet, we don’t deserve to die – we deserve good lives.”

A recent New York Times article suggested that dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the sex industry have been murdered in New York State since 1990. “Stories like what’s happened on Long Island make us fear for our safety,” said SWANK member Michael Bottoms, “As sex workers, we already know that stigma puts us at risk for being targeted, and so we take as many precautions as we can. But if we do experience violence, most of us can’t go to the cops, because we could get arrested, they might not take us seriously, or they could have been the ones who were violent to us in the first place.”

“When we ignore violence against sex workers, we support a culture where a serial killer can murder eight, twelve, or even dozens of sex workers without the media, the police or the general public being outraged or even thinking twice,” said Maryse Mitchell-Brody, a SWOP-NYC organizer, “We won’t end this violence by keeping the sex trade illegal, because it isn’t going anywhere – this just drives people further underground and makes them more vulnerable to violence. Murders like these show that we must use new strategies to create safety and dignity that don’t reinforce stigma or discrimination.”

To learn more about what you can do to support the rights of current and former sex workers and those with experience in the sex trade to safety and well-being, visit http://www.swop-nyc.org.

SA: Blow for rights

Zweli Mokgata
Thursday, 17 Mar 2011

Sex workers are protected by one law but can be prosecuted under another.

After a recent court ruling, sex workers now enjoy protection under the Labour Relations Act. However, they can still be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act for plying their trade.

The case that brought about this situation is related to a 2006 incident involving a sex worker referred to as “Kylie” who alleged that she was unfairly dismissed by the owner of the brothel where she worked.

In October last year Judge Dennis Davis of the labour appeal court , citing the constitutional right to fair labour practice, found that the council for conciliation, mediation & arbitration (CCMA) could indeed hear Kylie’s grievance, which led to an undisclosed settlement. Continue reading

India: Sex workers rue discrimination against their children

New Delhi, March 5, DHNS:

Sex workers in the country who are forced to live with ostracism have demanded a key legislative change to allow their children pursue higher studies using their mothers’ income.

According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1960, if anybody above 18 years uses the earnings of a sex-worker, he or she can be prosecuted. If the children of sex workers use their mothers’ income, long hand of law can catch them.

“How many children start earning at 18? Why this bias against us when we strive to study and make a living against all social hurdles,” rues Parvati, daughter of a Kolkata-based commercial sex worker. Continue reading

SWOP Las Vegas denounces Senator Reid’s call to eliminate Nevada brothels

The Sex Workers Outreach Project, Las Vegas denounces Senator Reid’s call to close down the legal prostitution businesses in Nevada . This move would put over a thousand people out of a job in the hopes of possibly attracting new businesses to Nevada who allegedly stay away because of the brothels.

“To begin with, it’s just insanity in this economy to even suggest putting so many people out of work,” said Susan Lopez, founder of SWOP Las Vegas . “Where will these women go for jobs once their livelihoods are destroyed? Does Senator Reid honestly believe that it will be easy for prostitutes to find jobs in those businesses he hopes to attract? Does he really wish to destroy these peoples’ lives in this way? This is just political posturing on the backs of real, working women with real livelihoods at stake. Will Senator Reid promise to hire all the women who will be put out of their jobs at equivalent wage rates?”

“ Nevada ’s brothels are safer places than the streets for selling sex,” said Dr. Barb Brents, sociology professor at UNLV. “Brothels can actually help fight trafficking. Furthermore, prostitution still exists in the 49 states where prostitution is illegal. Outlawing brothels will send hundreds of women into the already huge black market, where safety, labor rights, and access to services will become issues.”

Tessa Joy, a Nevada brothel worker and voter, says, “Harry Reid needs to listen to the voices of the sex workers who depend on their jobs in the Nevada brothel system to make a living; to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. As somebody who claims to be so concerned about creating more jobs in Nevada , it’s very hypocritical for Harry Reid to try to put more of us out of work for making a legitimate living. This is going to take away the only legal way that sex workers in prostitution can work in the United States and the results will be tragic in terms of both our livelihoods and our safety. I’ve never tried to put Harry Reid out of work, so he has no business trying to put me out of work either.”

Brothels bring in much-needed revenue to the rural counties in which they operate, helping to fund public services such as firefighters, police, schools and more. Lopez says, “Scapegoating the brothels as being responsible for the bad economy is both disingenuous and dangerous. There is no guarantee other businesses will move to Nevada even if the brothels are eliminated, and if these businesses have issues with prostitution, who is to say they won’t have issues with gambling as well? Are the casinos next on Harry’s chopping block?”

Lisa Mellott, co-director of SWOP Las Vegas and social justice activist, says, “It’s ironic that Senator Reid would single out the brothels as keeping businesses away. Las Vegas ’s entire economy is based on being an adult playground. Wouldn’t that keep those same businesses away?”

“Contrary to Senator Reid’s sentiment that the brothels are a throw-back to the Wild West, Nevada prostitution policy is more in step with the rest of the world than the rest of the US . Other countries across the globe are increasingly decriminalizing prostitution, as it allows the state to more easily address harms and grant sex workers rights,” says Dr. Brents.

Jenny Heineman, a co-director of SWOP Las Vegas and a Nevada resident who voted for Reid, is outraged at his proposition to “take away [her] sisters’ jobs.” She says, “I am a tax payer, a PhD student at UNLV, a sex worker, and an advocate for human rights. As my representative, I demand that he turns his attention to the real inequities suffered by Nevadans: namely the lack of revenue to support our education system. Stop screwing us for free!”

SWOP Las Vegas will fight for the rights of brothels to operate here in Nevada- the only place in America where women truly have the right to legally choose sex work.

NO: Federal lawsuit challenges sex offender registration for prostitutes

Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 12:03 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 1:20 PM
By Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune

People who must register as sex offenders because they were convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex for money filed a lawsuit against state officials last night, arguing the requirement is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Only in Louisiana can people convicted of selling their bodies be required to register as a sex offender, according to the lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The plaintiffs include several women from New Orleans and the surrounding areas, as well as transgender women and a man.

The registration requirement only affects people prosecuted under the state’s crime against nature by soliciation law, which is used when a person is accused of engaging in oral or anal sex in exchange for money. People accused of prostitution, which includes any sex act, are not required to register. Continue reading

Canada: Abuse standard treatment: sex workers

Concern Over Police Conduct; Advocacy group to ask rights commission to
conduct inquiry into claims against police

By Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen
December 1, 2010

Ottawa police are facing new allegations of misconduct, this time toward the city’s sex workers.

A report to be released today by Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist (POWER) claims that city police officers regularly assault, abuse and harass prostitutes and other sex workers.

A few of the sex workers interviewed said they’d even been strip-searched by officers in public areas.

The findings have prompted POWER, a sex-worker-led advocacy organization, to ask the Ontario Human Rights Commission to conduct a public inquiry into the Ottawa police’s “systemic discrimination” against sex workers.

In an 11-page letter to the rights commission, POWER says the Ottawa 7Police Service discriminates against sex workers on three prohibited grounds — sex, ethnicity and “perceived disability.” Continue reading

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