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

Legal prostitution would be safer

By Daniel Akst
Thursday, April 14, 2011 – Updated 2 days ago

Remember Chandra Levy? How about Natalee Holloway? Nothing is more effective at triggering a media frenzy than the disappearance of an attractive young white woman. That’s what happened when Levy, a Washington intern, vanished in 2001 and Holloway disappeared in Aruba four years later. Sadly, things are different when the woman has accepted money for sex.

Police have so far found the bodies of four young white women, all prostitutes, in scrubby dunes on the beaches of New York’s Long Island (five and possibly six more sets of remains are unidentified). The women had been missing for months or even years.

It’s hard to see what change in law might save someone from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But some of the Gilgo Beach deaths might well have been averted if Continue reading

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.

Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution

Press Release

Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution
The International Union of Sex Workers
Tuesday 28th December 2010 Immediate Release

Contact: Catherine Stephens on 07772 638748 or Amy on 07510 575903

The IUSW welcomes the statements by ACPO’s lead on prostitution and sexual exploitation, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne, that it is time to look again at the laws around prostitution.

Law surrounding the sex industry are complex, confusing and ineffective in targeting harm. In fact, it makes sex workers’ lives more dangerous. There are already general laws to target violence, coercion and abuse, which sex workers are prevented from accessing through fear of the police, as there is an inherent contradiction between the police roles of protection and prosecution.

3,000-22,000 of the estimated 80,000 people who sell sex in the UK do so on street and are criminalised under the Street Offences Act of 1959 if they loiter or solicit; the Sexual Offences Act 1985 penalises kerb-crawling. The Policing & Crime Act 2009 tweaked existing legislation: the requirement for persistent behaviour by kerb-crawlers was removed and a definition of “persistence” for soliciting or loitering was given: twice in three months. That gives this profoundly vulnerable group of women the opportunity to have contact with the police four times a year without fear of arrest.

Over the past 50 years, this legislation has entirely failed to solve the problems associated with street prostitution. The most “successful” outcomes, resulting from expensive long term enforcement, are displacement (for example, street sex workers moved to Norwich as a result of increased police action in Ipswich).

Indoors, it is possible to work entirely legally, but the only way to be free of the risk of prosecution is to work for yourself in complete isolation. Two people working together fulfils the legal definition of a brothel, so the law builds in isolation at the most fundamental level; the owner or tenant is liable to up to 7 years imprisonment.

“Controlling for gain” – legislation on “pimping” – explicitly includes people who are working of their own free will and covers almost every way of working with or for a third party.

Prosecution requires no evidence of coercion, violence or abuse; there have been several recent successful prosecutions where it was accepted in court that the defendant offered a safe, fair and honest working environment to women who freely chose to be there.

Likewise, our legal definition of trafficking fails to meet the standard of either the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking (commonly called the Palermo Protocol) or the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking. It refers to knowledge and intent, not coercion, deception or abuse.

Catherine Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers says, “The law doesn’t just fail to target violence and exploitation, it actually facilitates it. Would we be safer working together? Yes. Is that legal? No.”

A community’s worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable. It is time to treat people who sell sex with respect and to prioritise our rights and safety. It is time to decriminalise sex work so people who sell sex have the full protection of the law.

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Note to anti-prostitutionists: Sex worker movements are nothing to sneer at

[Article by Laura Agustin in response to a book written by Swedish anti-prostitution propagandist Kajsa Ekis Ekmans]

Ordinarily I avoid ideological debates, but this time I had to chime in, because the author of a nutty Swedish book actually lied about me in it. I don’t mean she distorted my ideas – that is conventional amongst feminists who feel they are engaged in a battle to the death about prostitution. No, this was a lie about me and my life: she described me as an employee of the Network for Sex Work Projects, and the company publishing her book didn’t get anyone to check her facts – even about living people, which is reprehensible. Since I am independent with a highly precarious income, and because my opinions are only my own, I could not allow the lie to go uncontested.

The book’s an attack on two activities: commercial sex and surrogate motherhood. The drivel about me is a very small part of the book, which also provides an egregiously selective and ideologically driven version of the history of sex worker rights movements. I decided to use the publishing opportunity to provide a more honest, if still very brief, version, complete with links to the evidence – probably the first such thing published in Sweden. The original book title can’t be translated exactly but means something like Being and Being a Product – the idea of commodification. Continue reading

Sex workers, governments and UN join hands to boost AIDS response in Asia-Pacific region

PATTAYA, Thailand, 15 October 2010 – At the first-ever Asia-Pacific consultation on HIV and sex work, sex workers, government officials and United Nations participants emphasized the need for urgent action to increase focus and positioning of sex work within HIV responses in the region.

Close to 150 delegates from eight countries (China, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Thailand) met in Pattaya, Thailand, to form partnerships and review policies and laws that keep sex workers from accessing HIV services and sexual and reproductive health services.

“Sex work interventions must be central to scaling up the HIV response, and listening to sex workers is crucial,” said Jan Beagle, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) who spoke at the consultation. “Sex workers experience firsthand the effects of laws and harmful enforcement practices that violate their human rights and hamper progress on HIV,” he said. Continue reading

World Cup Avoids Flood Of Sex Workers

by Anders Kelto
July 6, 2010

In South Africa, many feared there would be a huge influx of sex workers to
profit off the tourists gathered for the soccer fest. But for the most part
the fears seem to have been unfounded.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And Im Robert Siegel.

When the World Cup kicked off several weeks ago, it was widely reported that thousands of prostitutes would flock to the country’s nine host cities. And many feared that international traffickers would try to cash-in on the huge influx of tourists by importing sex workers. Well, that hasnt happened nearly as much as anticipated.

Anders Kelto has our report from Cape Town.

(Soundbite of conversations and music)

ANDERS KELTO: In the heart of Cape Town’s central business district is Long Street, a late night destination for those seeking a taste of South African nightlife. Music thumps from the dozens of bars and clubs that line the street, as a never-ending stream of taxis crawls along the road. And like many cities, visitors here are enticed to enter some of the area’s seedier establishments and to pay for sex. Continue reading