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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid