Today is such a day and is marked worldwide by conferences, sessions, some public education activity to sensitize persons as to the need to view this part of our community as human beings as well not to be ostracised and scorned as we are good at doing. The term sex worker rights encompasses a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human and labor rights of sex workers.
The goals of these movements are extremely diverse, but generally aim to destigmatize sex work and ensure fair treatment before legal and cultural forces on a local and international level for all persons employed in the Sex industry. In most countries, even those where sex work is legal, sex workers of all kinds are stigmatized and marginalized, which can prevent them from seeking legal redress for discrimination. Not to be confused with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers which is observed annually on 17 December by Sex workers, their advocates, friends, families and allies.
First celebrated in 2003, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is the brainchild of Dr. Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA (SWOP-USA), an American Sex Worker’s Rights organization.
Originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, it has evolved into an annual international event. The day calls attention to AIDS, hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe as well as the need to remove the stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by custom and prohibitionist laws that has made violence against sex-workers acceptable.
The red umbrella has become an important symbol for Sex Workers Rights and it is increasingly being used on December 17: “First adopted by Venetian sex workers for an anti-violence march in 2002, red umbrellas have come to symbolize resistance against discrimination for sex workers worldwide.”
Sex Workers Association of Jamaica the Kingston Chapter has been doing ground work in bringing the issues to public attention, in 2010 PANOS released a report on CSW: ORAL TESTIMONIES OF JAMAICAN SEX WORKERS
The lure of easy money, peer pressure, economic difficulties and lack of education and training seem to be the factors which prompted most of the interviewees to begin sex work. Boy Blue regards his entry into the industry as responding to a higher calling although he hints that none of his previous jobs was as lucrative as sex work. A few of the oral testimonies reveal that early sexual abuse combined with economic hardship helped drive some young women into sex work,
The sex workers have had mixed experiences regarding working conditions
in the sex industry. Some of the women lived on the same premises where they worked. Most have worked in bad conditions as well as in good places where they were satisfied with the treatment they received. Violence is mentioned as a constant threat to sex workers and some shared their experiences of this. They also speak of exploitation at the hands of both club bosses and clients, and of some employers who keep strict control over their actions. Some sex workers feel the police make no effort to protect them as citizens or to respond seriously to any complaints they make.Boy Blue’s oral testimony is in stark contrast to those of the female sex
workers. He sees himself as the star of his own show. He says he negotiates what he does and where. He travels as he likes, chooses what acts he will perform and most importantly enjoys the sexual intercourse (unlike most female sex workers interviewed who said they were careful to separate business from pleasure).
In as far as LGBT persons are concerned especially homeless Men who have sex with men (MSM) this issue of commercial sex or transactional sex in Kingston mostly but also seen in St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann and Montego Bay is worrying as many of the brothers mostly have been thrown out of their homes and communities have had to resort to sex work to survive along with other illegal activity including the illegal lotto scam allegedly. With the treatment meted out to this group of persons by the LGBT community itself through rigid stigmatization and discrimination, classism and literal scorn and outright overlooking by the advocacy groups with no serious intentions for street based interventions thus far one wonders where and when will this group get the attention they desire urgently? As someone who was temporarily displaced in 1996 through to early 1998 by virtue of my public case and family ostracism sans the existence of any advocates at the time I now all too well the struggles to find bread and temptations to engage in sex work with the ugly sides of such activity all too real with the loss of friends or police interventions/harassment on those who were caught in the act leading to all other kinds of problems that bedevil them for years on end in a few cases.
The civil disobedience some homeless men had to resort to against the advocacy structures albeit their own behaviour was not squeaky clean is not to be forgotten in August 2011 which came from some of the men who were displaced by the advocacy structures themselves after the closure of a shelter project due to so called bad behaviour bearing in mind no proper psycho social support mechanisms, tweaking of the original project or keeping the facility open were entertained or kept in place and no attempt was made to correct it instead the men were put to pasture. The we wonder why members of the population resort to commercial sex work? while putting their very lives at risk. Since 2012 alone several instances of chases, attempted beatings/mobbings and more join the homeless as they find themselves put out of their family homes, influentials in the community have limited resources to assist and can only do so much. As for the buggery law that too has caused some problems in proper outreach for msms involved in commercial sex work, we are told for example government through the Ministry of Health cannot be seen directly engaging msms since buggery is illegal and or the misconception especially overseas that homosexuality is illegal when it is not.
also see from sister blog Gay Jamaica Watch: Rowdy gays banned by J-FLAG, JASL ………. (Jamaica Observer)
I implore persons to seriously consider this section of the community who have been overlooked for decades as funds are spent on HIV/AIDS interventions supposedly to include this group without any rehabilitation effort or psycho social support yet we have ended up with an infection rate of over 31% as the new study conducted last year seems over the original 31% rates in 2007. Homeless MSMs and CSWs are only good for statistical dartboarding more so than helping these persons to improve their living situations it seems.
Peace and tolerance