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Roses too


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Why the Asian American Movement has a responsibility to support our sisters of all genders in the Global Sex Worker Rights Movement in Asia, who are harmed by U.S. policies and NGOs, as well as the immigrant sex workers inside our own communities.

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Roses too

  1. 1. Why the Asian American Movement has a responsibility to support our sisters in the Global Sex Worker Rights Movement in Asia, who are harmed by U.S. policies and NGOs, as well as the immigrant sex workers inside our own communities. ROSES TOO ByKateZen,presentedwithKavitaBissoondial ForSeedingChange:CenterforAsianAmericanMovementBuilding,Aug.7,2015
  2. 2. Why should Asian Americans care? 1. Because our moral panic in North America is killing sex workers in Asia, increasing levels of exploitation and violence in the name of “rescue,” while enriching our imperialist NGOs, and funding our military, police, and immigration border control agencies, at the expense of Asian and migrant sex worker lives. 2. Because in the U.S. and Canada, the police target and raid Asian workers and Asian communities in the name of fighting trafficking, but this more often results in arrests and deportations than providing actual help. This is a form of racially discriminatory state violence. 3. Because the stereotype of the helpless Asian immigrant sex slave is largely untrue. Asian and migrant sex workers are daring and entrepreneurial people in our communities. We are all negatively impacted by false stereotypes of our racial and sexual victimhood.
  3. 3. “We want bread, but we want roses too.” 1. Global sex worker movement as a labor rights struggle across borders. Sex work as gendered care work in the invisibilized informal economy. 2. Migrant sex work is NOT the same as human trafficking. 3. Race / class / gender discriminatory policing, state violence, impunity, extortion, social exclusion, and human rights abuses against sex workers, globally and throughout history: it’s time to change this NOW! 4. Criminalization and stigma increase violence against the most marginalized people in the sex trades (10-15% of sex trade street-based people of color, receiving 92% of criminal sentences). Prohibition empowers pimps and incentivizes organized crime, giving more bargaining power to customers and discretionary power to the police, while disempowering workers, and making survival strategies more hazardous for people in the most vulnerable sectors of the sex trade. Instead of focusing on enforcing existing laws against kidnapping, assault, and labor exploitation, the criminalization of sex work makes it impossible to trust the police or get justice for specific acts of violence. 5. The U.S. Anti-trafficking Movement currently serves the state agenda of carceral politics and militarization: Post-9/11 legislation with hidden clauses used to tighten border controls, finance militarized policing, and disguise state violence against people of color under false “moral” rhetoric of rescuing femininity-as-victimhood (while reinforcing heteronormative, patriarchal sexual mores, and racist / xenophobic stereotypes.) The movement should focus instead on: global economic inequality and border / trade injustice, forced labor across industries, predatory migration policies and labor recruitment practices, and social services / jobs for homeless youth. 6. “Rescue Industry” NGOs appropriate, silence, and take away funding from grassroots movements in the Global South, while profiting from increased state and societal violence against sex workers, and deliberately deceiving the public in the mainstream media of the Global North. This is a repetition of history: anti-immigrant moral panic of “White Slavery” during Progressive Era, lead to the Chinese Exclusion Act and creation of FBI. 7. Decriminalization does not increase human trafficking; it increases migrant sex work. “End Demand” through partial criminalization does not work. Labor rights and community organizing achieves desired human rights outcomes more effectively than policing and immigration control. Beyond dichotomies of coercion vs. “choice” – Improving economic conditions through workers’ organizing, global trade justice, & migrant labor rights.
  4. 4. Part 1. “Save Us From Our Saviours!” RESCUING SEX WORKERS BY LOCKING US UP IN SWEAT SHOPS Collateral Damage of Militarized Humanitarianism by Western NGOs in Thailand, Cambodia, and India
  5. 5. “Hit and Run” “In reality, migrant sex workers are being held against their will, in detention in police cells or women’s shelters, whilst awaiting the court hearings for weeks and months. Migrant sex workers have been detained as witnesses for periods up to a year, due to delays in the court hearings. This amounts to arbitrary detention. The police do not provide women with their legal and basic human rights and entitlements.” “Hit and Run” – Report by Empower, grassroots org of Thai Sex Workers since 1984, reaching 20,000 sex workers on a regular basis, leading fight to implement labor laws that effectively reduced exploitation in sex trades during 1990s. Empower has been suppressed by Western anti-trafficking NGOs since the 2000s. PDF  HERE
  6. 6. Sweatshop Suicides & Cambodian peer health outreach Cambodian sex workers: forced into sweatshops to “reintegrate” them and rescue them from trafficking. Garment factory workers organizing with sex workers against exploitation in the garment and sex trades. Rescue raids are violent, degrading, and violate human rights. Pushing sex work underground in Cambodia has led to increase in HIV / AIDS - Cambodia sex worker peer health outreach NPR radio interview. Videos: 1. Cambodian police conduct violent raid for anti-trafficking, resulting in sex workers forced into sweatshop labor – VICE News 2. Rise in HIV after foreign antitrafficking movement pushed sex work further underground. Sex worker peer health organizing in Cambodia. -
  7. 7. “No More TIPs Please” “A Grade 3 means the USA can stop or reduce aid and trade with Thailand e.g. stop buying from the Thai seafood industry who exports 30% of their products. We have not heard of any strategy or plan to assist workers who lose their livelihoods from such actions…. In practice for the past 13 years enforcement of anti-trafficking laws has been limited to conducting raids and apprehending migrant workers in seafood, factories, and entertainment places…. America prides itself on being the leader of human rights yet it just reports the same thing over and over every year for 13 years. Labor standards and quality of life for migrant workers has not been improved by American anti-trafficking policy. Actually we see the opposite in that under Thai labor law workers, skilled or unskilled, can come together to address issues of unfair wages, dangerous work practices and working conditions. The anti-trafficking law is an obstacle to this process as migrant workers who complain face the threat of “rescue and deportation” as trafficking victims. The budget spent on anti-trafficking is substantial to say the least…yet all this money has not resulted in a better human rights or labor conditions for working people. Life and travel has become harder, more dangerous, and more expensive.” “No More TIPs Please” PDF  HERE The International Labor Organization Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific reports: “TIP report harms, not helps, sex workers”  HERE “The TIP Process and Anti-Trafficking Law Harms Poor People” “We have now reached a point in Thai history where there are more women in the Thai sex industry who are being abused by anti-trafficking practices than there are women being exploited by traffickers.” - Empower, Thailand
  8. 8. VAMP - Sex worker peer health project in India: Sex workers trained as paralegals in South Africa: Sex workers that work with / employ the disabled in Australia: 65,000 member strong sex worker union in India:
  9. 9. Effective Anti-Trafficking by DMSC: 65,000 Member Sex Worker Union in India Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee - Labor rights: set worker hours and wages, number of clients per day, workplace safety and health regulations, childcare facilities and schooling for children. - Effectively combat STI’s. Provide help and retraining for exiting workers. Prevent underage workers and forced labor from being in the market. Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Bank in Kolkata: - Largest sex worker-run financial institution in Asia, with membership of over 17,082 sex workers and annual turnover of $2.7 million USD - Microfinance model – financial institution with one of the best recovery rates in all of West Bengal (>90%) - Credit union offering loans to sex workers, financial advice and training for sex workers, and help with starting new businesses. - Educational services and employment plans: vocational training, employment networks for retired sex workers in different fields. - Savings and retirement programs for sex workers holding each other accountable to successful industry exiting plans. - Success of Usha led way for more than a dozen major financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, etc.) offering support to sex workers. Member of Federal National Cooperative Union.
  10. 10. World Health Organization recommends decriminalization: UN Woman recommends decriminalization: LONG LINK – see packet UN Development Programme & UNAIDS recommends decrim in Asia and the Pacific: LONG LINK – see packet UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Amnesty International leaked document: See attached pdf for all documents below:
  11. 11. Human Rights Watch China: arbitrary detention for up to two years without trial, physical abuse and killing of sex workers by police, rampant police extortion/bribery and politician corruption. Cambodia: police arbitrarily arrest, detain, beat, rape, and kill sex workers with impunity.
  12. 12. Link: “Running from the Rescuers” by Gretchen Soderlund, PhD LINK HERE.
  13. 13. Link: “Special Report On Money and Lies in Anti-Human Trafficking NGO’s” - LINK HERE.
  14. 14. Part 2. White Lies, Yellow Peril SAVING PURE PANICKED WOMEN: History repeats: “The Angel of Chinatown” (Liar), the Chinese Exclusion Act, the creation of the FBI, and the wire-tapping “Hero Corps” of the JVTA 2015
  15. 15. • Racial targeting in neighborhoods already facing discriminatory policing practices. • Is it fair to give the police this much discretionary power? Red Umbrella Project: “Criminal, Victim, or Worker?” (2014) Savior with Handcuffs?
  16. 16. “White Slave Trade”: The First Moral Panic (and its collateral damage) • Rose Livingston, “Angel of Chinatown” – self-styled savior, the Somaly Mam of the Progressive Era, who lied about her enslavement in Chinatown, and how she saved “hundreds of women” from terrible Chinese men. Eager suffragettes gave her a national touring platform, and nobody listened when Chinatown locals protested that they’ve never heard of her. • Legislation for xenophobia: Page Act of 1875, Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – The first immigration law barring a specific ethnic group from entering the country, led to the exclusion of Chinese from the U.S. for almost a century. • Mann Act of 1910, FBI – Also led to the creation of the first Federal criminal investigation agency. • It took many years for investigative journalists to expose all of the lies. (READ: academic article HERE.) Only now, in retrospect, do we call it a “moral panic.” Mary Ting Yi Lui, “Saving Young Girls from Chinatown: white slavery and woman suffrage, 1910-1920.” (2009) Mary Lui is a professor of history at Yale University who focuses on Chinatown and Asian American history.
  17. 17. Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) of 2015  Passed through U.S. Senate on April 22, 2015. Now in House of Rep.  Funding for law enforcement. Legitimizing the militarization of police:  Recruiting wounded and retired veterans into special “Hero Corps” to rescue child trafficking victims [Sec. 302].  Priority funding for expanding law enforcement units, paying police salaries and training, and creating new units of judicial prosecutors,  Funding wiretapping initiatives [Sec. 203] and a Cyber Crimes Center [Sec. 302] specializing in computer forensics and internet surveillance technologies to be used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in collaboration with the Department of Defense, for “investigative capacity building” and “data collection.”  Emphasis on child pornography. The Child Exploitation Investigations Unit funds law enforcement initiatives for cyber-surveillance.
  18. 18. First They Came for the…I Did Not Speak Out – Because I was Not a…  Morality language on sexuality and the global increase of state surveillance technologies.  UK laws panning pornography coincide with increased government surveillance of the private lives of its citizens over webcam (Yahoo).  Civil liberties and privacy – sex workers and migrants as first wave.  Rights not rescue: global justice framework.  Words of migrant sex worker in Butterfly, Toronto: “Without Asian workers, Europe and North America would not have reached its level of development. We neither steal nor rob, so don’t criminalize us for working now in your country. Ask the police to stop targeting our businesses.” Who does the global north owe its wealth and development to? Analysis also applies to indigenous people and migrants from non-Asian countries.
  19. 19. Rights Not Rescue: A Global Justice Framework for Sex Worker Rights “Since all forms of migration are potentially exploitative, strengthening labor rights and labor organizations of all migrants – including sex workers’ organizations – is an antitrafficking and a human rights strategy. The challenge is to ensure that trafficking is not marginalized from such forms of empowerment and relegated to a humanitarian ghetto, and that undocumented migrants are not legally or socially isolated from state protection and self-defense. Advocacy groups may be needed to bridge the gap on an interim basis, but their goal should be to establish a legal framework and social capital for self- representation by migrant workers in sending and receiving states.” - Alison Brysk Rethinking borders, citizenship in a globalized world, the role of states, markets, and human rights - for economic justice.
  20. 20. Part 3. Migrant Sex Workers Project WE ARE GETTING ORGANIZED. EVERYWHERE. Our grassroots movement is for global trade justice, migrant labor rights across borders, people over profits and police, bodily self-determination and freedom from violence, for people of all classes, races, legal statuses, abilities, genders and sexual orientations.
  21. 21. For discussion: Yellow Fever? Objectification? Binary fears of Asian women’s sexual power / submissiveness = both exoticization and silencing. How would the empowerment of Asian sex worker voices allow for more authentic and dignified expression? Free from stigma / mystique? Not “objectification” but performance to racial ideals that are constantly negotiated in power plays? Mariko Passion, East Asian Sex Workers Roundtable: LINK.
  22. 22. Support Amnesty International The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) along with several other Asian human rights organizations have signed on to letters to support Amnesty International’s internal policy decision in defense of the human rights of sex workers. Here is SANGRAM’s (India) letter to AI: Here is EMPOWER’s (Thailand) letter to AI: Here is NSWP’s (Global Network) petition: Please convince your organization to sign on to this letter: