FIRST: Unionized Sex industry workers made history at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil Jan. 27- Feb. 1 2009‏

For Immediate Release
San Francisco, California

Unionized Sex industry workers made history at the World Social Forum in
Belem, Brazil Jan. 27- Feb. 1 2009. The special trade unionization of the
sex industry forum was sponsored in part by India¹s sex worker union,
Karnataka and the International Commission for Labor Rights. The public
forums featured presentations and discussions by trade union representatives
from South Africa, Nigeria and Germany that support organizing sex industry
workers as well as actual organized prostitutes from Bolivia, Brazil, USA
and the host country India.

The meeting culminated in sex industry worker, Carmen Lucia Paz making a
statement to the Final Assembly on Labour and Globalization that trade
unions and allies in social movements must recognize sex work as such,
calling for solidarity to end harassment, discrimination and forced labor
through the guarantees of the International Labor Organization¹s Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work. Those trade unions should support sex workers
in challenging the laws that undermine sex worker organizing — through
criminal, civil or other means. Historic on all accounts.

Gautam Mody, Secretary of India¹s New Trade Union Initiative of which
Karnataka is officially affiliated, addressed sex worker participants. Mody
stated that unionization comes when workers face their bosses. For sex
industry workers, those bosses present themselves in many tiers; direct and
indirect. South Africa¹s Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce
presented newly released research of Cape Town¹s sex industry. Prostitutes
rights organizers hailed this new study documented in the book, ³Selling Sex
in Cape Town² by Chandre Gould as new standard for researchers when
targeting the sex industry. The study discredits claims by anti prostitution
and migration groups that Cape Town is an originator, a recruiting site and
a destination place for forced labor in the sex industry. The study also
disproves statements that disproportionately high numbers of under aged
workers dominate the sex industry instead sighted very few actual incidences
of underage workers have occurred in Cape Town.

Other distinguished sex work centered acts by NOG¹s such as Brazil¹s Davida
presented on how they were able to create their own funding for HIV services
after tuning down 40 million dollars in 2005 from the United States Agency
for International Development in which required NGO¹s who received the
funding to not discusses rights when delivering condoms to prostitutes.
Brazil considers prostitutes partners in its successful fight against new
HIV infections. Davida produces a clothing line and a fashion show by and
for prostitutes. Prostitution is not illegal in Brazil.

The president of Organización Nacional de Activistas por la Emancipación de
la Mujer of Bolivia told first hand accounts of how a mob shut down work
locations for many prostitutes which resulted in the sex workers going on a
hunger strike and sewing their mouths shut. Violence by police drove many
workers into seeking protection from the church, only to be turned away by
the nuns. Prostitution is not illegal in Bolivia.

But hope was found in the innovative perspective from South Africa¹s
Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union which stated that sex workers
would be included in this union as are other informal sector worker
including children. Nigeria¹s Labor Congress already recognizes sex work as
work. Germany¹s public section union, Ver.di presented on a study of sex
workers from 2002 and has now made provision to include prostitutes who want
to be come members. Prostitutes don¹t have to say they are prostitutes in
order to join nor do they have to submit to mandatory testing.

Other unionized prostitute groups like Argentina and the Netherlands, as
well as other organized groups in Southeast Asia, Australia and Spain where
not represented including two other important leaders of Karnataka, the host
sex worker union. The two leaders were unable to attend because they
didn¹t qualify for visas. One had a charge pending stemming from working in
a brothel and other for protesting the forced rescue of brothel workers by
police who beat and held the rescuees captive in shelters. Prostitution is
not illegal in India. Also not in attendance was England¹s International
Sex Worker Union as members are currently embroiled in opposing legislation
that¹s would further violate sex industry workers¹ human, labor and civil

Maxine Doogan
Erotic Service Providers Union


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