Asian sex worker Tammy Le was found dead on the 23rd of January in an apparent murder, according to NSWP member organisation Butterfly – Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network. Her death is the latest in a series of murders of Asian sex workers over the past two years in the Hamilton and Mississauga region of Ontario, Canada. The previous two victims were Jiali Zhang in 2013 and Evelyn Bumatay Castillo in 2014.
Regional updates: North America and the Caribbean
In a December press release, a Florida Sheriff released the names and personal information of 50 sex workers, four of whom were identified as trans. The arrests were part of a sting called “Operation Naughty Not Nice,” which brought together multiple law enforcement agencies in Florida. Fifty sex workers were charged, along with 33 clients and 12 others. Sheriff Grady Judd issued a press release with their names and personal information, including date of birth and places of work.
Newly appointed Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has set her sights on repealing Canada’s anti-sex work laws. Maclean’s reports that Canada’s new anti-sex work laws are one of three major priorities for the Minister. The law is called the Protecting Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). It came into effect in December 2014 as a result of the Supreme Court’s Bedford decision.
NSWP member organisation SWOP USA launched a campaign to end PEPFAR’s “anti-prostitution loyalty oath,” in November. The campaign is in collaboration with SWOP Philadelphia, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Desiree Alliance, and Best Practices Policy Project. All are NSWP member organisations. PEPFAR stands for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It is a United States funder that provides money for local and international projects aimed at reducing HIV transmission. PEPFAR is one of the largest global funders of HIV prevention money, with a budget of $6.73 billion as of 2014.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer failed to appear in a US Congressional Hearing on November 19th. Ferrer may face contempt charges as a result. “Definance of a congressional subpoena is rare and it’s serious,” said Senator Rob Portman. Portman and Senator Claire McCaskill are leading a subcommittee investigation into Backpage’s supposed involvement in ‘sex trafficking’.
NSWP member organisation Butterfly – Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network have called for an end to anti-trafficking campaigns in Canada. Joining the call are No One Is Illegal, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, STRUT, and NSWP member organisations Migrant Sex Workers Project and Maggie’s: Toronto’s Sex Worker Action Project. The group of organisations are centering the voices of migrant sex workers. Migrant sex workers in Canada face police harassment, arrest, detention, and deportation.
California voters will have the chance to vote on restricting porn performers to using condoms next year. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the upcoming 2016 vote earlier this month, according to the Washington Post. The vote comes after several years of campaigning by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
Sex workers in Vancouver, Canada, are planning to create a permanent memorial for their coworkers. Sex workers announced their plans at a community meeting on November 4, 2015.
The West End Sex Work Memorial Project was founded by sex worker activist Jamie Lee Hamilton and sociologist Becki Ross of the University of British Columbia. The memorial is planned for Vancouver’s West End, an area where many sex workers worked in the 1970s-80s.
The Winnipeg Working Group for Sex Workers’ Rights is speaking out against claims that a major sporting event will increase “sex trafficking” in their city. In the lead up to the Grey Cup, a football event, government officials have set up over $45,000 CAD worth of funds to combat “human trafficking” in Winnipeg. The funds will be used to set up a phone hotline and an awareness campaign called Buying Sex is Not a Sport.
Local LGBT, sex worker, and Haitian women’s groups are speaking out against the violation of their rights in the Dominican Republic, reports Diario Libre. Haitian women and members of the LGBT community are often cited as victims of “sex trafficking” in the Dominican Republic. Many work in the sex industry due to job discrimination. NSWP’s Briefing Paper, Sex Work is Not Trafficking, explores this topic.