Desiree Alliance Conference in New Orleans from 10-15 of July

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Author: 
North America and Caribbean Regional Correspondent

The Desiree Alliance Conference is an event many sex workers and allies attend if they are capable of travelling to and within the United States. It is an opportunity to network, skill share, learn and advocate for the rights of sex workers. This year’s conference is from 10-15 July, 2016 in New Orleans. The preliminary conference schedule is available here.

This year’s conference is hosted by Women With a Vision, BreakOUT! and SWOP NOLA. The focus is on the southern United States. As Christine Sardina, the coordinator for Desiree Alliance states, “we are focusing on the southern US because there are so many things that need to be addressed: high HIV rates, systemic violence, racism, high incarceration rates, inaccessible health care and poverty.” The Alliance wants to look at how the southern portion of the United States successfully organises around sex worker rights. 

Sardina also highlighted a few other current key issues in the American sex worker rights movement that will be addressed such as, “how do we come together as a collective and push back on the anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking laws that are incarcerating us at a rapid rate? How do we as a mostly white movement, begin to include sex workers of colour voices? How do we overcome violence as it impacts sex workers? How do we come together to address this trauma and move successfully towards decriminalisation of sex work?”  

A recent post on conference host BreakOUT!’s website regarding the New Orleans Pride Parade this past weekend speaks to some of these issues:

“It is with deep regret that BreakOUT! has decided at the last minute to pull our participation from the New Orleans Pride Parade today due to increased law enforcement that has our community and youth – many of whom are undocumented, youth with negative experiences with police and sheriffs including sexual violence, youth who feel unsafe and triggered when our bodies and belongings are searched, and youth who have already been the targets of private patrols and security in many of the gay bars in the French Quarter (including some that are notorious for not allowing transwomen inside)—feeling unsafe.”

Past keynote speakers and guests include:

  • The Surgeon General of the United States, Jocelyn Elders, who was fired in 1994 because of her views in favour of the decriminalisation of drugs and the distribution of contraceptives in schools.
  • Tim Barnett, a former member of Parliament for Christchurch Central in New Zealand came to present in 2010 and spoke about the positive impacts of decriminalisation in New Zealand.

The same year Tim Barnett attended the conference in 2010, sex workers marched through the heart of Las Vegas, proudly holding Carol Leigh’s sex worker rights placards and posing with her. Carol Leigh is an important member of the American sex workers’ rights movement.

Desiree Alliance is a coalition of sex workers, health professionals, social scientists, professional sex educators, and their supporting networks working together for an improved understanding of the sex industry and its human, social and political impacts. Their focus is on building local and regional leadership and constructive activism in the sex worker population to advocate for sex workers’ human, labour and civil rights.