ASWA at ‘Freedom Festival of Sex Workers’ in Kolkata

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21 Jul to 26 Jul

Members of the African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) were among those who attended the parallel 'Freedom Festival of Sex Workers' in Kolkata (India). The festival has been hailed as the “alternative International AIDS Conference 2012 for sex workers and allies”. Many sex workers in Africa were refused a US visa to attend the 19th International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Washington DC in July. 

About 800 sex workers from 42 countries took to streets of Kolkata protesting the fact that they were not allowed to attend the Aids conference. They claimed that no AIDS conference is complete without the participation of those who are an integral part of the problem and its solution. Demonstrators chanted “sex workers’ rights are human rights”.

“No, it does not make sense to have an AIDS conference without sex workers. Organisers of the conference need to be smarter when they think about where to have it; what policies are in the country they are having it in”, said *Jenn a sex worker from Canada.

The Kolkata festival deliberated on the "Seven Freedoms" – the right to move, work, have access to healthcare, participate, organise, be free of violence and discrimination – without which sex workers say they cannot reduce their vulnerability to HIV.

*Only single name given.

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