Sex worker leaders
We chatted to John Mathenge, Direcor of HOYMAS and Vice President of NSWP about his life, work and activism. Which countries and/or regions are you focused on in terms of mobilising support for the work that you do? My work as a male sex worker activist focuses on Africa mostly because in Africa, sex work is mostly associated with female sex work and most male sex workers are largely ignored; the voice of the male sex worker rights movement is not heard as prominently as it should; the same can be said of transgender sex workers.
Photo: Malee protesting for sex worker rights. In this photograph you can see one of Malee's new converts. "Jaol sal dovl mil-a lol?” How are you? That is my language from my first home. I have 6 or 7 languages, some broken, some not. Just as I speak many different languages, I play many different roles in my life and I have many different names. To my 2 beautiful teenage children, I am "Mum".
The African Sex Workers Alliance- ASWA is the Pan African movement of sex workers which brings on board female, male, intersex and transgender sex workers. At the helm of this grand movement is Dorothy Ogutu, popularly referred in the movement as the Amarula girl.
In 2012, while she was a university student in Canada, Naomi Sayers attended her first sex worker-only workshop, organised by NSWP member group Maggie’s Toronto. It was an experience that lay the grounds for the beginning of her involvement in sex work activism, and leading her on the path towards becoming a prominent activist in not only the area of sex worker rights, but on intersecting issues too, specifically those of Indigenous peoples. With the current issue of C-36 – the Canadian government’s proposal for new sex work legislation following last year’s Canada vs. Bedford case – and ongoing injustices around missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as the persistence of colonial institutions and racism, Sayers is increasingly called upon for her take on the biggest social justice issues in Canada.
Veteran sex worker rights activist and human rights defender, Alejandra Gil has been in custody on remand for charges related to Human Trafficking. The prosecution is still looking for evidence while finalising their case and all the while it is not certain when the final judgement will be reached by the Court in Mexico. The laws under which Alejandra are charged conflate human trafficking with sex work. Alejandra is one of a large number of women currently incarcerated in prisons all over Mexico under these new laws.
Photo: Lourdes Barreto - 71 years old, 51 years working as sex worker ‘The world has always been small for Lourdes’
Who is Daisy Nakato I describe myself as a sex worker and a leader in Uganda. I am the Executive Director of WONETHA whose full names are Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy. WONETHA is the leading sex workers organisation in Uganda. Our work involves offering HIV testing and referral services to sex workers. We also work with HIV positive sex workers in a counselling and nutritional program.
Gabriela Leite was compelled as an activist for the rights of prostitutes for her entire life by two issues: confronting stigma, and combatting discrimination and violations of human rights. The slogan of the First National Gathering of Prostitutes, which Gabriela organized in 1987, sums up her principal strategy: “Speak, woman of ‘the life’” (Fala, mulher da vida).
In September 2013, several colleagues and I created the Toulouse branch of STRASS. We started discussing this possibility as the debate about criminalisation of clients was intensifying. For all the good words and promises of abolitionists, we knew that the criminalisation of clients would be just another brick in the wall of our oppression: fines, arrests, deportations would not stop… only now; some of our clients would be fined too. That’s Swedish Progress for you!
Photo: Karina Bravo (2nd from the left, first row). Photo courtesty of Karina Bravo Our Latin America regional correspondent caught up with Karina Bravo, coordinator of the Latin American Platform of Persons Who Perform Sex Work (PLAPERTS) and regional representative of NSWP by email. Which countries and/or regions are you focused on in terms of mobilising support for the work that you do?