The most exciting thing about the Sex Worker Freedom Festival is that happened at all. How thrilling it was to have sex workers from over 41 countries, and all over India to come to the parallel IAC conference we held in Kolkata to discuss issues that are important to sex workers everywhere. The week-long conference was organised by NSWP, APNSW & DMSC and was attended by over 550 sex workers.
The festival focussed on the seven freedoms that we are all entitled to:
- Freedom of movement and to migrate;
- Freedom to access quality health services;
- Freedom to work and choose occupation;
- Freedom to associate and unionise;
- Freedom to be protected by the law;
- Freedom from abuse and violence; and
- Freedom from stigma and discrimination.
We held workshops and heard news and views and analysis from sex workers in attendance from all around the world. APNSW held Information and Communications Technology (ICT) workshops that explored the various platforms of online communication, with a particular focus on social networking. In partnership with the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), APNSW held workshops for HIV+ sex workers, who got to explore the realms of a potential HIV+ revolution! We held our red umbrella march to coincide with the march in Washington, the ‘Sex Workers can end AIDS Rally’, and it was enthusiastically attended by locals and visitors alike. There was a red carpet night with performances, booze, awards in recognition for significant achievements in sex worker activism. The SWFF saw the launch of APNSW+ & NSWP+, an advocacy platform that aims to make the voices of HIV+ sex workers heard loud and clear!
We feel privileged to have been welcomed so warmly by our local partners, the sex workers of DMSC and treated like family by all of our Indian partners, especially the crews at VAMP and Ashodaya.
NSWP have just issued the inaugural issue of Sex Worker Digest which provides a detailed summary of the topics covered in the official programme and maps out the media coverage that the festival attracted.
“ It is ironical that the AIDS conference’s slogan is “Turning the Tide Together” when two of the key populations most affected by HIV, sex workers and those with a history of drug use, are denied entry to the US and cannot therefore be present – we are an essential part of the solution.”
Ruth Morgan Thomas, Global Co-ordinator NSWP.
“Obama, when he became the president, he said “I am the president of everyone” — that should include gay people and sex workers. He said ‘Yes We Can’ for change! But there’s no change yet, so he has failed the whole world of discriminating against sex workers and not removing that prostitution pledge.”
John Mathenge, Co-ordinator, Kenyan Sex Worker’s Alliance (KESWA), Kenya.
“HIV is our garbo (pride). If it had not come we would not be here. We would have just been lying in the dark getting beaten up. Today we are organised.”
Swapna Gayen Program Director, DMSC, India.