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WNU organises Protest in Phnom Penh Against EU-India Free Trade Agreement

CAMBODIAN PEOPLE’S STATEMENT

To: H.E. Dinesh K. Pataik, Ambassador of the Republic of India in Cambodia
EU-INDIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT ON GENERIC DRUGS
Phnom Penh, April 9, 2013

Dear H.E Dinesh K. Pataik

We, Cambodian garment workers, sex workers, entertainment workers, people living with HIV, LGBTs, university students, feminists and human right activists from different networks and organisations came together to express our concern about the threat posed by the forthcoming EU-India free trade agreement to the lives of millions of people in Cambodia and many other developing countries across the world. Numerous reports inform us that the FTA negotiation between the EU and India is about to conclude. We are concerned that the EU-India FTA will create another uneven and unequal relation of so-called free trade that more often than not favours richer countries and larger businesses at the expense of poor farmers and workers in developing countries. More importantly, we are particularly alarmed by the severe damage that the forthcoming EU-India FTA may cause to the lives of millions of people in poor countries like Cambodia.

We have been informed about the repeated attempt of the EU to include Intellectual Property Rights provisions that are very likely to undermine the stable supply of affordable life-saving medicines to poorer parts of the world. It is extremely worrisome that, despite assurance made by the Indian government regarding its determination not to include any measures hampering the production and provision of affordable generic medicines, the EU continues to put pressure on the Indian counterpart to accept Data Exclusivity, Intellectual Property Enforcement Measures and Investment Rules, all of which are designed to protect the interests of European pharmaceutical giants by curbing the availability of generic medicines cheaply produced in India. It is apparent that these provisions aim to secure bigger profits for large European pharmaceutical corporations and discourage production of cheap generic medicines in India, which have been saving millions of lives across the world.
We are saddened that behind the rhetoric of democracy, human rights and freedom the EU is in fact prioritising corporate interests to the lives of millions of people. It is needless to say that those affordable generic drugs are absolutely vital for the lives of millions who otherwise cannot afford expensive treatment of life threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS. Many suffering from such serious diseases would not be able to survive without these generic drugs produced in India.

In Cambodia alone, 75,000 people living with HIV rely heavily on generic medicines for their survival. According to the projection of the Cambodia’s National Center for HIV/AIDS (NCHADS), Dermatology and STI, 48,000 out of 75,000 people living with HIV are now on ARVs and Cambodia relies hugely on the generic drugs supported by donors. According to UNAIDS, in 2009 the budget spent of treatment service is about US$15 million per year. We believe that if generic drugs from India made unavailable HIV treatment cost for each Cambodian patient will increase about 15 times from current US$175 to more than US$2,500 a month. Any measures to make such treatment unaffordable to the poor population will pose an imminent threat to the lives of those people and their families including their children.

Having seen the importance of made-in-India generic drugs for the lives of millions, we in no ways can express our frustration about the attempt of EU and European pharmaceutical giants to control the production of these cheap medicines. This must stop right now. It is a true example of putting profits before people’s lives and take advantage of people’s illness for corporate profits. Our lives should not be regarded as a business opportunity.

We urge the EU to reconsider its pursuit of intellectual property rights for medicines and to realise that blindly protecting the interests of large European pharmaceutical corporations will lead to nothing but a subtle form of genocide of the poor, their families and children in developing countries across the world. WE DEMAND:

1. The EU to stop attempting to introduce measures aiming to undermine the production and distribution of Indian generic drugs essential for the lives of millions of people across the world.

2. The EU to stop using FTA to threaten India and sovereignty of the Indian people.

3. The EU to take PEOPLE before profit.

4. The Indian government to resist such attempts of the EU and by all means continue producing and distributing generic drugs for the welfare of the poor.

5. All governments to discard all kinds of FTAs that affect people in poor countries negatively.

We the Cambodian grassroots people from different networks and organisations again strongly urge the EU and Indian government to think about the long-term consequence of such a trade agreement in order for them not to be remembered as a threat to humanity. Otherwise, they will face a huge pressure from international civil society and people’s movements for human dignity. We will continue to struggle against such an attempt to turn our lives into business opportunities, in solidarity with people of India and other developing countries who deserve decent healthy life as much as anyone in the developed world.

OUR LIVES ARE NOT FOR SALE!

HEALTH CARE IS NOT A COMMODITY!

9 April 2013, endorsed by Cambodian networks and organisations including:

1. Action for Environment and Communities (AEC)

2. Cambodian Prostitute Union (CPU)

3. Cambodian Community of Women Living with HIV (CCW)

4. Cambodian MSM Positive Network (CMPN+)

5. Cambodian Network of Men and Women for Development (CNMWD)

6. Cam-ASEAN

7. Messenger Band (MB)

8. National Network of Entertainment Workers (NNEW)

9. People’s Action for Change

10. Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK)

11. Social Action for Change

12. Women’s Network for Unity (WNU)

13. Worker’s Information Center (WIC)

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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.

SW digest Issue 01 Oct 2012

 

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At its 25th Board Meeting in Ghana, 20-22 November, the Global Fund Board decided to cancel Round 11, its funding opportunity for countries to put forward ambitious proposals for scale-up of HIV/AIDS, TB and/or malaria programs, National Strategies and health systems strengthening. The reason for this is lack of money and unwillingness by the donors to invest more in AIDS, TB and malaria through the Global Fund. The immediate consequence is that countries will only be able to apply for funding for continuation of essential prevention, treatment and/or care programs currently financed by the Global Fund that will otherwise face disruption between January 2012 and 31 March 2014. Funding for new programs and scale-up would only come available again as of 2014. This happens at a time when the Global Fund Board also approved a new Strategy 2012-2016 with ambitious targets – that could fundamentally change the course of the epidemics.

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#SouthKorean Activist Arrested at #ICAAP10 from rishita nandagiri on Vimeo.

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We are appalled at the failure of the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific, the Local Organising Committee and the UN in predicting, preventing and effectively intervening in the violence that took place on the 27th of August 2011. We note that the UN has yet to make any public statement about the police violence on the first day of ICAAP.

While there have been apologies and assurances regarding the safety and security of South Korean participants of ICAAP, reports continue to circulate of potential civil and criminal action including charges for alleged damages to the Bexco and PCO. In the case of at least one person, the criminal case seems to still be pending and there is no assurance by the police to this person that the case will be dropped. The fact that meetings with the Busan police and Bexco security were held without us, despite the commitment to do so has made us question the commitment and sincerity of the Conference organizers in responding to the police violence.

Given these actions, we cannot help but view the assurances given so far as a stalling tactic and that Korean activists may face harassment and police action once international delegates have left ICAAP.

We have here five demands for the organisers to address the grievous consequences of their failure to predict, prevent and intervene effectively in the violence.

  1. Assurance that the security, the police, Bexco and ICAAP organisers will be made to destroy all the photos and footage including CCTV footage and identifying personal information like social security numbers and addresses that they have collected and a direction to them to maintain confidentiality under all circumstances.

  2. A direction shall be given to the police to cease and desist from all threats of civil and criminal actions against individual activists and using the said threat as an excuse, knowingly or unknowingly, to disclose the marginalized status of individuals.

  3. In the absence of any anti-discrimination law, an assurance that none of the participants of ICAAP will be discriminated against or harassed by the police or Bexco or any other authority.

  4. An independent investigation such as by the National Human Rights Commission into the persons within Bexco security and the police who are responsible for the incidents of violence and human rights violations and under what authority or whose directions the actions were taken.

  5. Ensure the safety and personal security of all participants of ICAAP during and after ICAAP.

We call on Myung-Hwan Cho, Chair ICAAP10 LOC, Zahid Hussein, President of ASAP and representatives of the UN and Global Fund to come forward right now, in this room and assure us that they will pursue these five specific demands with all their energy and provide their personal guarantees of the personal safety and security of our South Korean friends and colleagues.

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On 27 August 2011, during a peaceful protest against Free Trade Agreements (FTA) inside the ICAAP conference site, Korean and international participants were subject violent abuse at the hands of the South Korean police.

During the FTA protest, some community members noticed plainclothes security inside the venue taking pictures of them. The conference participants challenged one of those security officers and demanded to know what he was doing, and that he erase the photos. An argument ensued, and tempers flared. The officer, who was only later identified as a police officer, refused to tell conference participants why he was taking their pictures without permission, and failed to identify himself as a police officer.

When conference participants tried to protect their fellow community members from being dragged away by the initial small group of police, more security personnel arrived and used increasing levels of force against them. After a violent struggle and the intervention of international conference participants, the plainclothes security retreated outside, but moments later joined uniformed police and tried to violently remove and arrest a number of Korean activists who had participated in the protest. In the chaos, only one person was forced into a police car, a young Korean public interest lawyer, Suh Yeon Chang, who works with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group GONG-GAM.

After her release, Chang said the police did not inform her of the reason for the arrest, which is illegal according to the South Korean criminal law. Even after reaching the police station, Chang said, the police refused to inform her of the reason for the arrest.

More than 100 conference participants (including people living with HIV (PLHIV), sex workers, drug users and transgenders) surrounded and lay down in front of the police car to stop the police car. During an hourlong standoff, dozens of conference participants were physically abused by police and security staff. Several women and transgendered women were dragged by police and in by these violent police actions, and their clothes were ripped. Finally, riot police arrived and, using even more violence, dragged and beat conference participants until the police car containing the lawyer could leave.

As a result of the police violence, three people were taken to hospital and at least a dozen more were injured, including many PLHIV. Though the lawyer was later released without being charged, the police also went to the hospital and threatened at least one of those hospitalized with criminal charges. Repeated questions as to why both the lawyer and the activists were being arrested went unanswered, and no charges have been filed.

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