Tag Archives: Pornography

From HIV to trafficking: shifting frames for sex work in India

Hijras in a train in Rajasthan in 2012. Giannis Papanikos/Demotix.

Hijras in a train in Rajasthan in 2012. Giannis Papanikos/Demotix.

The conflation of trafficking and prostitution in anti trafficking discourses not only frames all sex workers as victims in need of rescue, but elides the reasons many include sex work as part of their complex livelihood strategies.

NGOs focusing specifically on ‘sex work’ and ‘trafficking’ (where ‘trafficking’ is conflated with prostitution) in India have only been around since the mid and late 1990s. There has been a steep rise in their numbers in the last decade. Previously, if organizations addressed the needs of sex workers, they did so within the rubric of HIV/AIDS. Indian HIV/AIDS organizations were spurred into existence by the flow of international aid dollars that increasingly became available to organisations working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the first decade of the AIDS pandemic (1985-1995). Funds for HIV-related work in India came from the European Union, Sweden, Norway, and Canada into then relatively new entities like India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). This money provided the infrastructural support for both governmental and nongovernmental efforts to surveil, control, and eventually treat HIV and AIDS. Local organisations also emerged as a result of this new funding to provide HIV-related services to sex workers, men who have sex with men, andhijras (people assigned male sex at birth who live as a ‘third sex’ in the feminine range of the gender spectrum).

By the late 1990s, thanks to feminist debates on pornography and prostitution, an antitrafficking framework—composed of laws, policies, and theories that used prostitution as an allegory for women’s oppression by men—was taking hold within some national governments and segments of the international policy-making community as a primary lens for understanding sexual commerce. This framework now largely dominates the discussion, having become the ‘common sense’ of sexual commerce and even, to a degree, migration among poor and working class people. This is despite the fact that the trafficking framework has been repeatedly criticised for conflating human trafficking with prostitution, and for failing to provide clear parameters for tracking the phenomena it aims to describe. It remains, for the moment, a significant but contested lens on sexual commerce for international policy, especially with respect to interventions crafted for countries in the Global South.

The rise in the explanatory power of the anti trafficking framework for understanding phenomena like migration and the exchange of sex and money in the Global South paralleled an increase in the significance of prostitution in the global image and imaginary of India, usually as the dark foil of India’s buoyant economic growth rates. By 2007, ‘prostitution in India’ had become a categorical focus for charitable organizations, an object of study for filmmakers, a worthy cause for politicians and celebrities, and a Wikipedia entry. This was not due to the discourse on HIV per se, nor was it due to an increase in the proliferation of HIV in India (the national rate of new infections decreased by half between 2000 and 2009). Rather, the increased significance of prostitution to the idea of India itself was linked with the increased global significance of the anti trafficking framework.

While this framework is far from being unequivocally dominant in managing and understanding prostitution, its increased significance in the halls of international policy formulation has helped position prostitution as particularly important to understandings of women in the Global South. This conflation of trafficking and prostitution is contextualised by a number of historical trends, including the ways in which discourses of venereal disease have figured female sex workers as infectious vectors since the nineteenth century. It is also contextualized by the altered conditions for labour migration brought about in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the adoption of neoliberal economic policies in many parts of the world; the well-rehearsed histories of feminist pornography debates in the United States; and the confluence of interests between governments and some segments of women’s movements in seeking to eliminate illegal and undocumented cross-border migration. While migrancy has changed dramatically in the era of neoliberalism, such that economic migrants are vulnerable to wage theft, debt bondage, exploitation, and abuse in new and unprecedented ways, we may ask whether the frame of ‘trafficking’ accurately tracks and addresses these vulnerabilities, or whether it is more effective in protecting states’ interests in securing and monitoring borders?

At worst, the rise in the explanatory power of ‘trafficking’ for prostitution consists of an elision of political economy within discourses of sexuality, contributing to the reproduction of the idea that sexual freedom, autonomy, expression, and even sexual subjectivity are all luxury goods, available only to those whose access to food and shelter is secure. This form of depoliticisation within sexuality politics in the United States and elsewhere has attracted much scholarly and activist attention, as well as criticism from both the mainstream left and the LGBTQ left. In my view, a sustained scholarly engagement with sexual commerce in the Global South would not only offer a way to critique prostitution per se. It would also demonstrate the kind of discussion of sexuality, politics, and power that is possible when sexuality is not primarily or exclusively understood as a form of individuated, innate human expression.

The result of this depoliticisation in understandings of sexual commerce has been the subjection of women and girls selling sexual services to a discourse in which prostitution is a state of being from which they must simply be rescued. In this discursive trajectory, sexual commerce is never figured as a livelihood strategy that is part of a complex set of negotiations for daily survival that include, but cannot be reduced to, violence and precarity. Just as identitarianism marginalises questions of political economy with respect to LGBTQ politics, the conflation of selling sexual services with human trafficking deprioritises and, in some spaces, erases the question of survival with respect to sexual commerce. This individuated frame reinforces and reifies the idea of origins, on the moment in which an individual subject knew, came out, was forced, was called into being, within a fixed subjective matrix.

_Street Corner Secrets _takes up this critique by asking what an analysis of sexual commerce would be if it were to use a framework other than trafficking, one that focuses instead, for example, on the relationship between sexuality and livelihood? How would such an analysis account for violence, without conflating the exchange of sex and money with violence? The book does this by emphasizing the idiosyncratic and extremely local ways in which laws and criminality are interpreted and enforced as part of a larger focus on migration and daily economic survival. This emphasis is able to account for the relationship between sexual commerce and the profoundly uneven and inadequate access to water and land among poor migrants living in Mumbai. Here, the difference between living in a brothel and a slum is, among another things, the relatively higher access to municipal services like water and government-run schools among brothel-based sex workers, compared with those eking out a living in the slums at the edge of the city.

The emphasis in the book on livelihood, economic informality, housing and the liminal legal zones migrants must navigate in the city opens up a number of questions that are subsumed, or unasked, when abolitionism imbricated with trafficking serves as the primary interpretive frame for sexual commerce. What, for example, could a critical examination of sexual commerce reveal about the politics of day wage labour? What would it show about the exercise of state power on the urban street? What could it reveal about economic survival, in the Indian context, or in any other? Addressing these questions brings us closer to discursively repositioning violence, such that we may account for violence as it is meted out in myriad forms by police, housing authorities, and clients against people selling sexual services, while also explaining why sexual commerce endures as a livelihood strategy among people who are extracting survival from an shrinking field of economic options.

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From HIV to trafficking: shifting frames for sex work in India

Hijras in a train in Rajasthan in 2012. Giannis Papanikos/Demotix.

Hijras in a train in Rajasthan in 2012. Giannis Papanikos/Demotix.

The conflation of trafficking and prostitution in anti trafficking discourses not only frames all sex workers as victims in need of rescue, but elides the reasons many include sex work as part of their complex livelihood strategies.

NGOs focusing specifically on ‘sex work’ and ‘trafficking’ (where ‘trafficking’ is conflated with prostitution) in India have only been around since the mid and late 1990s. There has been a steep rise in their numbers in the last decade. Previously, if organizations addressed the needs of sex workers, they did so within the rubric of HIV/AIDS. Indian HIV/AIDS organizations were spurred into existence by the flow of international aid dollars that increasingly became available to organisations working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the first decade of the AIDS pandemic (1985-1995). Funds for HIV-related work in India came from the European Union, Sweden, Norway, and Canada into then relatively new entities like India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). This money provided the infrastructural support for both governmental and nongovernmental efforts to surveil, control, and eventually treat HIV and AIDS. Local organisations also emerged as a result of this new funding to provide HIV-related services to sex workers, men who have sex with men, andhijras (people assigned male sex at birth who live as a ‘third sex’ in the feminine range of the gender spectrum).

By the late 1990s, thanks to feminist debates on pornography and prostitution, an antitrafficking framework—composed of laws, policies, and theories that used prostitution as an allegory for women’s oppression by men—was taking hold within some national governments and segments of the international policy-making community as a primary lens for understanding sexual commerce. This framework now largely dominates the discussion, having become the ‘common sense’ of sexual commerce and even, to a degree, migration among poor and working class people. This is despite the fact that the trafficking framework has been repeatedly criticised for conflating human trafficking with prostitution, and for failing to provide clear parameters for tracking the phenomena it aims to describe. It remains, for the moment, a significant but contested lens on sexual commerce for international policy, especially with respect to interventions crafted for countries in the Global South.

The rise in the explanatory power of the anti trafficking framework for understanding phenomena like migration and the exchange of sex and money in the Global South paralleled an increase in the significance of prostitution in the global image and imaginary of India, usually as the dark foil of India’s buoyant economic growth rates. By 2007, ‘prostitution in India’ had become a categorical focus for charitable organizations, an object of study for filmmakers, a worthy cause for politicians and celebrities, and a Wikipedia entry. This was not due to the discourse on HIV per se, nor was it due to an increase in the proliferation of HIV in India (the national rate of new infections decreased by half between 2000 and 2009). Rather, the increased significance of prostitution to the idea of India itself was linked with the increased global significance of the anti trafficking framework.

While this framework is far from being unequivocally dominant in managing and understanding prostitution, its increased significance in the halls of international policy formulation has helped position prostitution as particularly important to understandings of women in the Global South. This conflation of trafficking and prostitution is contextualised by a number of historical trends, including the ways in which discourses of venereal disease have figured female sex workers as infectious vectors since the nineteenth century. It is also contextualized by the altered conditions for labour migration brought about in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the adoption of neoliberal economic policies in many parts of the world; the well-rehearsed histories of feminist pornography debates in the United States; and the confluence of interests between governments and some segments of women’s movements in seeking to eliminate illegal and undocumented cross-border migration. While migrancy has changed dramatically in the era of neoliberalism, such that economic migrants are vulnerable to wage theft, debt bondage, exploitation, and abuse in new and unprecedented ways, we may ask whether the frame of ‘trafficking’ accurately tracks and addresses these vulnerabilities, or whether it is more effective in protecting states’ interests in securing and monitoring borders?

At worst, the rise in the explanatory power of ‘trafficking’ for prostitution consists of an elision of political economy within discourses of sexuality, contributing to the reproduction of the idea that sexual freedom, autonomy, expression, and even sexual subjectivity are all luxury goods, available only to those whose access to food and shelter is secure. This form of depoliticisation within sexuality politics in the United States and elsewhere has attracted much scholarly and activist attention, as well as criticism from both the mainstream left and the LGBTQ left. In my view, a sustained scholarly engagement with sexual commerce in the Global South would not only offer a way to critique prostitution per se. It would also demonstrate the kind of discussion of sexuality, politics, and power that is possible when sexuality is not primarily or exclusively understood as a form of individuated, innate human expression.

The result of this depoliticisation in understandings of sexual commerce has been the subjection of women and girls selling sexual services to a discourse in which prostitution is a state of being from which they must simply be rescued. In this discursive trajectory, sexual commerce is never figured as a livelihood strategy that is part of a complex set of negotiations for daily survival that include, but cannot be reduced to, violence and precarity. Just as identitarianism marginalises questions of political economy with respect to LGBTQ politics, the conflation of selling sexual services with human trafficking deprioritises and, in some spaces, erases the question of survival with respect to sexual commerce. This individuated frame reinforces and reifies the idea of origins, on the moment in which an individual subject knew, came out, was forced, was called into being, within a fixed subjective matrix.

_Street Corner Secrets _takes up this critique by asking what an analysis of sexual commerce would be if it were to use a framework other than trafficking, one that focuses instead, for example, on the relationship between sexuality and livelihood? How would such an analysis account for violence, without conflating the exchange of sex and money with violence? The book does this by emphasizing the idiosyncratic and extremely local ways in which laws and criminality are interpreted and enforced as part of a larger focus on migration and daily economic survival. This emphasis is able to account for the relationship between sexual commerce and the profoundly uneven and inadequate access to water and land among poor migrants living in Mumbai. Here, the difference between living in a brothel and a slum is, among another things, the relatively higher access to municipal services like water and government-run schools among brothel-based sex workers, compared with those eking out a living in the slums at the edge of the city.

The emphasis in the book on livelihood, economic informality, housing and the liminal legal zones migrants must navigate in the city opens up a number of questions that are subsumed, or unasked, when abolitionism imbricated with trafficking serves as the primary interpretive frame for sexual commerce. What, for example, could a critical examination of sexual commerce reveal about the politics of day wage labour? What would it show about the exercise of state power on the urban street? What could it reveal about economic survival, in the Indian context, or in any other? Addressing these questions brings us closer to discursively repositioning violence, such that we may account for violence as it is meted out in myriad forms by police, housing authorities, and clients against people selling sexual services, while also explaining why sexual commerce endures as a livelihood strategy among people who are extracting survival from an shrinking field of economic options.

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Sex Education & Government / Internet Censorship

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The #CensoredUK hashtag, spearheaded by the Sex and Censorship group, has been drawing attention to some of the unexpected sites that end up being blocked when internet providers buckle to government demands to censor “adult content”.

Nine out of 10 homes will have porn filters on their computers by the end of January, after a Government deal with four big internet providers. Web giants TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky and BT, have all agreed to introduce network filters which can block inappropriate content from all the online devices within the home.

Across several mobile internet providers, however, harmless sex and relationships education sites are being blocked by their web filters.  For example, the sexual health charity Brook, has turned up on website checkers as being default blocked. But this is plainly not adult content, so why?

Another site that is blocked in some cases is the NHS page about sex and young people, which contains questions and answers about the changes teens can expect during puberty, advice around not abusing alcohol, and support for people who want to remain abstinent.

Most mobile providers offer a service where you can report incorrectly categorised sites. It’s unclear what happens when sex ed sites are reported, however.

And a separate study shows over-zealous Wi-Fi filters are blocking many harmless and helpful sites. One in three public Wi-Fi hotspots are preventing access to harmless sex education and religious sites, the research by AdaptiveMobile carried out during September across 179 locations in Birmingham, Manchester and London found.

Sexual health is not “adult content”. Lumping important (and for many young people, the only) sexual health advice they will have access to in with porn is a mistake.  More to the point, politicians need to understand that making internet providers do so is not the Government’s job.

There is also a concern for LGBT teens, some of whom will not have the support of their families and may have little access to safe, reliable information about sex and sexuality. What about them?

Maybe internet providers mistakenly believe that good, thorough sex and relationships education is available in schools, but as the Wonder Women Better Sex Education campaign has demonstrated this year, it isn’t. Sex ed in schools as it currently exists is not fit for purpose. The teaching guidelines haven’t been updated in over a decade and make no mention of the internet.

There are of course a myriad of other problems with the filters system. Sites that are critical of the way sex and sexuality is reported in the media are at risk of being blocked; the problematic news stories that make the rounds about gay people, trans people, and others won’t necessarily be.

Once a Government gets a taste for censorship, they rarely stop at “adult content”, as well. Think that the blocks accidentally keeping young people away from educational resources is a one off? Just wait until a political blog or forum you read gets blocked under the excuse of “banning extremist speech”. It’s not a question of whether this will happen, it’s when.

The bottom line is understanding the deep irony that by presenting internet censorship in the wrapper of protecting kids, we may actually be keeping them from information that has been shown to actually protect them. The question now is: does the Government care?

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New Law in Los Angeles – Adult Movie Actor’s Required To Wear Condoms


Actors making pornographic movies in Los Angeles will be required to use condoms while filming, under a new law signed by the city mayor.

The new regulation has been welcomed by health officials but pornography industry leaders say it could force them to abandon the city.

LA’s San Fernando Valley is considered the capital of the multibillion-dollar US adult film industry.

Correspondents say it is not yet clear how the new law will be enforced.

The LA-based Aids Healthcare Foundation welcomed the move saying it was crucial in protecting adult film actors from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The foundation, which has campaigned for the measure for six years, said it would now seek similar condom requirement elsewhere in the US.

“The city of Los Angeles has done the right thing. They’ve done the right thing for the performers,” said foundation president Michael Weinstein.

He said his group would also be vigilant in keeping track of where porn producers might move to.

Several of the industry’s biggest adult filmmakers have said they might consider moving just outside city boundaries.

They insist that adult films featuring condoms are not as popular and that some actors prefer not to use them.

The new law was signed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday.

The city council has now asked the police, city attorney’s office and workplace safety officials to figure out how they enforce the rule, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Industry experts estimate as many as 90% of all pornographic films produced in the US are made in Los Angeles.

Last year, pornographic film productions across the US were temporarily shut down after an adult film performer tested positive for HIV – the virus that causes Aids.

Above article via BBC News

Our message is clear!

Condoms provide the best protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and it belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.

Normally, the body’s immune system would fight off an infection, but HIV prevents the body’s immune system from working properly. HIV infects key cells in the body’s natural defences called CD4 cells, which co-ordinate the body’s response to infection. Many CD4 cells are destroyed by being infected, and some stop working as they should.

Although HIV can’t be cured, it can be treated. Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and can look forward to a near-normal lifespan.

AIDS
If HIV isn’t treated, the gradual weakening of the immune system leaves the body vulnerable to serious infections and cancers which it would normally be able to fight off. These are called ‘opportunistic infections’ because they take the opportunity of the body’s weakened immunity to take hold.

If someone with HIV develops certain opportunistic infections, they are diagnosed as having AIDS. The term ‘AIDS’ stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. People diagnosed as having AIDS can become unwell with a range of different illnesses, depending on the specific opportunistic infections they develop. This is why AIDS is not considered a disease, but a syndrome – a collection of different symptoms and illnesses, all caused by the same virus, HIV.

Most people who have HIV have not had an AIDS diagnosis. Also, if someone develops an AIDS-defining illness this doesn’t mean that they are on a one-way path to illness and death. Thanks to HIV treatment, many people who were once diagnosed as having AIDS are now living long and healthy lives.

Have you ever had a HIV test?

If you’re interested in having a HIV test, we offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test and you’ll get the results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test. We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days post contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies. We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not always necessary, if you would like a test, please contact us on 0116 2559995

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