Print media from 2011

{Begining with most recent}


March 23, 2011: Statement about the death of Kera Freeland

Maggie's: the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project respectfully offers our condolences to the friends, family and community of Kera Freeland.

We must also condemn the recent media coverage of her death, which exemplifies sensationalistic, lurid and exploitative journalism. 

Ms. Freeland was a 20-year-old woman who we believe was also an escort. So far we have no evidence that her death is linked to her work nor that she was killed by a client or anyone connected to the sex industry. We also have no evidence that Ms. Freeland was open about her work to her family and friends. Regardless, her death is being feasted on by those who are attributing her death to her work and her "lifestyle" and her privacy is being disregarded entirely. 

We regard this as sexist victim-blaming and discrimination against sex workers. We're confident that the same associations between work and violence would not have been made if Ms. Freeland were in any other profession. If her death is work related, it is further evidence that lack of rights and criminalization put sex worker's lives at risk.

In our 25 years, we have seen the media and politicians shamelessly appropriate violence against sex workers (whether the violence was work related or not) and use it to advance their own anti-sex work agendas, stereotypes and  prejudices. We firmly oppose any proposal for a "red-light district" as it would only further segregate sex workers, who also live, work, study and have families in Toronto. Sex workers themselves must lead any initiatives to further their safety.

We call on city politicians and media to respect the family and friends of Ms. Freeland and end the speculation about her death and it's relationship to her work. 

If these same people are concerned about the well-being and safety of sex workers, then we encourage them to listen to those who are experts in sex work safety: sex workers themselves.  

Media Contact: maggies.coord@rogers.com or 416.964.0150 www.maggiestoronto.ca


UN Promotes Prostitution as Harm Reduction

Terrence McKeegan // Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute // February 24, 2011

NEW YORK, February 24 (C-FAM)  A United Nations agency is actively funding the full legalization of prostitution with the support of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  The agency even partnered with a prostitution advocacy group to co-chair a UN advisory group on HIV and "sex work."

UNAIDS, a joint program of the major UN agencies, is promoting “sex work” programs under the guise of harm reduction in combating HIV/AIDS and preventing discrimination against vulnerable groups.

One UNAIDS-funded organization is the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).   The NSWP is the featured website on the controversial Interagency Youth Working Group, a US-funded project.  The NSWP is described as an “alliance of sex workers and organizations that provide services to sex workers and promote sex workers' health and human rights.”

On their website, NSWP actually takes credit for the term 'sex worker' replacing 'prostitute'. “More than mere political correctness,” says NSWP,  “this shift in language had the important effect of moving global understandings of sex work toward a labour framework which signposts solutions to many of the problems faced by sex workers. It also questions the stigma of sex work and represents greater recognition of sex workers as rights bearers, with the capacity to make a difference.”

One of NSWP’s major publications is “Making Sex Work Safe.”  The introduction of the publication states, “In general, sex workers have high numbers of sexual partners.  But this in itself does not necessarily increase the chances of becoming infected with HIV.  If condoms are used consistently and correctly, sex workers will not contract HIV – no matter how many clients they have.  This means that sex work can be safe.” 

Section 5 of “Making Sex Work Safe”  is called “Safe Commercial Sex”, and features a graphic photo of an educator demonstrating the use of condoms in oral sex.  The section offers the advice that “sex workers need a range of skills that enable them to maximize their income and reduce exposure to HIV.”

In May 2009, the NSWP was appointed to co-chair the UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work with UNAIDS.  Earlier that year, NSWP was instrumental in the issuance of a revised UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work.  

The introduction to the guidance note highlights a speech UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made to the International AIDS conference in 2008 in which he called for the decriminalization of sex work, drug use, and homosexual sex. “…In most countries, discrimination remains legal against women, men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users, and ethnic minorities,” said Ban. “This must change. …In countries without laws to protect sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men, only a fraction of the population has access to prevention.”

A recent UNAIDS story features a project in Guyana, also funded by the US and the International Labor Organization (ILO), that sponsors sex workers to promote good HIV prevention practices. The story states that the “ILO intends to replicate this partnership with other sex workers’ organizations to reach different groups of workers across the country.”


Super Bowl hyperbole and prostitution

Eddie Lee // Toronto Star // February 3, 2011

If you listen to law enforcement officials, football fans apparently can’t wait to get to the Super Bowl to have sex with prostitutes.

Get to the host city, party, take off your pants. Rinse and repeat. It’s the same refrain every year.

Somewhere along the way, testosterone-lined sports events like the Super Bowl began to have the reputation of rolling versions of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Months before each event, the clarion calls warn of impending invasions by legions of those who belong to the world’s oldest profession.

Last November, Dallas Police Sgt. Louis Fellini warned the National Prostitute Diversion Conference that between 50,000 to 100,000 prostitutes would invade the city looking ahead of Sunday’s game between the Packers and Steelers.

That’s quite the marauding army. After all, most estimates peg the total number of visitors to the Super Bowl between 150,000 to 200,000.

But Fellini is not alone in his estimate.

Last year, Miami law enforcement officials said they were preparing for 100,000 prostitutes to visit ahead of their Super Bowl.

(In a photo taken with a fisheye lens and seen through a window, ice covers a walkway to Cowboys Stadium the site of the NFL football Super Bowl XLV game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 2, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. Charlie Riedel)

In Germany, where prostitution is legal, 40,000 people were expected to be trafficked into the country in 2006 and sell sex at the World Cup. That same number was also touted ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

The difficulty in determining the accuracy of these projections is that, well, there’s no paper trail with prostitution. The activity is highly profitable and, because of a number of factors, mostly hidden.

The most notorious Super Bowl incident took place in 1999, when Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was charged with solicitation the night before he was scheduled to play in Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami.

There’s no doubt prostitution takes place during Super Bowl week, and that prostitutes do flock to big events, like conventions or festivals, but the hyperbole seems to more often that not to outstrip the event.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today that the Super Bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States,” and promised a crackdown on the trafficking of underage prostitutes during Super Bowl week.

And with NFL hall of famer Lawrence Taylor having been registered as a sex offender after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges last month in an incident involving a 16-year-old prostitute, the issue has increased resonance.

Flight attendants from five airlines flying into Dallas underwent special training sessions this week to learn how to recognize sex traffickers and the security measures they can take.

A campaign in Arlington, Traffick911, has been highly visible locally, with current and former NFLers like Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff endorsing their message.

Abbott says his office has brought in at least a dozen extra FBI agents to team with local and state agencies to police suspected traffickers.

Previous similar efforts have led to trafficking arrests, at least one in each of the last two Super Bowls, but no major bust that would make a dent in the illegal trade.

Esther Shannon doubts that one is forthcoming.

Prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Shannon, with partner Raven Bowen, compiled a study that looked at human trafficking and prostitution in 10 previous Olympics and World Cups.

“The commonly held notion of a link between mega sports events, TIP (Trafficking in Persons) and sex work is an unsubstantiated assumption,” their study concluded.

Shannon says the facts are “not surprising, if you want to think about these issues in a common-sense way.

“People fall into quite sensationalistic ways of thinking about the issue and that’s nonsensical,”

Prostitution is foremost a business, Shannon said, and for such major events, it would require a high-level organization to make it profitable.

“You’re looking at moving a lot of individuals to an event; setting up living arrangements and advertising, communication costs, security. The question is, are you going to make any money after all that?”

For Shannon, the World Cup is a similar, but longer, “hallmark” event like the Super Bowl.

The month-long tournament in Germany was expected to draw 3 million visitors and those 40,000 trafficked into the country.

According to her study, the International Organization on Migration concluded that “an increase in human trafficking, during and after the World Cup did not occur.”

As for Vancouver, Shannon says anecdotally, there was no increase in levels of prostitution.

“In fact, there was likely a reduction in work for both street level and inside workers,” Shannon said, citing that added security and a decreased area, with more areas given to the Games, may have affected clientele.

Even within the Dallas Police department, the expectations have softened.

“We’ll probably come to find out it’s no more than usual,” said Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell.