Commenting on-Conference: Plan of Action from GAATW

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Carol Leigh (
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 00:09:29 -0800

I was interested in the latest draft of the GAATW paper. It is very strong
in many ways, and I appreciate the women I met from GAATW at this
consultation in Victoria.

Basically, I think this is a very advanced document in terms of women
influencing policy in a way that supports civil and human rights for
immigrants and sex workers...but I believe that the anti-trafficking
framework needs to expand and become proactive in terms of migrant workers'
rights and sex workers' rights in order to avoid the obvious repitition of
history in which the 'anti-trafficking' spirit led to increased
criminalization of women, and reduced legal immigration for women. I
forwarded some feedback about my perception of the conference consensus to
GAATW, and will comment on it further in the future, after the next draft...

To introduce myself- I am Carol Leigh. You can access my website at .
I have much material linked to my site on the issue of trafficking
including some material I wrote at .
My bio is at
Briefly, I have worked as a prostitute for many years, an activist with
COYOTE, ACT UP and other groups, participated in government and NGO
projects. My background is as an artist, and I have produced a number of
videos about a wide range of issues.

I do support the intentions and certainly the strategy is positive so far
as it distinguishes force and abuses in prostitution rather than
prostitution itself as the crime. I don't think we can take an old word
that has been used against us, say that we are changing the definition,
then attempt to use it as our own weapon against others. I think that this
process makes for an inaccurate weapon. On the other hand, reclaiming such
'slurs' as 'dyke,' and 'whore,' owning that these terms define us as they
are part of our language... but these categories are not necessarily
bad...this seems to work as a strategy that encourages community building.
My website has additional explanations of this perspective from Australia,

I invite those of you particularly concentrating on the escalating
discrimination (and worse) against immigrants /and sex workers to look at
my site. Recently hearing about problematic legislation in Hungary, and I
am aware that local Thai women are targeted particularly by police, and
there is much police abuse of Asian women in San Francisco where I live.
In a rare instance, 40 primarily Asian massage workers came to a local
attorney to report police break-ins...being locked in a small room for an
extended period, arrested with no evidence, money stolen, and premises
broken in...I have heard about coerced sex with police officers. I worked
at the massage parlors for a couple of years in this city a number of years
ago, and I found it to be a positive environment considering the pressures
we faced from criminalization.

Our local anti-massage parlor fervor is all in the context of
'progressive' support to fight 'asian crime' including trafficking. The TV
news tonight featured a sleazy vice cop talking about closing the massage
parlors down highlighting the excuse of protecting women from sexual

I am thinking in the direction of how we can avoid former mistakes in terms
in increased criminalization of women.

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