Criminalization

“No Simple Solutions”: Social Justice and the Sex Trade

May 3, 2011

We know that each of our experiences of the sex trades are unique, and there are no one-size fits all solutions. We are members of families and communities struggling to survive and make the best possible choices given the options available to us. For many of us, the truth about the sex trade is somewhere between a completely empowered experience of the sex trade, which requires only decriminalization to eliminate harms, and a completely harmful experience of the sex trade which negatively presumes all of us to be victims in need of “rescue.”
In response to increased media and philanthropic attention on young people in the sex trade, a collective of radical women of color, queer people of color, and Indigenous people who identify as people in the sex trades, affiliated with INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, are working to center the voices of young people in the sex trades in conversations about policy reform that directly impacts their lives. You can read their statement (excerpted above) in full on the INCITE! blog. Over at Feministing, Jos Truit has a powerful post giving some context and background to how social justice movements can meaningfully include young people in the sex trade. Third Wave has also released a statement (in September 2010) on why we prioritize the expertise of young people in the sex trade.

Posted in: Anti-Violence, Criminalization, Youth Organizing

“Secure Communities” Endangers Women, Immigrants, and People of Color

August 16, 2011

Third Wave lends our support to this statement, released on August 15th, 2011. You can also download (PDF) a version of this statement to share. DHS’ DECISION TO UNILATERALLY MOVE FORWARD WITH SECURE COMMUNITIES PUTS WOMEN IN DANGER Immigrant Rights and Women’s Rights Groups Denounce the Decision Nationwide On August 5th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would unilaterally terminate all contracts with states and localities in an attempt to further implement the “Secure Communities” program nationwide, despite calls for the agency to suspend the program. Immigrant rights and women’s rights organizations strongly oppose this unilateral decision by DHS, before the local hearings on Secure Communities' effects have even taken place. DHS' announcement demonstrates that the hearings are a farce, and that DHS is determined to implement Secure Communities, regardless of public opposition or its demonstrated impact on survivors of crime. We continue to oppose Secure Communities and any law that encourages ICE to transfer its responsibility to local law enforcement. Secure Communities undermines local law enforcement's commitment to community policing, which puts immigrant women, their families, and their communities in danger. Since its introduction, the “Secure Communities” (abbreviated “S-Comm”) program has been opposed by local and state civic leaders, elected officials, law enforcement agents, religious leaders, and human rights advocates. S-Comm forces local law enforcement agents to act as an arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by detaining persons who are arrested, but not charged with a crime, so that they can be processed for deportation. Since implementation began, more than one million people have been deported under S-Comm, the vast majority of whom have no criminal history, despite DHS’ claims that the program targets individuals who are dangers to society. Instead, the program promotes racial profiling, destroys families, and undermines community relations with police that are essential to public safety. Continued ambiguity on the part of DHS regarding S-Comm has led to the Office of the Inspector General to initiate an audit into this controversial program. S-Comm puts survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at increased risk. It is threatening the progress our country has made in the last three decades to bring violence against women out from behind closed doors by making women afraid to call the police for help, for fear of arrest and deportation if they are undocumented. The program encourages violence against women and destroys the community trust in law enforcement that is necessary for safe neighborhoods for all members of a community, regardless of immigration status. Immigrant women are increasingly breadwinners and often provide more stability for their family. Yet they are criminalized, and sometimes brutalized, for trying to keep families safe and healthy. Immigrant mothers, who are simply working to make ends meet, are bearing the brunt of these anti-immigrant policies. They risk being arrested for walking their kids to school, they must worry about who will provide care for their children if they are suddenly detained or deported, and when families are indeed separated by deportation, the well-documented psychological effects on both parents and children continue to devastate families for years. Immigrant communities and women’s rights advocates are coming together to oppose the deeply problematic “Secure Communities” program. We pledge to speak out during DHS community hearings on S-Comm, and at other local, state and national public events. We urge local and state leaders to join us in declaring S-Comms unsafe for women and children. ASISTA Immigration Assistance Break the Chain Campaign Casa de Esperanza National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum National Day Laborers Organizing Network National Domestic Workers Alliance National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Opportunity Agenda Rights Working Group STITCH Third Wave Foundation

Posted in: Anti-Violence, Blog, Community, Criminalization, Immigration

Feminism Was Here: “If You See Something…”

September 30, 2010

Submitted to our "Feminism Was Here" action campaign, on one of New York's "If You See Something, Say Something" billboards:

"It's hard to see these w/o remembering the panic after 9/11, harassment of people believed to be a 'threat' based on the color of their skin, their dress, their language, where they grew up, where people assumed they came from."
Want to take action? Breakthrough, a NYC based human rights organization, has just kicked off a campaign against racial profiling of people or color and immigrants in America, called "Face The Truth." It includes the stories of Lena Masri, who was detained at an airport and asked to remove her hijab in public, and Juana Vilegas who, after a traffic stop while nine months pregnant, gave birth in prison and was refused the right to contact her own family. Once you watch the video, learn how to spread the word.

Posted in: Criminalization, Feminism Was Here

How Criminalizing the Sex Trade Contributes to Violence

May 12, 2011

Writing at The Guardian (UK), Third Wave's Melissa Gira Grant argues that outlawing the sex trade has contributed to a social economy of violence against people who exchange sex for what they need to survive. In addition, she questions how anti-prostitution stings re-enforce race, gender, and class inequalities:

...women, men and transgender people who are targeted in anti-prostitution street sweeps and internet stings may be charged with breaking laws against solicitation, but not all sex workers face the consequences of the law equally. Those who can afford to find clients away from the street, who have a mobile phone or computer access, are less likely to interact with the police. For those who are arrested, if they are in possession of condoms, these may be confiscated and used to build a case for prostitution against them. False arrest – sometimes, simply for walking in an area known for prostitution – is not uncommon, particularly for young people, people of colour, LGBTQ people and people perceived as gender nonconforming. In this fashion, discrimination and economics regulate the sex trade in tandem with the legal system.

Posted in: Anti-Violence, Blog, Criminalization, Media

Khmer Girls in Action Listening Campaign Launches in Long Beach

April 13, 2011

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) empowers young women of Cambodian and Southeast Asian descent in Long Beach, California to be leaders within the reproductive justice movement. KGA's members learn the necessary educational tools and organizing skills to create positive change in their communities, including participatory research as a tool for organizing and action. This Spring, KGA is kicking off a listening campaign to share the results of their first Participatory Action Research project on immigrant and refugee rights, reproductive justice, health, and safety. The youth members of KGA designed the study and carried out the research, collecting findings related to how young people in the Khmer community in Long Beach face harassment and discrimination, and how they are taking leadership to change it. Check out their survey and share their video PSA.

Posted in: Community, Criminalization, Khmer Girls in Action, Participatory Research, Youth Organizing

Moving Beyond “Pro-Life” & “Pro-Choice”

February 15, 2011

La'tasha Mayes and Bekezela Mguni of New Voices Pittsburgh (La'tasha Mayes and Bekezela Mguni of New Voices Pittsburgh, via NVP Facebook) At The Root La'Tasha Mayes, executive director of Third Wave grant partner New Voices Pittsburgh, breaks down the ways our beliefs around abortion go beyond the oppositional frame of "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice:

La'Tasha Mayes, executive director of the activist group New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, says that frequent descriptions of African Americans as conservative and pro-life are an overgeneralization. She argues that it's time the country moved beyond the pro-life versus pro-choice binary of the abortion debate. "It's a limiting concept that says the choices that black women make are black and white. It's not that simple," Mayes told The Root, adding that the broader reproductive-justice movement -- for access to health insurance, family-planning services and abortion -- includes women with nuanced positions who identify as both pro-life and pro-choice. "I've learned that it's about people's individual experiences," she says. "Regardless of her politics and religion, if a woman does not want to have a child, she will not have a child. But the message from opponents of abortion is that we can't be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves and our families. They want to shame black women for the choices we have to make, mostly out of survival." Mayes rejects the idea that black women are being targeted for abortion, arguing that the conversation lacks a full sense of perspective. "The leap from abortion to black genocide is missing many steps in between," she says. "We can't look at abortion in isolation, as if it's a choice made independently from the context in which black women live. "After years of doing this work, I've realized that abortion becomes a choice for women when they have been socially, economically and politically marginalized in complex systems of oppression," she continues. "If you're not talking about race, class, sex and gender issues before you start talking about abortion, then you're missing the larger context."

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Healthcare, Media, New Voices Pittsburgh, Reproductive Justice

Part of the solution: youth engaged in sex work & the sex trade

September 17, 2010

Third Wave Foundation supports the work of young people to make powerful change in their communities.

As a progressive philanthropic institution, we are committed to strengthening organizations led by-and-for young women of color and transgender youth in low-income communities. Our grant partners work on a broad range of issues and employ myriad strategies, including challenging violence and gender-based inequity and claiming rights to economic opportunity, education, and health care. Through the work of our grant partners and through our philanthropic advocacy, we seek to shift historic and systemic forms of violence and oppression that are rooted in gender, race, and class inequity. We do not believe that sex work is a cause of that violence or oppression, nor do we believe that seeking to prohibit safe and consensual sex work or the demand for it is the solution to eradicating gender-based inequity or violence. In fact, these attempts to criminalize sex work often have the unintended consequence of leaving young people even more vulnerable. Prohibitions on sex work -- even when targeted at third-parties such as customers and advertising venues -- criminalize young people and force them further underground in order to meet their survival needs. As a result, they are more vulnerable to violence and isolated from one another and from rights advocates.

Third Wave supports young people engaged in sex work and impacted by the sex trade as critical partners in ensuring health and justice.

We at Third Wave are deeply concerned about the ways in which young women and transgender youth may be subject to abuse and violence in any aspect of their lives. Over the last decade of supporting this work, we have learned that young people come to sex work and the sex trade through a wide range of experiences that include choice, circumstance, and coercion. Our community of grant partners and allies includes sex workers, people involved in the sex trade and street economies, and people who have been trafficked. Regardless of how young people are involved in or are impacted by the sex trade, they must be considered partners in the work of advocating for rights and achieving justice.

We recognize and affirm a difference between sex work and trafficking, and urge policymakers and allies in human rights advocacy to approach these issues with respect for that difference.

These are nuanced and deeply complex concerns. Pursuing a plan of action to address violence, coercion, or trafficking without considering the needs and leadership of young people with direct experience in sex work and the sex trade will result in solutions that do not fully address the harms that young people face. Nor will advocates benefit from the depth of their expertise.

With our support, young people engaged in sex work and who are impacted by the sex trade are organizing in their communities and achieving wins.

Across the US, our grant partners are supporting one another to create smart solutions that are rooted in their day-to-day realities.
  • They conduct research on the needs of their own communities, mapping the complex social service systems that they must navigate successfully in order to seek support.
  • They operate their own health care clinics with state and city-level health partners.
  • They advocate for and participate in city taskforces that address youth housing needs.
  • They have developed their own programs to secure legal advocacy for their communities.
  • They organize and train one another to work within criminal/legal systems to advocate for their rights.
Together, they create innovative new models for peer support and education rooted in harm reduction principles and respect for young people’s power to make change in their own lives.

We value the full range of experiences of young people who do sex work and are impacted by the sex trade, and support work that builds their power and agency.

It is a step forward for policymakers and advocates to recognize that young people who do sex work or who are impacted by the sex trade are not criminals. We must also recognize that not all young people who do sex work and who are impacted by the sex trade are victims. Partnerships between young people and adult allies must support the vision and leadership of young people. We work in collaboration with young people to secure the resources they need to continue creating a healthy and just world. We urge policymakers who seek to protect young people from violence to include young people’s expertise at every level of their decision-making. We also urge our community partners and allies to center the voices and experiences of young people who do sex work and who are impacted by the sex trade when advocating for their human rights.

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Different Avenues, Leadership, St. James Infirmary, YWEP

Redefining Rape, Forcing Pregnancy: Push Back on HR3

February 1, 2011

This weekend, feminist activists ramped up their opposition to HR3, the so-called "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act." Speaker of the House John Boehner has called passing this act “one of our highest legislative priorities.” With a coordinated campaign to call Congressional representatives quickly underway (organized over the Twitter hashtag #DearJohn), it's clear reproductive justice activists are determined to push back hard. If passed, HR3 would put the burden on survivors of sexual assault to prove their rape was "forcible" in order to qualify for any public assistance for abortion. As Mother Jones reported last week, this Republican plan to redefine rape isn't just a hateful attack on survivors of violence. It marks a shift in anti-abortion tactics with devastating implications:

"Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions."
So in addition to rolling back almost all of the (very few) exceptions for Federal funding of abortion, House Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) are attempting to redefine rape in order to restrict abortion access. Reproductive justice activists have long recognized that sexual violence and abortion access are deeply connected. As a matter of body autonomy, we all should have the power to decide when we want to have sex and when to have children. These attempts to regulate reproductive and sexual health access out of existence aren't just an attack on our rights. They are a form of institutional violence, and they disproportionately impact people of color, low income people, and young women, transgender and gender nonconforming youth. HR3 has 173 co-sponsors. You can find out if your Congressional rep has backed HR3, and give them a call to let them know how HR3 will impact you and your community if it passes. Right now, HR3 is sitting in committee -- there's still time to have your voice heard. Once you've made your call, drop us a comment here, or chime in on #DearJohn on Twitter.

Posted in: Actions, Blog, Criminalization, Healthcare, Reproductive Justice

Reflections on Third Wave Grant Partner Reports

May 30, 2012

Part I As an intern at Third Wave, I have been working on a project that involves reading through all the end of year reports from our 2010 grant partners (reporting on their work throughout 2011). I am taking this opportunity to reflect on some of the innovative approaches of Third Wave grant partners, some of the challenges grant partners face head-on, and what makes Third Wave's relationship to grant partners so unique and especially catalyzing. First, let me give you snapshots of four groups that really jumped out at me (not because they are any more special than the other groups, but because their work resonated with me, personally): St. James Infirmary is an organization providing services to sex workers in the San Francisco area. I was impressed with their commitment to providing high quality primary care, reproductive healthcare, gender transitioning, HIV/STI/TB/Hepatitis testing, STI treatments and vaccines, counseling, syringe access & disposal services, support groups & trainings, and especially with their effort to attack the stigma surrounding sex work. They launched a bold media campaign, “Someone You Know is a Sex Worker,” which ran on the sides of public buses. It showed San Francisco that sex workers are everyday people whose rights are human rights, and that sex workers do real work and deserve labor rights. Brown Boi Project’s approach toward Gender Justice from a “masculine-of-center” position seems, to me, truly revolutionary: “We work for Gender Justice by re-envisioning the power imbalance between traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. We hold institutional systems, other masculine people, and ourselves accountable for its accompanying privileges. We draw on a gender inclusive framework that shapes non-oppressive masculinity rooted in honor, community, and empowerment of feminine identified people, especially women and girls.”(2010 report) In addition to shifting the conversation, they created a health guide, “Freeing Ourselves,” which has been presented in numerous venues and distributed across the country, as well as in Israel, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, and the Ivory Coast. In an effort to cultivate this movement and draw upon the experiences of masculine-of-center young people, BBP provided leadership training to 46 young Brown Bois from all across the country in 2011. Justice Now is a human rights organization striving for a world without prisons, and working to end gendered violence within the prison system. In particular, they are doing amazing work in collecting stories and testimonies to bring to light forced sterilization within prisons, and are linking this to historical patterns of eugenics in this country. I found the two interviews and other short pieces produced by Justice Now and uploaded to Vimeo to be very powerful.  But I am equally impressed with the radically grassroots nature of their organization: their volunteers are all people in prison documenting abuse and organizing from within, and the majority of their board of directors is currently imprisoned or recently released. Young Women’s Empowerment Project is run by and for girls (including trans girls!) who are involved in the street economy. They recently carried out a participatory action research project called "Girls Do What We Have to Do to Survive," which found that girls and queer youth involved in the sex trade are systematically denied help from those institutions meant to serve and protect them (police, health services, social services, etc.). The research also found that this institutional violence towards street youth compounds their experiences of individual violence, wounding them even more. One of the outcomes of this research was the creation of a “Street Youth Bill of Rights," which YWEP is pushing to have adopted by as many service providers as possible. Since, as YWEP also discovered, "resilience is the stepping stone to resistance"(2010 report), they are doing their best to take care of themselves. YWEP declares: "For young people in the sex trade in Chicago, this campaign is not solely about access to services but is about gaining the power and skills to be able to name and change the circumstances that define our lives. Social justice for girls and young women in the sex trade means having the power to make all of the decisions about our own bodies and lives all the time."(2010 report) These four groups, as well as the rest of Third Wave's grant partners, are at the front lines of gender justice work.  They are attacking structures of oppression and violence at their very base, fighting to bring about a systematic change.  Next week I will explore some of the challenges Third Wave's grant partners face in the course of this fight.

Posted in: Blog, Brown Boi Project, Criminalization, Grant Partners, Movement Building, Participatory Research, Philanthropy, Reproductive Justice, St. James Infirmary, YWEP

So-Called “Freedom Rides”

December 10, 2010

GRITtv examines the conspiracy tactics of the conservative anti-choice movement and the dangerous racist, sexist and classist implications of their attempt to limit reproductive health options for the people with the least access to health services.  Check out GRITtv Digs documentary series, Conspiracy Tactics, on just this topic. The most recent installment on this topic is an interview with Loretta Ross from SisterSong and Lynn Paltrow from National Advocates for Pregnant Women about the so-called "Freedom Rides" against abortion. Take a look:

More GRITtv

One of our amazing grant partners, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW has been organizing in the face of these Freedom Rides which intentionally use the language of racism and  Civil Rights to increase the criminalization of black women. Read more about what SPARK's been up to here!

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Healthcare, Media, Movement Building, Reproductive Justice, SPARK