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Background Information on ISWFACE
by Norma Jean Almodovar, President
As the co-chair and co-organizer of the March, 1997 International Conference on Prostitution (co-sponsored by COYOTE LA and the Center for Sex Research, California State University Northridge), I worked with a few academics who, while claiming to be our allies, behaved toward me and other sex workers as if they believed that all the prostitution stereotypes were true.
I wondered how it would be possible to change public perception of sex workers if we had not been successful with those who "knew better." Late night discussions with other sex worker activists convinced me that activism alone could not change these perceptions. If others could see us as the multi-talented, creative people many of us are, maybe we would succeed in revising the stereotypical images which permits society to treat us as it does.
Because of my own interest in art and writing, I felt I must do something to make these dreams a reality. What if, through the reproduction and sale of our art, writings and other creations, we could fund ourselves AND shatter the myths about sex workers? What if we took control of the information about us collected by researchers and made it available to those who make public policy or enforce the law? Why should we wait for non-sex workers to do what we should be doing for ourselves?
We know that if we are to achieve our long term objectives, we must work with others who have practical experience we may not yet have. Therefore we have invited many academics, researchers, law enforcement agents and other supportive non-sex workers who are know to us, to assist us in creating our Foundation.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former Surgeon General of the United States, was the keynote speaker at ICOP, and became interested in this important issue because of the ongoing HIV/AIDS and STD research being conducted on sex workers globally and the impact that these studies will have on so many people. She is outspoken and not afraid of controversy and has accepted our invitation to chair the academic advisory board.
We have also formed a Law Enforcement, Legal Representative and Public Policy Advisory Board. The board is composed of law enforcement agents and government officials who have demonstrated a keen sensitivity toward the human rights issues faced by sex workers universally, as well as lawyers, policy makers and current and ex-sex workers such as Margo St. James, who coordinated the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution.
It is vital that we make current and accurate information about laws regulating or affecting sex work available to communities and legal representatives, and to encourage discussions between law enforcement agents and other government officials in countries and communities where sex work is not illegal and countries where it is.
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