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HERE IS OUR LETTER IN RESPONSE TO THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION LETTER TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC LEADERS ON THE ISSUE OF LEGALIZATION OR DECRIMINALIZATION OF PROSTITUTION. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC IF YOU DO NOT FEEL OUR LETTER GOES FAR ENOUGH TO BLAST AWAY AT THE IGNORANCE AND IDIOCY OF THE WRITER AND SIGNERS OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION LETTER. TO GO TO OUR COMMENTS PAGE, CLICK HERE

 NSWP- Network of Sex Work Projects
Paulo H. Longo, NSWP Co-ordinator
phlongo@centroin.com.br www.nswp.org
ISWFACE.... because our lives matter!
International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education
Norma Jean Almodovar
8801 Cedros Ave. #7 Panorama City, CA 91402 USA
www.iswface.org normaja@webuniverse.net

Václav Klaus, President, Czech Republic
Petr Pithart, President, Senate, Czech Republic
MUDr. Premysl Sobotka, 1st Vice President, Senate, Czech Republic
PhDr. Lubomir Zaoralek, Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic
JUDr. Vojtech Filip, Vice Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic
Ing. Jan Kasal, Vice Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic
JUDr. Jitka Kupcova, Vice Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic
MUDr. Mgr. Ivan Langer, Vice Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic
Miroslava Nemcova, Vice Chairperson, Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic

May 22, 2004

Honorable Leaders of the Czech Republic:

We recently became aware that your government is taking the courageous first steps in considering the legalization or decriminalization of consensual adult prostitution. Ironically, many of us became aware of this through the letter sent to you by Richard D. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention on May 5th of this year.

In contrast to the Southern Baptist Convention, we wish to commend you for your serious interest in finding alternatives to the current system of outright criminalization of all forms of prostitution. We hope that you will not allow the threats and bullying tactics of Richard Land and those who signed his letter to influence your final decision. By closely examining the arguments made in the Southern Baptist Convention letter, we hope to show that not only is decriminalization the right and moral thing to do, but that many of their arguments should actually be taken as reasons to support the complete decriminalization of prostitution.

We are intimately familiar with how laws which are intended to protect women and children from exploitation are so often used to harass and intimidate sex workers and violate our human rights. Groups who so vocally oppose the decriminalization or legalization of our work ignore the massive violations of our human rights through the enforcement of trafficking and prostitution laws. They refuse to acknowledge that law enforcement officers often use anti-prostitution laws to extort money, sexual favors, and information from sex workers. These abuses are numerous, well documented, and all too common wherever prostitution activity is completely outlawed. Because many proponents of decriminalization are themselves current or former sex workers, it is difficult for us to publicly acknowledge the reason for our interest in this issue for fear of arrest. There are, however, literally thousands upon thousands of sex workers around the world who support the decriminalization of prostitution in order to end the nightmare of police and government abuse against us.

We assure you that we want to see increased penalties and enforcement of laws which prohibit the sexual abuse of children, whether for money or not. We also vigorously condemn the enslavement of any person, whether they are being forced into sex work or any other type of involuntary labor. Groups which militantly oppose the decriminalization of prostitution, however, make no distinction between voluntary sex work and actual enslavement. If involuntary prostitution was the only prostitution that existed, there would be no need for discussion. Criminals who enslaved persons of any age or gender would be the target of the law, and these laws would have a clear-cut meaning and purpose. None of us oppose laws which prohibit the abuse and enslavement of other people.

The truth, however, is that there are many, many adult persons around the world who engage in prostitution consensually, whether because of personal inclination or because it is the only viable economic alternative they have. Some prostitutes like the work while others do not, just as some secretaries, janitors, and waitresses might or might not enjoy their work. Some prostitutes may even find the work distressing, unpleasant, or degrading, just as with some secretaries, janitors, and waitresses. None of this justifies the continued arrest and incarceration of prostitutes to "protect" them from unpleasant or stressful work. Even within a framework that sees prostitution as inherently exploitative and oppressive, it makes no more sense to criminalize and arrest the purported victim than it does to criminalize and arrest a victim of rape. Simply put, criminalization violates our human rights.

Mr. Land argues that if consenting adult prostitution is allowed, then it will be more difficult to enforce laws against involuntary sex work. In fact the opposite is true. When prostitution is criminalized, real victims of violence or enslavement fear contacting authorities, knowing that their reports will often be ignored or even used against them. While it is true that the decriminalization of consensual, adult prostitution will not automatically eliminate child prostitution or trafficking, it does free up resources which would otherwise be targeted against those who do not need or want police "assistance." Not one single child or enslaved person is helped by the arrest and incarceration of an adult prostitute who chooses to engage in prostitution. When no distinction is made between that which is consensual and that which is not, there can be no justice for those who are truly harmed. Decriminalization makes it possible for police to focus attention upon those who violate the rights of prostitutes, rather than upon prostitutes themselves.

The letter written by the Southern Baptist Convention also asserts that legalization promotes the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. In fact, when sex work is illegal, the risks for sexually transmitted diseases are increased because sex workers have less ability to stand up for their rights in demanding condom use. In many cases, carrying a condom is even used as evidence against prostitutes, rendering their efforts to protect themselves a crime. When sex work is illegal, prostitutes cannot seek medical care without fear of being reported to the police, or having money or sexual favors extorted from them. As numerous health care professionals attest, when a group of already marginalized people are forced further underground by repressive laws, STDs and other diseases become more of a threat than when those people have access to proper medical attention and care.

We understand that there are many for whom prostitution is an immoral activity, and we certainly endorse their right not to utilize the services of prostitutes. What we find unjustifiable is the use of threats and intimidation to try to impose these values upon others through the continued prohibition of consensual sexual activity among adults. In the name of protecting us, millions of people around the world are arrested on prostitution offenses and thrown into jail. It is believed that we are being "rescued" from a life of sexual slavery, but how going to jail will protect us from anything, much less pay the rent, buy our food, or feed our children, is left unexplained. If moral conservatives were truly concerned about the welfare of "women and children" they would ask sex workers themselves what we want and need, and they would listen.

We have our own criticisms of the laws which have been passed in the Netherlands. We reject any and all restrictions placed upon sex workers in order to monitor them more closely than other workers. We reject laws that force prostitutes to carry identification papers with them at all times, while others do not face this same requirement. We reject the highly restrictive definitions as to what constitutes a "brothel," definitions which make it difficult for prostitutes to share a space with their friends and thereby work with greater independence and safety. We reject any attempt (fortunately not implemented in the Netherlands) to require medical examinations for prostitutes; such examinations are both invasive and counter-productive. We especially reject any additional restrictions placed upon migrant sex workers, as such laws create the barriers that push people into criminal networks. We instead ask you to decriminalize prostitution to the fullest extent possible, making it commensurate with other types of service or professional labor.

We close by urging you to reject the bullying tactics and threats by the Southern Baptist Convention and others. We remind you that the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands has not prevented the country from fulfilling its international agreements regarding trafficking, and that the United States places the Netherlands on Tier 1 in its annual anti-trafficking reports. At your convenience, we too stand ready to meet and speak with you and other Republic leaders. We are happy to mail to you the volumes of literature and research material which address the concerns presented by the Southern Baptist Convention and others who are deeply ignorant about the reality of our lives. We also recognize that Czech organizations have taken a very positive role in addressing these issues, and encourage you to contact and work with these leaders within your own country. Please do not accept moralistic arguments as a substitute for facts when considering the lives of prostitutes. We ask you to take a leadership role on this issue, and, in a manner consistent with your traditions, maintain the Republic as a model for human rights and democracy for all, including prostitutes.

Very truly yours,

Norma Jean Almodovar Paulo Longo
President, ISWFACE NSWP Coordinator
International Sex Worker Foundation Network of Sex Work Projects
Los Angeles, CA, USA Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, Former US Surgeon General
Licia Brussa, TAMPEP (Transnational AIDS/STI Prevention Among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe) International Foundation, The Netherlands
Rosanna Paradiso, Tampep Onlus, Italian branch of TAMPEP International Foundation
Veronica Munk, Amnesty for Women, TAMPEP Project in Germany, Project FemMigration
Ruth Morgan Thomas, Project Manager, SCOT-PEP, Scotland
Maggie Knowles, Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM), USA
Carol Leigh, Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network (BAYSWAN)/Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE), San Francisco, CA, USA
Zi Teng, Sex Workers Concern Group, Hong Kong
FRIUL-AIDS, Stella Polare, Princesa Project, ITALY
Salome Chasnoff, Beyondmedia, A Voice for Women and Girls' Grassroots Activism, USA
Priscilla Alexander, North American Task Force on Prostitution, USA
Jenn Clamen, International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW), Canada
Liad Kantorowicz, Physicians for Human Rights/Coordinator of the Migrant Sex Workers and Trafficked Persons Project, Israel
Jill Leighton, Sex Trade Opportunities for Risk Minimization (STORM), USA
Shane Luitjens and Daniel Lee, HOOK International, A Grassroots Organization for Men Working in the Sex Industry, USA
Anastasia Kuzyk, Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Andrew Sorfleet, Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (SWAV), Canada
Cyndee Clay, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), Washington, DC, USA
Marieke van Doorninck, Mr A. de Graaf Foundation, Dutch Institute for Prostitution Issues, The Netherlands
Hilary Kinnell, Coordinator, UK Network of Sex Work Projects ,UK
Claire Thiboutot, Stella, Sex Workers’ Advocacy Organization, Montreal, Canada
New Zealand Prostitutes Collective
Coalition for the Rights of Sex Workers, Montréal, Québec
Maggie's, Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project, Canada
Prostitutes of New York (PONY), USA
Feminists for Free Expression, USA
Pia Covre, secretary of Committee for Civil Rights of Prostitutes and Candidate at the European Parliament Election in the European Green Party, ITALY
Marcella Di Folco, president of Transgender Identity Movement and candidate at the European Parliament Election in the Italian Communist Party.
Carla Corso, President of the Committee for Civil Rights of Prostitutes and Author, ITALY
Rudolf Mak, M.D., Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Belgium
Professor Lenore Kuo, Director, Women's Studies Program, California State University at Fresno, USA
Professor PJ McGann, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, USA
Professor Diana Tietjens Meyers, Department of Philosophy, University of Connecticut, USA
Professor Wendy Chapkis, Department of Sociology and Director of Women’s Studies, University of Southern Maine, USA
Electa Arenal (Professor emerita), Ph.D. Program in Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Women's Studies Certificate Program, CUNY/Graduate Center, USA
Professor Yana Hashamova, Departments of Slavic, Film, Comparative Studies, and Women's Studies, Ohio State University, USA
Professor Thomas Waugh, Department of Film Studies, Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, Concordia University, Canada
Professor Mel Hoppenheim, School of Cinema, Concordia University, Canada
Professor Lewis Meyers, English Department, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA
Professor Rosalind Petchesky, Department of Political Science, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA
Professor Laurie Shrage, Depart. of Philosophy, California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, USA
Dr. David S. Hersh, Clinical Sexologist, Faculty, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, USA
Professor David Van Leer, Department of English, University of California at Davis, USA
Professor Dan Pence, Department of Sociology, California State University at Chico, USA
Professor Laila Farah, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA
Dr. Petra Boynton, Lecturer in International Health Services Research, University College London, UK
Mack Friedman, Research Specialist, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, USA
Aurora Levins Morales, PhD, Author and Historian, USA
Dr. Patti Britton, Clinical Sexologist and Author, USA
Veronica Monet, Sex Educator and Sex Worker Rights Activist, TAP Communications, Woodside, USA
Lacey Sloan, Ph.D., MSSW, USA
Dianne Ruth, Ph.D., Counselor, Pretty Woman Project, Denver/San Diego, USA
Judie Keys, C.C.H., Counselor, Healing Magic Int./The Healing Tree, Inc., Denver/San Diego, USA
Edward Tabash, Attorney for ISWFACE, USA
Maria Amelia Viteri, PhD candidate, Social Anthropology, American University, Washington DC
Davina C. Lopez, Ph.D. Candidate, New Testament & Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, NYC, USA
Kerwin Kaye, Graduate Student, American Studies, New York University, USA
Svati Shah, Graduate Student, Department of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, USA
Paige Sweet, Graduate Student, Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota, USA
Emily Cohen, Graduate Student, Anthropology, USA
Leon Loew, author, economist and consultant, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mikhail Armalinsky, author & founder of M.I.P. Company Press, USA
Alex Renault, Author, USA
Bobbie Sellers ,USA
Sonia Werner, USA
Tom Martin, USA
Leona Palmer, USA
McKenzie Zeiss, USA
David Matthew Velasco, USA
Robert Stepanek, New York, USA
William Buchanan, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Candye Kane, USA
Eric M. Budd, USA
Jim Davies, USA
Bernie Baltic, USA
Richard Benjamin Boddie, California, USA
Susan Lopez, Embury, UK


TO READ MORE COMMENTS AND ARGUMENTS FOR THE DECRIMINALIZATION OF PROSTITUTION, CLICK HERE.

This is the final letter that we mailed on June 3, 2004. Thank you all those of you who added your signature to this letter. The final draft and arrangement of the signatures was prepared by Kerwin Kaye and Svati Shah - who also worked on preparing the original draft letter. Many thanks for your help and for bringing this to our attention. Whether or not our letter will have any impact, we may never know. We can only hope that governments world wide will consider that there is a more humane alternative to the current criminalization and legalization of prostitution, and that is decriminalization. We hope that someday our voices will be heard above the roar of the abolitionists and others who say they want to protect us "for our own good." For those of you who have supported us,

THANK YOU.

ISWFACE