Mislabeling sex workers and addressing sexual misconduct between students

Earlier this week, I wrote about sex worker rights and coronavirus and the ensuing racism. Today, I’m continuing to explore those topics.

There is a new article on The Lily that is personal to me. It asks how do we respond to sexual misconduct between students. I’ve thought this as a teacher receiving threats and witnessing threats between students. I have not seen a satisfactory way to deal with it. Schools prefer to pretend that it doesn’t happen altogether. So, I’m very glad this article at least acknowledges the fact that it happens and we don’t know the correct way to resolve it.

A 4th grader was threatened with rape by classmates. She was told to ‘stay away’ from the boys.

When I was teaching 4th grade, there was a lot of bullying between students in my class. Now that I am not working in elementary education, I can talk freely about it:

The discipline policy in schools often punishes good students and rewards bad behavior. (Whether there are “bad students/children” or just “bad behavior” is another topic!)

Full disclosure: As a teacher, I did not know what was the right way to handle threats toward myself or between students. It’s not something I’ve ever been trained on. School administration gives no directions on how teachers should respond when they get threats in the classroom.

To me, it seemed that the school did not want to address that it was happening at all. PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) was about “providing support and preventing unwanted behaviors.” But clearly, unwanted behaviors were already occurring.

The result is a lot of victim blaming and asking “What did you do to provoke them?” It’s no surprise that it’s the same response that victims of sexual misconduct hear in the adult world.

There is no “magic age” that makes kids old enough to take full responsibility for incidents of sexual abuse, said Stone. But for elementary-school aged students, schools should assume kids don’t really understand what they’ve done. When a 5-year-old pulls down his pants on the playground, for example, it’s clearly very different from when a high-schooler does the same thing, said Martin.

I definitely do not wish any child to go into the court system or get sucked into the cycle of recidivism. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem right that boys’ and girls’ harmful actions toward others go unaddressed, even if they’ve experienced it themselves.

The question becomes, how do we teach children what sexual misconduct is and why it’s wrong? After all, adults are supposed to know better and children are counting on us. When we pretend sexual misconduct doesn’t happen in school, we are letting down students who then have to carry the burden of hurt and harassment, as well as students who never learn that sexual misconduct is wrong and go on to do more of it.

‘Conflating Sex Work And Trafficking Is Harmful. We Need To Stop’

There is a really great human rights blog called EachOther. They have a series on sex work, and one article talks about not lumping all sex workers into helpless victims who got into sex work through trafficking.

Human trafficking is a horrific human rights violation that utilises threats, force, abduction, deception and coercion in order to control people and exploit them.

Sex work is a consensual transaction between adults. For many sex workers, this is their only means of survival.

They are different. Sex work, by its nature, happens in the shadows. But there is a world of difference between selling nudes on social media and working in a brothel and being a slave. When prostitution abolitionists talk about sex workers as all the same, it becomes even more harmful to them.

If sex workers feel so persecuted and judged that they don’t even disclose what they do to the most trusted profession in the world, we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

Sex trafficking victims are not prostitutes by choice.

Sex workers are not all helpless victims.

If we really want to help victims of sex trafficking, let’s not talk about all sex workers as if they are in the same situation. They are not.

Explainer: Seven ways the coronavirus affects human rights

Coronavirus is a public health concern, but it also demonstrates why human rights are a MUST. It seems strange to have to prove the need for human rights, yet it’s an ongoing struggle in 2020.

Amnesty International talks about how “Human rights violations hinder, rather than facilitate, responses to public health emergencies, and undercut their efficiency.”

  1. Early censorship
  2. The right to health
  3. The censorship continues
  4. Activists harassed and intimidated
  5. Regional crackdown on “fake news”
  6. Discrimination and xenophobia
  7. Border controls and quarantines must be proportionate

We have to continue struggling for human rights, because it is literally a life-or-death situation. Even if my rights are not being violated, the effects are much closer than they appear to be.

Keep struggling and connecting with one another! Building connections and community is how we resist. ✊💛

Sex worker rights are human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on December 10, 1948. We’ve had less than 100 years to make sense of what it looks like if everyone has basic rights, which has never been the norm in any society. How do we begin to communicate what human rights means and what it entails? 

According to Sunee Chaiyarot, a former human rights commissioner in Thailand, “The big picture includes individual rights, community rights or rights in local areas, and it also relates to the justice system.” Sex workers rights intersect with all the dimensions Chaiyarot mentions:

  • individual rights of sex workers
  • how sex workers coexist with the community
  • the role of sex work in local areas
  • how the justice systems protects or denies the rights of sex workers

Let’s begin to understand how sex workers might exist in the community. 

Help from one (former) sex worker to another

There’s a ton of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding sex work, and groups interested in helping workers get out of the sex trade. For help to be truly helpful, however, it needs to involve people who have been in that situation. For example, CityLight Coffee in Bangkok employs former sex workers. It offers them an alternative to sex trade. They work with other former sex workers who shared similar challenges: physical assault, forced into sex trade, and being viewed as immoral. 

The community aspect as powerful. Twice a week, the cafe also turns into a pro bono hair and nail salon for sex workers. “They are not advertised, but known through word of mouth among the sex workers’ circles.” 

The pros and cons of “harm reduction”

How do non–sex workers help sex workers? Harm reduction seems like a great idea, but in practice, there are so many factors that turn good intent into more harm. In Denmark, an NGO called the Red Van provides “street-based sex workers the option to work in an indoor space equipped with healthcare items like condoms and lube.” The idea is that an indoor space and a third location would make it so sex workers don’t need to follow a customer into their car. 

However, stigma wins out. Residents complain that they don’t want sex work on their street. Sex workers keep their distance. People are careful about being associated with sex work activity, or even being accused of pprofitingoff sex workers, even if they are not customers. 

“Stigma greatly exacerbates the risk of harm for sex workers. It can prohibit sex workers from seeking advice or support and push them into riskier situations.”

Progressive laws that are meant to protect sex workers often have negative effects. The procurement law  passed by the Danish Parliament ended up making it hard for sex workers to rent appartments or get legal and financial help. Sex workers still need landlords and accountants, but the law that is meant to help them makes it so people them down. 

Evaluating solutions

To evaluate solutions or ways to help, let’s go back to the Declaration of Human Rights. 

According to Article 23, “(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” and Article 29 “(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

Given that, we have a few questions to ask:

Does the action empower sex workers?

Does it take away or build on their rights?

Does it make it sustainable for them to exist in the community?

Lastly, the only way that solutions will even be helpful to sex workers is if it takes into account their needs.