The Open Society Institute Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) hosted anupdate on the "anti-prostitution pledge" and its global impacts. The U.S. government has recently sought to require that anti-AIDS groups sign a pledge opposing prostitution. Failure to endorse this oath means health workers across the world could lose funding and be forced to abandon life-saving programs.
Rebekah Diller serves as Justice Program Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, which, on behalf of the Open Society Institute and the Alliance for Open Society International, filed a lawsuit in 2005 challenging the constitutionality of the anti-prostitution pledge requirement. Diller provided background on the pledge and an update on the status of the lawsuit.
Melissa Ditmore, Coordinator of the Network of Sex Work Projects, spoke about organizing and advocacy efforts undertaken since the pledge requirement was passed by Congress in 2003. She showed Taking the Pledge, a 13-minute film about how the anti-prostitution pledge has affected sex workers around the world. The film features interviews with sex workers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Thailand,and other countries. Taking the Pledge is available for download below.
Meena Seshu is Founder & Secretary General of Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM), an HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and support organization working with socially marginalized populations in Maharashtra State, India. Human Rights Watch honored her in 2002 with the Human Rights Award, its highest recognition. She is featured in the film Taking the Pledge and discussed the impact the pledge has had on her efforts to help sex workers in India.
Hazera Bagum directs Durjoy Nari Shangho, a sex worker rights group and UNAIDS best-practice program that lost its funding when the international NGO that funded them signed the anti-prostitution pledge. This resulted in a reduction from 20 to 4 drop-in centers for street-based sex workers, which the group has run since 1998. Bagum shared how the pledge has impacted the sex worker rights movement in Bangladesh.