to Main Page: Bush Anti-Prostituion Loyalty Oath
Compiled by Prostitutes' Education Network
Activist responses to:
Progression of UNAIDS Global Gag Order to US Justice Department National Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath
Feb 28, 2005
Administration To Require U.S. AIDS Groups Take Pledge Opposing Commercial
Sex Work To Gain Funding-Click for Source
The Bush administration is requiring that U.S. HIV/AIDS organizations seeking funding to provide services in other countries make a pledge opposing commercial sex work, and some Republican lawmakers and administration officials are pushing for a similar policy for needle-exchange programs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Under the new policy, even groups whose HIV/AIDS work in other countries has "nothing to do" with commercial sex workers will have to make a written pledge opposing commercial sex work or risk losing federal funding, according to the Journal. In addition, the Bush administration might refuse to fund HIV/AIDS groups that do not accept Bush's "social agenda" on issues such as sexual abstinence and drug use, according to the Journal. The new policy stems from two 2003 laws, one involving HIV/AIDS funding and another regarding sex trafficking (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 2/28). One measure was included as an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), in the legislation (HR 1298) that authorized the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 focus countries. The measure prohibits funds from going to any group or organization that does not have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/3/03). The U.S. Department of Justice initially told the administration that the requirement should be applied to overseas groups only because of constitutional free speech concerns in applying it to U.S. organizations, according to the Journal. However, DOJ in 2004 "reversed itself" and said that the administration could apply the rule to U.S. groups, according to the Journal.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said that although there is "conservative support" for U.S. HIV/AIDS programs overseas, "there are areas of concern ... that risk the continued support from a number of conservative members and conservative groups." Many U.S. HIV/AIDS organizations providing services in other countries are "reluctant" to make a pledge opposing commercial sex work because the groups often work with commercial sex workers to distribute condoms and say that such pledges could lead to "official stigmatization" of commercial sex workers that could lead to their further isolation, according to the Journal. Some HIV/AIDS groups favor a strategy of "harm reduction" that acknowledges that some people will engage in high-risk behaviors -- including commercial sex work and injection drug use -- and that the best way to prevent the spread of HIV is to make those behaviors less dangerous. U.S. officials said that some HIV/AIDS groups that have applied for grants have agreed to sign the pledge, but they would not identify the groups by name, according to the Journal. Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at Concerned Women for America, said that federal funding for international aid programs often has gone to "left-leaning groups" and that the new Bush administration policy would "redress that imbalance," according to the Journal. Susan Cohen, director of government affairs for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, said that the Bush administration's new policy is "another salvo in the campaign that the administration and its fellow conservatives are undertaking to create more and more litmus tests and blacklists of those they're willing to do business with."
Some congressional Republicans have been working to prevent federal funding from going to groups that advocate needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV among injection drug users, with Reps. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.) leading the effort, according to the Journal. Brownback earlier this month in a memo to his political allies outlined a strategy seeking a ban on USAID grants going to any organizations that do not "fully support" Bush's views on issues, including drug use and sexual abstinence, the Journal reports. A "major target" of the congressional Republican attempts to ban funding from going to groups supporting needle exchange is the Open Society Institute, which was founded by billionaire financier George Soros, according to the Journal. OSI supports needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV in former Soviet Union countries. Although Soros' aides say that no federal funding goes to OSI's needle-exchange programs, Souder began investigating OSI after Soros spent "millions of dollars" during the 2004 election campaign to oppose Bush's re-election, the Journal reports. USAID policy prohibits federal funding from going to needle-exchange efforts, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 2/28).
20 March 2005
- A Misguided Anti-Vice Pledge -Click for Source
(Los Angeles Times) -- Social conservatives in Congress, backed by the Catholic Church and the Christian right, are on a new foray to dictate sexual mores to the rest of the world, at the expense of public health. This time it's an oath being foisted on U.S. groups working to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They will soon be asked to comply with a 2-year-old law dictating that they have "a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking" before they will be considered for federal grants to provide health services overseas.
The pledge is reminiscent of other Bush administration efforts including the re-imposition of the so-called global gag rule, which bans international family planning groups that receive U.S. funds from performing or even discussing abortion. It is as unproductive as pushing the United Nations to withdraw support for needle-exchange programs. Such policies do little to stem HIV, and contribute to the deaths of women forced to seek illegal and unsafe abortions.
AIDS experts agree almost uniformly that the anti-prostitution pledge could have the opposite of its intended effect, making it tougher for aid groups to reach the women who most need their help -- and who play a major role in the spread of the disease.
The pledge has its origins in a law passed by Congress in 2003 but not used as a litmus test for funding until now. At stake is the entire $3.2 billion the Bush administration has asked Congress to set aside for global efforts to curb AIDS and HIV next year.
It's absurd to suppose that any of the groups working to combat HIV in the Third World -- like Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam -- are in favor of prostitution. But a big part of fighting HIV/AIDS necessarily involves working with prostitutes and building trust so that they're willing to seek treatment and counseling.
The pledge will not prevent groups from giving condoms or antiretroviral drugs to prostitutes. But it might stand in the way in other cases, with highly damaging effects.
For instance, aid workers in Bangladesh sometimes pass out shoes to brothel workers who are forced by local custom to go barefoot. That might not seem like a way to stem AIDS, but it helps gain their trust and gives them a measure of self-respect -- without which they are unlikely to change their behavior. Would these handouts, or counseling sessions for sex workers on personal hygiene, be considered a violation of the anti-prostitution pledge? Its vague wording leaves that unclear. What is apparent is that it could easily be used to deny funding to groups that legislators don't like.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) helped delay efforts to apply the 2003 law to U.S. groups working overseas. This year he has stood on the sidelines. Frist -- who regularly travels to Africa to do pro bono work as a physician -- knows the situation on the ground far better than most of his colleagues. He should stand up to his fellow conservatives and speak out against the pledge. U.S. groups working overseas should also refuse to sign it. These groups fully understand why prostitution is a public health disaster in the developing world. They are working hard to give women better options, not through coercion or moralizing, but through venereal disease counseling, domestic violence prevention, literacy programs, job training and other social support. They shouldn't be forced to prove their sincerity by signing a pledge that could be used cavalierly against them.
If conservatives want to go after prostitution in the Third World, they can fund religious groups to proselytize against it. Interfering in the fight against HIV is a misguided policy that could cost lives.
Source: The Religious Consultation
March 29, 2005
US funding limitations -Click for Source
Network of Sex Work Projects
We are writing to express our strong belief that UNAIDS must reject the US-required limitations on funding use. It is unthinkable that the nation with the highest HIV prevalence in the developed world should be able to dictate policies on HIV prevention. It is reprehensible that prevention of HIV would be limited to organizations who take a stance prohibiting prostitution, alienating some of the strongest groups working with sex workers. Sex workers are integral to effective prevention efforts with prostitutes, their clients, and their families. Additionally, US funding is not allowed to be used for needle exchange, which is proven to prevent HIV. This US policy is counter to all public health data."
Condoms are the only effective prevention technology available to sexually active people and must be emphasized in every HIV prevention effort. The US promotes a model based on abstinence, fidelity and lastly, condom use. However, in places where HIV prevalence is extremely high, fidelity is no preventive for HIV. Safe sex goes far beyond ABC and requires a comprehensive approach including full information about all ways to prevent HIV. For these reasons, it is imperative that UNAIDS reject the US funding restrictions.
March 30, 2005
from Dr. Amitrajit Saha, Kolkata, India:-Click
This is indeed a trying time for all of us engaged in working against the HIV/AIDS epidemic! Adding "moral" strings to US govt. funding at this stage of the epidemic will mean that in near future a number of INGOs (including agencies like UNAIDS) will become BOUND by US decrees to sign that if they want US funds, they would not be able to support/fund sex workers' organisations or groups - despite these being one of the best ways at risk groups can prevent HIV (as has been proved innumerable times). They also have to agree NOT to support needle-exchange programmes and other harm-reduction activities!
Which brings up the question: what really is the Bush Administration trying to do in the name of "preventing HIV/AIDS"? When the most powerful administration in the world tries to attach 'moral' strings to funds for prevention of the world's worst epidemic - it is cause for worry.
At this point in time, it is upon INGOs and other international agencies that receive funds from AID to stand up and be counted ˆ and refuse to knuckle down to the pressures (and hidden agendas) of the Bush Administration Are folks out there listening and up to it?
Dr. Amitrajit Saha
April 13, 2005 President Urged (by Rep. Waxman) to Reject Pledge Requirements in HIV/AIDS Funding -Click for Source
Rep. Waxman asks the President to direct federal agencies not to condition the receipt of global AIDS or anti-trafficking funds by U.S.-based organizations on the signing of a pledge condemning prostitution.
Federal agencies recently began requiring U.S.-based groups receiving funds under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to explicitly commit to opposing prostitution. Public health and social service groups have expressed concern that the move will create a stigma that will impede work with populations at risk from prostitution. In a letter to the President, Rep. Waxman cites the far-reaching implications of a precedent of imposing potentially unconstitutional speech restrictions and policy requirements on U.S. organizations. Rep. Waxman urges the President to instruct his Administration not to enforce this policy. In a letter to Attorney General Gonzales, Rep. Waxman asks for an explanation of the Justice Department’s new support for the policy.
Letter from Waxman criticizing Bush Administration Policy
May 2, 2005
Refuses $40M in U.S. AIDS Grants To Protest Policy Requiring Groups
To Condemn Commercial Sex Work -Click for Source
Brazilian officials last week said that the country has refused $40 million in U.S. AIDS grants because of a Bush administration requirement that HIV/AIDS organizations seeking funding to provide services in other countries must pledge to oppose commercial sex work, the Wall Street Journal reports (Phillips/Moffett, Wall Street Journal, 5/2).
Under the Bush administration policy, even groups whose HIV/AIDS work in other countries has nothing to do with commercial sex workers have to make a written pledge opposing commercial sex work or risk losing federal funding. In addition, the Bush administration might refuse to fund HIV/AIDS groups that do not accept Bush's social agenda on issues such as sexual abstinence and drug use. The new policy stems from two 2003 laws, one involving HIV/AIDS funding and another regarding sex trafficking (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28).
Brazilian officials last week wrote to USAID to explain its decision to refuse the remainder of a $48 million HIV/AIDS grant that began in 2003 and was scheduled to run through 2008. According to some HIV/AIDS advocates, Brazil has been a "model" for combating HIV/AIDS with its "accepting, open" policies toward commercial sex workers, injection drug users, men who have sex with men and other "high-risk" groups, the Journal reports. Brazilian authorities said that the Bush administration requirement that groups receiving funding must condemn commercial sex work would hinder the country's efforts to fight the disease, according to the Journal. "We can't control (the disease) with principles that are Manichean, theological, fundamentalist and Shiite," Pedro Chequer, director of Brazil's AIDS program and chair of the national commission that decided to refuse the grants, said, adding that the commission -- which includes cabinet ministers, scientists and AIDS advocates -- viewed the Bush administration policy as "interference that harms the Brazilian policy regarding diversity, ethical principles and huma n rights."
Brazil's national AIDS program, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, includes HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment services. The program manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretroviral drugs, providing them at no cost to all HIV-positive people in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/16).
Although Brazil's HIV/AIDS prevention strategy emphasizes abstinence and sexual fidelity, it focuses more on condom education and distribution, according to the Journal. Commercial sex work is not a crime in Brazil, and advocates for commercial sex workers have been "among the most active" in the country's fight against HIV/AIDS, according to the Journal. The U.S. grants were to include $190,000 for eight groups that advocate for commercial sex workers in Brazil, according to Gabriela Leite, coordinator of the Brazilian Network of Sex Professionals. Leite said that she had "lengthy" discussions with USAID to assure U.S. officials that the grant money received only would be used for HIV/AIDS education and prevention and not for commercial sex worker rights issues, according to the Journal. However, despite a 50-page agreement between USAID and Leite's group, talks "broke down" when Leite's group refused to condemn commercial sex work, according to the Journal. "Why should we adopt a different orientation if we have been successful for the more than 10 years?" Sonia Correa, a Brazilian AIDS advocate and co-chair of the International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy, asked.
Although experts in 1992 estimated that 1.2 million HIV-positive people would live in Brazil by 2002, the country's epidemic has been "far less serious" because of its prevention efforts, and by 2002 there were only about 660,000 HIV-positive people in the country, according to the Journal.
"Obviously, Brazil has the right to act however it chooses in this regard," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who has been a leader for "conservative cause[s]" in Congress, said, adding that he hopes the grants can be redirected to other countries with policies that are in line with the Bush administration, according to the Journal. "We're talking about promotion of prostitution, which the majority of both the House and Senate believe is harmful to women," Brownback added. USAID spokesperson Roslyn Matthews on Sunday said that the agency is "still reviewing" Brazil's decision, adding, "We are in the process of determining next steps." The U.S. grants were only a "small part" of the amount Brazil spends on HIV/AIDS programs, and Chequer said the Brazilian government will increase spending on the programs to make up for the lost funding, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 5/2).
May 9, 2005
Brazil's refusal to accept USAID money because of restrictions against
sex workers -Click for Source
Right to Life
Right to be Free from Discrimination
Right to an Adequate Standard of Physical and Mental Health
Right to Education
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP) congratulate Brazil‚s government for refusing US$40 million in US Agency for International Development (USAID) AIDS grants to protest the US requirement that all grantees take a pledge to not knowingly promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution, or to implement any program by or work in correspondence with other organizations which have not stated in either a grant application, a grant agreement, or both, that they do not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.
According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal on 2 May 2005, Dr. Pedro Chequer, the Chair of Brazil's National HIV/AIDS Commission (which made the decision to turn down further US funding as long as the anti-sex worker pledge requirement remains in place) said: "We can't control [HIV/AIDS] with principles that are Manichean, theological, fundamentalist . Dr. Chequer further noted the commission members, including cabinet ministers, scientists, church representatives and civil society activists, viewed U.S. demands as "interference that harms the Brazilian policy regarding diversity, ethical principles and human rights." Brazils HIV/AIDS policy is known as among the most effective and multi-faceted in the world.
After Dr. Chequers announcement, he has received numerous local and international criticisms from conservative groups. In response, the Network of Sex Work Projects and IGLHRC ask you to send letters of support to Dr. Chequer for taking this courageous position. A model letter is provided below.
Sex work is not illegal in Brazil. In fact, several sex workers rights groups are among the most active and effective organizations engaged in HIV prevention work. US funding would have included $190,000 for eight prostitution groups in Brazil, according to Gabriela Leite, coordinator of the Brazilian Network of Sex Professionals. Ms. Leite said she participated in lengthy discussions with USAID to ensure that US money went only to HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and not to other sex workers rights issues. The result was a 50-page agreement, Ms. Leite said, but it broke down because her group was unwilling to condemn sex work.
Brazil appears to be the first major recipient nation to take such a definitive stand against the US policy. Several Republican lawmakers are pressing to restrict federal grants to those who do not support the Bush Administrations policies promoting sexual abstinence, condemning prostitution and opposing clean-needle exchanges for drug-users.
Many scientists and public-health specialists consider Brazil's approach to HIV prevention a model. The government promotes comprehensive sex education that includes both equal endorsement of abstinence and the use and distribution of condoms for the general population. In addition, since 1996 the country has provided free ARV medication to HIV-positive persons. The result has been extremely positive: In 1992, UNAIDS forecast 1.2 million Brazilians would carry the AIDS virus by 2002. Instead, an estimated 660,000 cases have occurred in Brazil today.
IGLHRC and NSWP ask you to write letters of support to Dr. Chequer for respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of sex workers in the Brazil governments costly step in refusing USAID funds, and for the Commission to continue to take such brave steps in promoting the health and human rights of sex workers through scientifically-proven measures.
Dr. Pedro Chequer
National Commission on HIV-AIDS
Phone + 556614488001
Fax + 55614488001
Dear Dr. Chequer,
I am writing to congratulate you on your decision to reject US Agency for International Development (USAID) funding restrictions which would require that all grantees take a pledge to not knowingly promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.
I furthermore commend Brazils principled stance to continue the successful evidence-based approach to HIV prevention and treatment. In fact, the USAID restrictions that you have opposed could easily hamper the work of some of the best advocates for the human rights of sex workers to secure rights -- sex workers themselves. These restrictions will circumscribe HIV/AIDS workers from engaging in effective education, mobilization, prevention, and service provision.
Moreover, the active inclusion of civil society in the National Commission on HIV-AIDS should be lauded, as is the genuine inclusion of sex workers and transgender persons as crucial partners in Brazils effort to engage in the most effective HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support efforts.
In this climate of hatred against sex workers, I again congratulate the Brazilian government for respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of sex workers in taking a courageous and costly step in refusing USAID funds.
May 4, 2005
turns down US AIDS funds -Click for Source
Campaigners say Brazil's programme is working Aids campaigners have welcomed a decision by Brazil to turn down US funds because of a clause in the agreement condemning prostitution.
The US development agency, USAid, had offered Brazil around $40m (£21m). But Brazil's top Aids official, Pedro Chequer, said the US' conservative approach to treating the disease would not help.
Correspondents say references to prostitution are likely to become a condition for all US Aids funding.
Washington says it is important not to promote prostitution, and does not want any of its funds to be spent on treating prostitutes.
US President George Bush has allocated $15bn to the worldwide fight against Aids.
Much of the spending is being channelled to programmes that advocate abstinence, rather than condom use, and cannot be used for abortions or to treat prostitutes.
But Aids activists in Brazil said the clause would hamper the treatment of infected sex workers and their clients.
Mr Chequer also called for official recognition of prostitution as a profession in Brazil. Sex workers should have the right to collect state welfare payments like other workers, he said.
"That clause shows disrespect for sex workers. We advocate the legalisation of the profession, with the right to collect INSS [Institute for National Strategic Studies: social security] and a pension," said Mr Chequer.
Sonia Correa, an Aids activist in Brazil, said accepting the US conditions would have set back a Brazilian programme that was successfully bringing down the infection rate.
"The US is doing the same in other countries - bullying, pushing and forcing - but not every country has the possibility to say no," she said, quoted in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
May 12, 2005
on letter opposing US global AIDS and trafficking restrictions-Click
Here for final letter and organizations in support
May 12, 2005
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The undersigned represent a diverse group of public health, human rights, faith-based and community-based organizations. We strongly support the U.S. government's goals of preventing the spread of HIV and ending trafficking in persons worldwide. We are concerned, however, that U.S. anti-HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking efforts will be severely undermined by policies restricting the range of interventions that can be used to protect the lives and health of women and men in prostitution, and of trafficked persons, the very groups intended as beneficiaries of U.S. efforts.
Current U.S. law requires organizations receiving U.S. global HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking funds to adopt specific organization-wide positions opposing prostitution.[i] Until recently, these restrictions have been applied to foreign non-governmental organizations receiving U.S. HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking funds.[ii] A September 2004 opinion letter by the U.S.
Department of Justice, however, proposes expanding these policies to U.S.-based organizations.[iii] Both U.S. AIDS law and anti-trafficking law also bar the use of funds, variously, to "promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution."[iv]
Based on our experience advocating for the health and human rights of women and men in prostitution, we are deeply concerned that these restrictions will preclude recipients of U.S. funds from using the best practices at their disposal to prevent HIV/AIDS among these populations and to promote the fundamental human rights of all persons. In fact, evidence exists that these restrictions are already undermining promising interventions.
Women and men in prostitution, some of whom have been trafficked, are among the most marginalized persons in any society. The organizations with the most effective anti-AIDS and anti-trafficking strategies build their efforts on a sophisticated understanding of the social and personal dynamics underlying these issues, and start by building trust and credibility among the populations in question. They recognize that it is both possible and often necessary to provide social, legal and health services to men and women in prostitution without judging them, and without adopting positions on issues such as prostitution.[v] They may work to provide persons in prostitution with new skills essential to moving out of the commercial sex sector, to secure the legal rights of men and women in prostitution to be free from violence and discrimination, or to empower them to demand universal condom use, thereby preventing the further spread of HIV infection within and outside this sector.[vi] They may also work to prevent people from being trafficked into the sex sector and to assist trafficking victims.
Requiring organizations to adopt anti-prostitution policies makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to establish the trust necessary to provide services to these hard-to-reach groups.
We are strongly opposed to the current restrictions on working with women and men in prostitution inscribed in law and extended in U.S. HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking policies. First, and most importantly, these policies run contrary to best practices in public health and will undermine efforts to stem the spread of HIV and human trafficking. For example, the Sonagachi Project in Calcutta, India, has reached more than 30,000 persons working in the commercial sex sector at risk of HIV, in large part through peer-based outreach services. Sonagachi's peer educators work to stop the spread of HIV among women and men in prostitution in part through strategies intended to earn their trust, reduce their social isolation, increase their participation in public life, and confront stigma and discrimination.[vii] Sonagachi's work has received strong positive evaluations from both UNAIDS and the World Bank, and has been cited by UNAIDS as a "best-practice" model of working with women and men in prostitution.[viii] These initiatives focus on promoting the fundamental human rights and health of persons working in prostitution, but do not equal the promotion of prostitution.
Yet valuable programs such as those run by Sonagachi and organizations like it are exactly the type threatened by current U.S. laws and policies.
Second, the broad language of the restrictions increases the risk that organizations will self-censor or curtail effective programs for fear of being seen as supporting or promoting prostitution. In fact, the restrictions are already having a chilling effect on work in the field. In Cambodia, for example, NGOs discontinued plans to provide English language training classes for people working in the commercial sex sector for fear such programs would be interpreted as "promoting prostitution."[ix] Yet in Phnom Penh alone, the rapid growth of job opportunities in government, in non-governmental organizations, and in the tourist industry makes English language skills a valuable commodity and a means of accessing opportunities outside the sex sector. In Jamaica, health workers working with men and women in prostitution have expressed concern that these restrictions curtail their ability to support the efforts of people working in the commercial sex sector to protect their rights.
We recognize that your goal is to address the dangers associated with prostitution and trafficking in persons. However, we are concerned that these policies will do little to advance this goal, and will instead exacerbate stigma and discrimination against already marginalized groups. [x]
Any anti-prostitution declaration by organizations working in the sex sector has the potential to judge and alienate the very people these organizations seek to assist, making it difficult or impossible to provide services or assistance to those at risk. Public statements against prostitution can also fuel the public opprobrium against men and women in prostitution, further driving them underground and away from lifesaving services. It was for these and other reasons that Brazil recently rejected $40 million in U.S. global AIDS money, noting that such restrictions undermined the very programs responsible for Brazil's success in reducing the spread of HIV. [xi]
Finally, we are gravely concerned that the potential expansion of these restrictions to U.S.-based groups contradicts the fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.[xii] Requiring domestic organizations with mixed funding to adopt positions consistent with U.S. government policy compels speech, which is an unconstitutional condition on government funding in violation of the First Amendment.[xiii] While the U.S. government can legally require its funds be used to further government-approved messages,[xiv] it has not previously compelled U.S.
organizations with multiple funding sources to speak explicitly on an issue in compliance with a specific U.S. objective. The courts have long held that the government does not have power to compel a U.S. grantee to pledge allegiance to the government's viewpoint in order to participate in a government program. [xv] We also strongly believe that compelling foreign organizations to adopt policies consistent with the government's viewpoint raises important constitutional concerns and undermines the democratic principles for which the United States stands.[xvi]
Rather than requiring organizations to adopt explicit anti-prostitution policies, the U.S. government could fulfill its goals by permitting organizations that do not have a policy on prostitution to receive U.S.funds. There is bipartisan support in Congress for this solution.[xvii] The advantage of this approach is that it does not pressure organizations, whether international or domestic, to adopt policies that run contrary to best health-care practices, may have nothing to do with their work or organizational mission, and have the potential to undercut the very purpose of U.S. grants. Such a policy would allow a wide range of organizations to participate in the global struggle against AIDS, while recognizing the importance of freedom of speech and freedom to receive and impart information in promoting the health and well-being of all citizens.
We urge you to act immediately to:
¨ Request that the Department of Justice reconsider its interpretation on the application of the restrictions in the Global AIDS Act of 2003 to domestic grantees, ensuring instead that all programs are consistent with human rights and public health norms and constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech;
¨ Institute the practice of consultation with a broad range of experts
in both the HIV/AIDS and trafficking fields before any agency or office issues program directives interpreting U.S. HIV/AIDS and trafficking laws to ensure transparency in policymaking, consistency with U.S. and international human rights law, and the promotion of best practices in public health;
¨ Work with Congress to amend the TVPRA and the Global AIDS Act of
2003 so that these laws are consistent with U.S. and international human rights law and with best practices in public health.
We share your concerns about the need to stop the spread of HIV worldwide and to address the needs of trafficked persons. We hope, however, that in the future funding will be distributed to organizations based solely upon their demonstrated capacity to prevent the spread of HIV and human trafficking according to best practices in the fields of public health and human rights, to provide treatment for those suffering from AIDS, and to provide services and support to trafficked persons while simultaneously promoting the basic human rights and freedom of speech of all persons.
May 17, 2005
U.S. POLICY REQUIRES GFATM AND PEPFAR RECIPIENTS TO SIGN LOYALTY OATH
AGAINST SEX WORKERS -Click for Source
INDEPENDENCE OF GFATM UNDER THREAT AS WELL AS HIV PREVENTION BEST PRACTICES
For Immediate Release
Click here for CDC Funding criteria link
(Geneva) AIDS activists warn the new U.S. restrictions on recipients of U.S. and international funding for AIDS programs will have dire consequences on the ability to engage sex workers and groups that work with sex workers in the fight against HIV/AIDS in poor countries.
Over the past two years, U.S. law has required foreign non-governmental organizations receiving direct U.S. global HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking funds to adopt specific organization-wide positions opposing prostitution. Now, the U.S. seeks to impose the restrictions on both U.S. NGOs receiving funding for overseas programs and also, recipients of U.S. funds from entities such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria (GFATM), the World Health Organization and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
Brazil created waves this month over the controversial directive applied to NGOs when the country's national AIDS commissioner Pedro Chequer, on behalf of the NGOs on the AIDS Commission, refused the requirement in order to receive $40 million in US assistance from USAID for programs against the spread of HIV/AIDS. "For us it was an ethical issue," Chequer told a reporter last week. "We have to reach every segment of society, with no discrimination. Besides, no country is supposed to decide what another country must do."
Outside of Brazil, during the past two years the policy has been in place, many NGOs have signed the USAID pledge stating they are opposed to prostitution rather than lose critical funding for their programs. The U.S. policy restriction states:
"Any entity that receives, directly or indirectly, U.S. Government funds in connection with this document ("recipient")" cannot use such U.S. Government funds to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking." *
The new directive, from the CDC and is expected to be posted by USAID this week, extends the restrictions to GFATM recipients and others, in compelling the organizations to adopt anti-prostitution policies:
"In addition, any recipient must have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. The preceding sentence shall not apply to any "exempt organizations" (defined as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency), but does apply to any non-governmental, non-exempt organization entity receiving U.S. government funds from an exempt organization in connection with this document." *
Activists point out the restrictions curtail the ability of organizations that work with women and men in prostitution to effectively fight the spread of HIV through outreach efforts and condom distribution programs. Many organizations, whether associations of sex workers or those engaging sex workers as peer HIV prevention educators, will be denied funding by otherwise independent international organizations like GFATM, as well as funding through U.S. Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CDC, and USAID under the new restriction.
"The U.S. is trying to impose its ideology over best practices, and attempting to compel community groups to become mouthpieces for its harmful stance on AIDS," said Sharonann Lynch of Health GAP. "The policy thwarts effective HIV prevention programs for some populations among the most vulnerable to the spread of HIV and those can be among the most effect first-line of prevention."
"The US is taking its ideologically motivated policy to new levels. This will undermine the independence and effectiveness of multilateral institutions like the Global Fund," said Asia Russell of Health GAP.
Such policies are creating new concerns about the appropriateness of the nomination of Ambassador Randall Tobias, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, for the chair of the Global Fundâs new Policy and Steering Committee. The Policy and Steering Committee will be the most powerful Global Fund Committee, functioning as the Global Fundâs ãShadow Board.ä The Policy and Strategy Committee would be the same Committee to discuss the ramifications of the new U.S. policy, potentially inhibiting constructive discussion if Tobias is the Chair.
Activists also point out the expansion of the restrictions to U.S.-based groups contradicts the fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, by compelling speech through the requirement that such groups adopt anti-prostitution policies. #30#
* Source: "Increasing Access to HIV Counseling and Testing (VCT) and Enhancing HIV/AIDS Communications, Prevention, and Care in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Cote dâIvoire," Billing Code: 4163-18-P, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharonann Lynch +1 646 645 5225, Asia Russell +1 267 475 2645, attending the 58th World Health Assembly in Geneva, and in the U.S. Jodi Jacobson of Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE): +1 301 -257-7897
For Immediate Release: 17 May 2005
May 18, 2005 U.S. Backs Off Stipulation on AIDS Funds Plan Had Called for Overseas Groups to Publicly Denounce Sex Trafficking -Click for Source
David Brown, Washington Post
The Bush administration pulled back yesterday from a plan that would have required thousands of grass-roots AIDS organizations working overseas and partly funded by U.S. money to publicly declare their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking.
Overseas AIDS groups that receive money directly from the U.S. government or through a federally funded U.S. charity already have to declare their opposition to prostitution.
The new policy was attempting to extract a similar pledge from the much larger universe of AIDS groups whose funding comes from multinational organizations that collect money from many countries, not just the United States.
Many AIDS organizations are highly critical of what they term the anti-prostitution "loyalty oath," arguing it will make it harder to reach a crucial risk group -- prostitutes -- with prevention messages.
A document issued last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that grass-roots AIDS groups receiving money through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had to make the declaration even though the Global Fund itself was exempt.
This would have meant that about 3,000 groups in 128 countries supported by the Global Fund would have to make the pledge -- something that AIDS activists said would cause a mixture of fear and resentment in some nations.
The four-year-old fund so far has committed $3 billion, a third of it from the United States. Because organizations that do not make the pledge cannot get federal funds, the huge U.S. contribution to the Global Fund might have been at risk if the fund had balked at enforcing the requirement.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Kevin W. Keane, said last night that the posting of the CDC document was "a misunderstanding." The language "hadn't been fully reviewed and cleared," he said. "We are removing that language."
The policy was described in two "requests for applications," one advertising a $2 million contract for AIDS "education and behavior change" activities in Ethiopia, and the other a $5.8 million contract for AIDS testing, counseling and treatment in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Ivory Coast.
Randall L. Tobias, who directs the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), learned of the CDC posting on Friday as he prepared to go to Africa to visit grant recipients.
"Somebody is ahead of their headlights," Tobias said Sunday. The policy "is not one I have seen and considered," he said. "It is something that I would want to sign off on one way or another."
The HHS spokesman said yesterday that Tobias, who oversees disbursement of U.S. global AIDS funding, had rescinded the policy.
From its enactment in 2003, the Bush administration's global AIDS initiative included a requirement that groups getting U.S. money "have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." But over time, the designation of who was covered has changed.
Initially, the policy was applied only to foreign organizations operating overseas. U.S.-based charities were exempt because the Justice Department believed that forcing them to make the declaration might infringe their First Amendment right of free speech.
Also exempt were multilateral organizations such as the Global Fund, the World Health Organization, and U.N. agencies, whose policies or charters prohibit them from enforcing the national laws of member countries.
Last September, the Justice Department revised its advice and said it could "defend [the] constitutionality" of extending the anti-prostitution pledge to U.S. charities working overseas. They are now being asked to comply.
In February, however, a group that included CARE, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the International Center for Research on Women, among others, protested the policy in a letter to Tobias.
Nobody involved supports prostitution. The argument is whether making AIDS groups officially declare their opposition is helpful.
The framers of PEPFAR in the administration and Congress believe that prostitution should never be condoned or legalized because it creates a market for trafficking in women and girls and encourages the resulting cruelty, coercion and disease.
In addition, the PEPFAR law states specifically that nothing in the anti-prostitution clause "shall be construed to preclude" services to prostitutes, including testing, care and prevention services, including condoms.
But Maurice I. Middleburg, acting president of EngenderHealth, a 62-year-old public health charity working in 16 countries, said the declaration "risks further stigmatizing a population [prostitutes] that is already very difficult to reach."
"We know that stigmatizing people with HIV, or who are presumed to have HIV, is one of the root causes of the pandemic. So why would we issue statements that might exacerbate that?" he said.
May 18, 2005 Restrictive U.S. Policies Undermine Anti-AIDS Efforts Mandatory 'Anti-Prostitution Pledge' Threatens Lives of Sex Workers and Trafficking Victims -Click for Source
(Washington, May 18, 2005) The U.S. government is trying to withhold anti-HIV/AIDS funding unless both U.S.-based and foreign organizations adopt policies that explicitly oppose all forms of prostitution, more than 200 organizations and individuals said today in a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush. Some of the organizations are going to hold an audio press conference next week.
The Washington Post, in today's edition, notes the Administration has pulled back from applying the policy to the grantees of multilateral groups to which the US contributes. But, the policy is still in place for the majority of groups receiving funding from the US to address AIDS and trafficking.
This requirement for foreign organizations was mandated by the 2003 Global AIDS Act and 2003 amendments to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Now, the U.S. Justice Department has argued in an opinion letter that U.S.-based organizations should also be bound by this requirement.
"The so-called 'anti-prostitution pledge' was originally applied to foreign organizations," said Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity. "But in a sweeping reinterpretation of the policy, the Bush administration is now requiring U.S.-based organizations to adopt this pledge. We oppose the application to both sets of groups."
"None of these organizations promotes prostitution," said Jacobson. "Instead, they use advocacy and other strategies to address violence against sex workers, reduce their social isolation, and increase their access to health services."
"Because of their simplistic wording," said Jacobson, "people with good intentions vote for such laws, without realizing the dangerous implications for real people, and for public health and human rights."
Penny Saunders, of the Network of Sex Work Projects, said any anti-prostitution declaration by anti-HIV/AIDS organizations targeting sex workers has the potential to alienate the very people these organizations seek to assist. "The 'anti-prostitution pledge' makes it difficult or impossible to provide services or assistance to the people who are most at risk of HIV/AIDS."
"Evidence from India, Thailand and Cambodia shows that these restrictions have already undermined promising interventions," said Alice Miller, Assistant Professor of Clinical Public Health at Columbia University. "In Cambodia, for example, NGOs discontinued plans to provide English-language classes - which could provide a path out of sex work - for fear that they would be seen as 'promoting prostitution.'"
Earlier this month, Brazil rejected $US40 million in anti-HIV/AIDS grants because the Bush administration conditioned funding for organizations on their adoption of a pledge opposing commercial sex work. Dr. Pedro Chequer, head of Brazil's national AIDS program, criticized the restrictions, noting that they could undermine the very programs responsible for Brazil's landmark success in reducing the spread of HIV.
The letter to President Bush points out that requiring domestic organizations with private and public funding to adopt positions consistent with U.S. government policy is a case of compelled speech, which is a violation of the First Amendment.
"The U.S. government's 'anti-prostitution' pledge not only undermines its global efforts against HIV/AIDS," said Rebecca Schleifer, researcher with Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Program. "It also undermines the fundamental right of sex workers and trafficking victims to receive lifesaving information about HIV/AIDS. And it violates freedom of speech for anti-HIV/AIDS groups working with these high-risk groups."
The letter urges Bush to reconsider the interpretation of anti-prostitution clauses in U.S. global anti-AIDS and anti-trafficking laws, consult with a broad range of experts in crafting policy and guidance. It says the President should work with Congress to amend the laws to be consistent with the U.S. Constitution, international human rights law and best practices in public health.
The Center for Health and Gender Equity is a U.S.-based international reproductive health and rights organization. We seek to make public health and human rights principles integral to all relevant U.S. international population and health policies and programs.
Jodi L. Jacobson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-270-1182 (o); 301-257-7897(c) or Sarah Heaton, email@example.com, 301-270-1182 (o)
May 24, 2005
- Sex Workers Network rally against US global AIDS, trafficking restrictions
-Click for Source
1) Sex Workers & Human Rights Network organized protest rally against US global AIDS and trafficking restrictions
Khairuzzaman Kamal, Bangladesh
Sex-workers Network of Bangladesh & Human Rights Coalition-Shonghoti jointly organized a protest rally in Bangladesh capital in May 24, 2005.
Thousands of Sex Workers & Human rights activists participated the rally in central Shahid Minar area capital of Bangladesh. They shouted slogans against US policy to protest the attempt to stop funding against Sex Workers related human rights issues.
In the protest rally speakers said that U.S. anti-HIV/AIDS and anti-trafficking efforts will be severely undermined by policies restricting the range of interventions that can be used to protect the lives and health of women and men in prostitution. They said the Sex worker community would be more vulnerable after this US anti policy. The Sex worker community in Bangladesh will be the worst affected by this US policy.
Now in Bangladesh Government, INGOs supported HIV/AIDS prevention program with Sex Workers intervention. After the US anti Sex Workers policy HIV/AIDS prevention in Bangladesh would be hampered. Sex Workers would become more stigmatized & discriminated against.
The protest rally presided by Ms. Momtaz Begum, President Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh, affress among others Ms. Shanaz, Secretary, Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh, Ms. Hasi, Ms. Nargis, Ms. Joya, Ms. Mukta, Ms Khandakar Rebaka Syaniat, President Shonghoti & Khairuzzaman Kamal, Secretary, Shonghoti.
BMSF & Secretary, Shonghoti
sex workers held gathering to protest against policy -Click
A. S. M. Enamul Hoque, Bangladesh
Hundreds of sex workers raised their strong voice in protest of the policy of Bush administration of USA that prohibit US global AIDS fund from going to any group or organization that does not oppose prostitution and thereby opposing the rights of sex workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh in a gathering held today May 24, 2005 at 4:30 pm at Central Shahid Minar. The gathering was organized by Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh and supported by Sanghati, an alliance of more than 86 organizations (NGOs, Human rights, social development and women organizations) for protecting and promoting sex workers' human rights.
Ms. Momtaz Begum, President, Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh presided over the gathering. Among others Ms. Shahanaj Begum, Secretary, Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh and President, Durjoy Nari Sangha; Ms. Rebeka, President, Sanghati; Mr. Khairuzzaman kamal, Secretary, Sanghati; Ms. Joya, Badhon Hijra Sangha; Ms. Hashi, NariMukti Sangha spoke in the gathering. Ms. Nargis Aktar presented the declaration of the gathering and that unanimously accepted by the gathering.
The declaration termed the decision of Bush Administration as against the individual freedom, undemocratic and inhuman and said that due to the US policy HIV/AIDS prevention and care activities worldwide including the empowerment of sex workers will be seriously hindered. Sex workers will face more stigma, discrimination in worldwide and consequently will suffer miserable and vulnerable life situation.
The declaration further said that the sex workers as human being have right to protest against such discriminatory decision. Such prohibition is the violation of sex workers rights as citizen and against the self respect.
Sex workers network of Bangladesh raised their strong protest from the gathering and felt that such decision will snatch the individual freedom and will push the sex workers in more harassment situation to pimps, miscreants and law enforcing agencies and sex workers will fail to take decision on their body and their life.
A. S. M. Enamul Hoque
2, 2005 New York Times Op-Ed Against Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath-Click
Taking the Prostitution Pledge
Since 2003, the Bush administration has required foreign groups fighting AIDS overseas to pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking before they get money from Washington. Last month, the administration expanded the requirement to American groups. On its face, this law seems innocuous. Who supports prostitution?
But in countries like India, controlling AIDS among prostitutes and their clients is the key to keeping the disease from exploding into the general population. So some very effective programs are built around trying to make sure that prostitutes and their customers use condoms. The groups who run these programs try to gain the trust of prostitutes by providing them with health care and teaching them about safe sex. They argue that being forced to state their opposition to prostitution would limit their ability to do that. Brazil turned down a $40 million grant from the United States because it did not want to imperil successful programs.
The Bush administration and some of its supporters disagree. They argue that anything that makes life more tolerable for prostitutes encourages prostitution. That would include organizing sex workers in India to stand up to abusive clients, or helping Bangladeshi prostitutes get shoes so they can leave the brothel to visit a health clinic. Initially, the Justice Department ruled that the prostitution pledge could not be required of American groups because the American Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. The administration's turnabout would seem vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.
The new anti-prostitution requirement may have a hidden purpose: to take away the right of American groups working on family planning overseas to counsel abortions. On his first day in office, President Bush signed a reinstatement of President Ronald Reagan's policy blocking American funds for overseas family-planning groups that so much as mention abortion. Both restrictions are the work of Representative Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican. The abortion gag rule has never applied to American groups, for the same First Amendment reasons that the prostitution pledge did not. But the decision to strip Americans of their First Amendment right to speak as they please on prostitution opens the way to an attempt to keep them silent on abortion, too.