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AIDS2010 PION & Rose Alliance at the ICRSE NGO booth

PION NorwayDuring the AIDS 2010 conference Astrid Renland from PION Norway and Pye Jakobsson of Rose Alliance Sweden spent time at the ICRSE NGO booth in the global village. Astrid and Pye were invited to the conference to make a poster presentation on the impact of the Nordic Model. The Nordic model (more commonly known as the Swedish model) attempts to eradicate prostitution by criminalising clients. What do PION and Rose Alliance have to say about that? "Fuck the Nordic model! Want to know why, just ask us!"

Why did you want to come to this conference?
Astrid: because I wanted to put more focus on health and human rights and to meet other sex work organisations and other organisations. Anti-trafficking is really counter-productive to health and rights, while at this HIV conference, health and rights are actively promoted. At this conference we also wanted to make visible the cooperation amongst Nordic countries and we are taking this opportunity to highlight what is wrong with the Nordic model at this conference. Unfortunately, when we are talking about rights and health often the discussion focuses on developing countries but we also think it is important to show how policies are negatively impacting on sex workers in western countries.

Pye: Throughout the conference we’ve heard of very repressive legislation regarding HIV in some African countries, very few people are aware of the fact that we also have an equally bad law in Sweden; even if you wear a full rubber suit you still have to inform your potential sex partner of your HIV-status (if positive) before you have sex. If you have protected sex without telling you can be locked up for three months at the time to “protect society” and eventually get sentenced to jail, even if you never put anyone in danger.

What is the main message you want to get across to people here who you talk to.
Astrid: Decriminalise sex work and drug use and open the borders for sex work migrants.

Pye: Put all your personal morals aside, sex work is work and human rights are for everybody!

A little about the situation in Norway and Sweden.
Astrid: It is a very bad fucked up situation for sex workers in Norway in every setting, indoors, the street, and hotels. There is a lot of police activity against sex workers at this time and they are using laws against pimping and purchasing of sex to pretend they are fighting organised crime and trafficking. More recently they are cooperating with hotels to repress sex workers.

Pye: In Sweden sex workers are losing their apartments because their landlord will be charged with pimping otherwise. We have to pay taxes, but when we are on sick leave they estimate our incomes as ZERO as we won’t make any money in the future as our clients are criminals. The government just did an evaluation of the law criminalizing the clients. It was about 200 pages, and the voices of sex workers got less than a page. The heading of that section was “Experiences from people abused in prostitution”….

What would you like to see happen for sex workers in Norway and Sweden.
Astrid: Decriminalise sex work!

Pye: I want our organisation to continue growing, already during this conference we got four new members! They’ve been treating us like ill-behaved children for too long; now it’s really our time to stand up. We have politicians including us, trusting on our expertise and our voices are heard more frequently thanks to our allies making sure we always get included. I’m not sure they will ever reverse the law but now we are so much stronger and at least there is hope. I’m so happy it’s finally happening, it’s been a long journey!

A big thank you to Astrid and Pye for taking the time to talk with me at the AIDS2010 conference!

Note: The full report including an English summary can be found here (downloadable the pdf). Also there has been some interesting critique of the report already which can be found on Laura Agustín's Border Thinking blog.

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