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Avaaz, are an internet campaign group who I often support. They normally involve themselves in very worthwhile campaigns. They seem however to have gone off track in a big way with regard to their latest campaign (not yet officially started) ‘Against the rape trade’ (see email below). The language used is appalling and insensitive and discriminatory and reflects a worrying ignorance about the reality of sex work and the reality of some of the proposals they endorse. Sting operations, raids on brothels and lobbying officials to make these operations a priority can have devastating and even tragic results for sex workers.
This new campaign is in its final stages of preparation but they are noting any negative responses. Please email them with a letter voicing your concern. I have included a template (after email) for a letter but please write using your own words if you can. Hopefully we will be able to stop this campaign or at least alter the wording being used.
The email from AZAAZ
Millions of women and girls are sold for rape every year — 2 every minute. We can save these young girls from horror. Click below to donate to Avaaz’s new drive to stop the rape trade forever:
Amita was a sweet 9 year old girl who loved her family. One day, she was kidnapped, taken to a city far away and put in a cage. She was forced to have sex with dozens of men per day, and brutally beaten when she cried or refused. 5 terror-filled years later, suffering from sexually transmitted disease, she died from a beating at age 14.
Amita’s story is about the worst nightmare imaginable, but millions of women and girls are traded for rape every year — one of the most evil problems in our world today. The best way to tackle it is to expose the rape traders and kill their profits. In January Avaaz members voted to make this a top priority this year, so we’re beginning work across the world with expert teams, local campaigners and investigators to shut down these brutal and shadowy businesses.
Every minute this problem continues is too long. We can’t bring Amita back, but every minute, two more Amitas are sold into horror. Let’s stop it now — click to donate:
In the annual Avaaz poll, almost 85% of our community voted for tackling the rape trade as a top campaigning priority for 2010. We are developing actions that include: organising sting operations to break trafficking rings, lobbying elected leaders to make this issue a priority, and running ads that name and shame the rape traders, the owners of slave houses where these girls are sold, and the countries where politicians and officials are complicit with this brutal business.
Avaaz emails like this one have generated millions for other causes like Burma, climate change and Haiti. That’s what it will take to stop this trade. It’s not about how much we give, but how many of us do. Right now, a girl’s life is being transformed into an unimaginable horror, and we can do something to stop it:
In the time it took to read this email, we’ve lost another 8 girls. There’s no time to waste.
With hope and determination,
Alice, Raluca, Ricken, Graziela, Paula, Paul, Benjamin, Milena and the entire Avaaz team.
BBC on modern slavery:
More about human trafficking around the world at UN Office on Drugs and Crime:
FBI’s work on human trafficking:
Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings:
Please email AVAAZ at..
I am extremely concerned about the wording being used and the possible implications of your recent publicity for your campaign to raise money to struggle against ‘The Rape Trade’. For AVAAZ to use language in this campaign that is reminiscent of the very worst tabloid headlines or of the worst fundamentalist anti sex work campaigner is dangerous and worrying. Referring to being “sold into horror” and the “most evil problems in our world” in reference to sex work simply perpetuates negative stereotypes.
The current moral panic surrounding trafficking (although you do not use that word) has had extremely detrimental consequences for sex workers. In Cambodia for example anti-trafficking laws were used as an excuse to round up voluntary sex workers and to detain them in camps indefinitely. Human rights abuses with in the camps have been reported and include stories of rape and beatings and even worse. In the UK exaggerated claims about trafficking that were not supported by evidence were used to justify new laws that will have potentially dangerous consequences for sex workers. The real result of sting operations is that illegal migrant sex workers have been detained and deported, without evidence of forced migration or forced sexual exploitation. Women are hurt by sting operations more often than they are rescued.
Trafficking does exist as sadly does the sexual exploitation of children, women and men. However the independent evidence suggests that most women, children and men are not deceived or tricked into working in the sex industry. The most coercive force of all is poverty and that is where your campaign perhaps should focus. A negatively and naively worded campaign will do little to end rape but will further alienate and stigmatise an already vulnerable group. Sex work is not evil rather it is the societal problems that force some people into sex work and the criminalising of those individuals that is truly evil.
Many sex workers like my self are involved with other sex workers who self organise and campaign despite our often criminal status. We will be further isolated by your campaign and our battle for the recognition of our human rights will be made more difficult. If you truly wish to do something positive then connect with and work with sex worker groups to help them in their struggle for rights and dignity and freedom from negative laws that try to deny us our voices. To give us a voice and help us in our struggle would be a far more effective campaign against rape and exploitation. Sex worker activists and groups will be very happy to work with AVAAZ to produce an effective and positive campaign against rape.