um beijo para gabriela


Remembering Gabriela

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Gabi foto Crossbones

This week marks one year since Gabriela left us physically. She is missed terribly everyday, but this week, and October 10th in particular, perhaps more than usual.

There are many ways to honor Gabriela. Using the word “puta”, fighting for sex worker rights, eating Ceratti Mortadela, using Chanel perfume, circulating her texts and videos, talking politics over beer in neighborhood bars, and perhaps most importantly, saying, standing by and fighting for what you believe.

Gabriela was political down to her daily acts, and this is what made her so amazing. And also someone who remains so present in our daily lives. She brought light, charisma and intelligence to any environment she graced, and it is this fierceness and beauty that is so missed, and so important to keep present.

This week to honor Gabriela, the documentary will be screening at the Mostra Internacional de Cinema, a film festival in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais. We are honored that the film will screen on opening night, on Thursday, October 9th and again, Friday October 10th. Laura will be present, and videos of Gabriela and the Beijo da rua produced in her honor will also be shared.

Crossbones gabi smallWe are also sharing photos from a recent event where we honored Gabriela at a beautiful ceremony at Cross Bones Graveyard in London.The cemetery dates back to the 16th century as a burial ground for prostitutes and the gates are a symbol of resistance and a fight for the rights of outcasts to be a fundamental part of urban landscapes. The Cross Bones graveyard is a cultural site connected to a group of amazing people who were responsible for it not being bulldozed as part of an urban revitalization project, and where vigils are held

Thaddeus Blanchette, John Constable and Laura Murray at the vigil.

Thaddeus Blanchette, John Constable and Laura Murray at the vigil.

at the gates on a monthly basis.

Laura and Thaddeus Blanchette, a Davida collaborator and professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, were lucky enough to be in London in August to participate in the vigil. John Constable and other organizers honored Gabriela and opened up a space for us to celebrate her, even preparing and tying a photograph of her on the gates (above).

We spoke about her, collectively screamed “Viva Gabriela”, made some more noise, and tied a Daspu t-shirt and Beijo da rua cover (edition in honor of her) on the memorial gates of a cemetery. The Beijo da rua cover was designed by Sylvio Oliveira, an artist, journalist and long time partner of Davida. Sylvio is the person who gave Daspu its name and designed many of its collections, coming up with the most popular and brilliant t-shirt slogans like, “We’re bad, but we could be worse”. Sylvio passed away last month, so the Beijo da rua cover and placement on the memorial gates has even more meaning as a remembrance of both Sylvio and Gabriela.

It was beautiful ceremony, that appropriately ended with all of us taking a swig of whisky and pouring a ring of whisky on the ground around all the attendees. We believe that there is no better place for the puta that inspired all of us to be remembered and continually inspire resistance among those who visit the gates.

Viva Gabriela!!

crossbones close grade



Sending a kiss: lessons learned from our outreach campaign

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More than two years ago when we began thinking about how to tell the world about the film A KISS FOR GABRIELA we knew only a fraction of what we know now about what works when doing social media and other forms of outreach tailored for media made about an amazing sex worker rights leader. We wanted to inspire real action, allowing people to not only learn more about sex workers but to become involved in steps to defend rights. “Do we know how to tweet?” we asked ourselves. But we did find our way and we want to share what we learned with you.

The lessons we learned are described in a new resource we have developed for all interested in developing activist documentary projects, and speak specifically to the concerns of sex workers and people in the sex trade. Gabriela Leite demanded that we think differently and expansively about sexuality, rights and justice. We followed her example and used a hot pink “kiss” design on outreach materials—rather than language and images invoking victimization. The prioritizing of joy and pleasure is intriguing to audiences because much documentary material produced about women and sexuality does center on stories of abuse. When speaking about the experiences of sex workers, however, it is essential to challenge the notion that all are harmed specifically because of the sexual nature of the work they do. To the contrary, many in sex work are clear that pleasure can be and is an essential element of their job description.

Embracing the principle of “nothing about us, without us” is truly vital when engaging with sex workers as well as with other groups who are similarly affected by criminalization and stigma. As we developed our materials we reached out by email, on social media, by phone and in person to community representatives to see how we might be able to support each other and double checked with a wide range of groups in the movement about if and how they wanted to be mentioned on our website.

Sex workers are frequently sought after by filmmakers, journalists and students interested in learning more about their lives, yet all too often giving back very little. We were extremely aware of the fact that under-resourced, disenfranchised and in many contexts, criminalized people often have very little (or no) time to pay attention to the priorities of documentary filmmakers. We strived to make any requests as straightforward as possible. To give back we used social media to disseminate community activist messages and galvanize support from film supporters to their causes. We donated copies of the DVD as perks for online fundraisers for the community. We hope to continue to support the community of activists and be allies for the long term.

Screenshot 2014-10-08 17.55.27

“We demand the inclusion of sex workers”: the 2014 International AIDS Conference

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The audience watching A Kiss for Gabriela during AIDS 2014, every seat was occupied.

A KISS FOR GABRIELA was shown as part of the Sex Worker Networking Zone
organized by Scarlet Alliance (the Australian sex worker host committee) in
partnership with sex worker organizations from around the world. Our application to the conference itself–to present the film, a DASPU t-shirt fashion show, and to host a “minute of noise” in honor of Gabriela– was not successful, but with the help of organized sex workers we were offered a screening space in the Global Village at the Sex Worker Networking Zone. Despite being the very last session on the very last day of the conference, the Kiss for Gabriela screening played to an enthusiastic crowd of sex workers, community representatives, and allies of sex workers. Quite literally the Sex Worker Networking Zone was full to the brim.


Maria Lourdes speaks. Photo by PJ Starr.

After the film showing, everyone present joined in a “minute of noise” that rang throughout the Global Village in memory of Gabriela (who passed away in 2013). Maria de Lourdes Barreto (co-founder of the Brazilian Prostitutes Network and founder of GEMPAC, Grupo de Mulheres Prostitutas do Estado do Pará) then spoke passionately about the history of organizing for sex worker rights in Brazil, Gabriela’s role as an organizer and the ongoing struggle in Brazil today.

Our dream of hosting an event to inspire the audience to incorporate Gabriela’s magnetic, unforgettable, free, brilliant, fearless, stylish, forceful, wise, and fierce approach to life and advocacy efforts surrounding human rights and HIV was entirely realized.

Sex workers’ efforts at the conference in Australia have produced some valuable materials to guide organizing in regards to HIV/AIDS, health and human rights. A two day meeting of sex workers from more than thirty countries was held in Melbourne immediately before International AIDS Conference, culminating in the release of the Sex Worker Consensus Statement on five priority areas (Biomedical developments; Stigma and discrimination; Human Rights issues including criminalisation of HIV and sex work; Migration and mobility; Funding). The statement is filled with plain language messages, including the observation that, “legal Barriers for sex workers are still so significant” and the demand for the “inclusion of sex workers”, quite simply because, “it’s about time!” Every Friday since the conference ended, sex workers around the world have used the messages in the funding section of the consensus statement to highlight on social media what is important to fund using the hashtags #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights. Australia organizers have also produced a series of videos of conference presentations of community interest.

Poster from the "Debby Doesn't Do it for Free" booth, Global Village, AIDS 2014. Photo by PJ Starr.

Poster from the “Debby Doesn’t Do it for Free” booth, Global Village, AIDS 2014. Photo by PJ Starr.

Thank you from “Isabel” to those who supported IndieGoGo Campaign

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I would like to thank all who have collaborated and supported my activism. Know that it is because of your help that I continue in the fight for sex worker rights. I am not going to give up. The help of each one of you made an enormous difference for me, as the Brazilian government doesn’t support my activism and doesn’t have any resources to work with prostitutes in situations of danger like the one I currently find myself in – a situation that the government itself put me in, through the police’s illegal action on May 23rd. It is through these difficulties and enormous barriers that I have found in this government that I am not going to give up! Prostitutes are also people and deserve respect and rights like any person. It is because of all of you that are helping me through various forms that I am not going to give up!

I confess that it is still very difficult for me, everything that I am going through, the innumerous difficulties that come out everyday, and many times I thought of giving up. However, when I see how various people throughout the world know about my story and support me as you have, then I stop, and think again: “I cannot give up, I have to show everyone that I am going to overcome this prejudice,” so I say once again, on my behalf and that of my colleagues in my profession and all of you who are supporting me that I am not going to give up!!

Thank you!!

Support Isabel: Sex worker activist from Niterói threatened after denouncing violence violence

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isabel giving depoiamento

For the past three months, we’ve been accompanying the resistance and fight of sex workers in Niterói after the illegal police raids that started in March of this year. The most recent of which occurred when Isabel (not her real name), a sex worker rights activist with Davida had her life threatened after publically denouncing egregious sexual violence and human rights abuses against her and her colleagues during a completely illegal police raid on May 23rd of this year.

After denounding the violence in a public hearing, she was kidnapped, threatened, and shown photos of her son, being told that both she and her family would be killed if she continued denoucing the police violence to the media.  Journalist and researcher Julie Ruvolo covered Isabel’s experiences in hiding through her recent story in Vice News.

Despite this insidious violence and attempts at silencing her, she is continuing her fight, now bigger than ever as she has woven her way through completely inadquate government systems and programs that have NOTHING in place to support sex workers in her situation.

Here, at a time when hundreds of sex workers are advocating for their rights in Melbourne, and researchers are (finally) strongly endorsing decriminalization, we are sharing a campaign created in Indiegogo to provide emergency support to Isabel. Support goes to her protection, security, and costs of her and her family, and allow her to continue her fight and activism in Brazil – both for the creation of government policies and actions to support sex workers who denounce human rights violations, and for the completely decriminalization of prostitution in Brazil.

Davida, the Observatório da Prostituição, Jusitça Global, Anistia Internacional Brasil and Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys’s office are some of the groups that are mobilizing political support for Isabel’s cause and that of the nearly 400 other sex workers who lost their work and home environments during the police raids on the 23rd.

Please visit, share and donate to the campaign here

Donations go to Rattpallax, the organization that supports this documentary project, and are completely tax dedutable.




“Look for the Red Umbrellas” at AIDS2014: A conversation with Jules Kim of Scarlet Alliance

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Red UmbrellasJules Kim is a Korean Australian sex worker who is the Manager of the Scarlet Alliance Migration Project.  The Migration Project is staffed and led entirely by migrant sex workers and includes a partnership with Empower Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Recently Jules has been working on coordinating some of the networking zone activities at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne Australia otherwise referred to as AIDS 2014. A well curated list of sex worker events at AIDS 2014 created by Jules and the local host committee is now available online.

Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association was founded in 1989. Scarlet Alliance is the peak national body representing sex worker organisations and projects. Scarlet Alliance is a peer-based organisation and all staff, volunteers and Executive Committee are sex workers. Scarlet Alliances objectives, policies and programs aim to achieve equality, social, legal, political, cultural and economic justice for sex workers in Australia, in order for sex workers to be self-determining agents, building their own alliances and choosing where and how they work.  

A Kiss for Gabriela: Can you bring us up to date on what sex workers and their organizations have planned for the International AIDS Conference? 

35 my feet and some signsJules: What we have planned is a two day Sex Worker Pre-Conference meeting on the 18th and 19th of July, 2014 to be held in Melbourne near the AIDS 2014 conference venue. Sessions will include orientation to the programs, themes and goals of the conference in order to facilitate meaningful engagement and greater sex worker input to the conference. Sex workers will have an opportunity to come together to discuss, respond to and achieve a sex worker community analysis on core issues that can be progressed through both advocacy in the conference area, the networking zone, media and meetings surrounding the event and as part of future opportunities beyond the conference. There will be interactive skills building sessions, small group workshops exploring key themes and priorities for sex workers as well as local, regional and international presentations on critical components of the HIV and sex work response, new evidence and emerging themes. For a session at the end of the second day on the 19th July, we will invite allies to join us to prepare for the main conference, network and discuss sessions that impact sex workers. For sex workers coming to the conference, please register to come to the pre-conference using this link or by emailing for more information. Sex workers registering for the pre-conference meeting have identified key themes for focus at the meetings. This enabled us to see what issues are of interest or a priority for discussion to sex workers globally and will be circulated in a thematic paper to participants.

There will be a satellite session at the main conference entitled Stepping Up To Advance Issues Globally for Sex Workers and HIV, on the 20th of July, 2014, 11.15 am – 1:15 pm in room 101-102. Here we will be discussing outcomes from the pre-conference with invited guests and conference delegates. A key topic of discussion throughout the AIDS 2014 conference and pre-conference is the rapid changes in the HIV field- specifically the bio-medical advances including treatment as prevention and PreP.  For many sex workers, these developments have raised a number of real concerns. Sex workers still struggle with getting access to quality, non-discriminatory health care, face inequitable access to treatment, and are still subject to mandatory testing, forced registration and criminalisation. These issues are exacerbated for HIV positive sex workers.  Given this environment, many sex workers have expressed understandable caution about the new prevention technologies. Of course sex workers want access to quality affordable health care and effective treatment but we must be consulted about if and how these biomedical developments are appropriate for our community. NSWP have completed a global consultation with sex workers on PreP, the findings of which will be launched at the conference. At the UN high level meeting on HIV in 2011 many countries committed to ‘Intensifying Our Efforts to Eliminate HIV and AIDS’ as signatories to the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. A key element of this was in recognising the crucial role of human and legal rights in preventing and eliminating HIV. Countries around the world committed to intensify national efforts to create enabling legal, social and policy frameworks in each national context in order to eliminate stigma, discrimination. In reality, sex workers are least protected by law, most harassed by police and governments and have the least access to rights and legal redress. Stigma, discrimination, human rights abuses and criminalisation of our work are challenges that sex workers face daily. These factors have also been recognised as the greatest barrier to controlling the HIV pandemic. Sex workers are criminalised in over a 100 countries and 51% of sex workers do not have access to HIV prevention services. Almost all countries in Asia and the Pacific criminalise some aspect of sex work. Experience in the Asia-Pacific region shows that punitive laws, policies and practices around sex work do not reduce the number of sex workers or our clients but they can change the ways in which we work that can increase vulnerabilities and reduce our access to justice and create barriers to access to support and services. Criminalisation has been shown to negatively impact HIV programmes and services for sex workers. Decriminalisation is essential to improving the health, safety and human rights of sex workers. These are key issues for sex workers that seem to be overlooked at the conference. Of course we will be doing our best to draw attention to these issues!

A Kiss for GabrielaWe’ve heard that Scarlet Alliance and local Australia sex worker rights organizers will be organizing the Sex Worker Networking Zone. What is the networking zone and what will be happening in there? How can people get involved if they are coming to the conference or if they are connecting online from their home countries?

Jules: Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, APNSW and NSWP as the local, regional and global representatives of sex workers, sex worker organisations and projects will be hosting the Sex Worker Networking Zone at AIDS 2014. The zone will be a vibrant hub for everything by and for sex workers at the conference. Daily sex worker community led sessions will increase visibility and knowledge of the sex worker rights movement and raise awareness of issues that affect sex workers.  There will be opportunities for discussion, learning and networking with interactive workshops, panel discussions, artworks and even some performances. The space will be a safe, vibrant and collaborative hub for sex workers and supporters to share strategies, resources and information and to build connections.  Sex workers from around the world will showcase what is necessary to ‘Step Up the Pace’ for sex workers and the elements that are crucial to maintaining viable and sustainable responses to HIV prevention, treatment and support. A schedule of events at the Sex Worker Networking Zone is available online. If you are coming to the conference look for the red umbrellas- the symbol of our fight against stigma and discrimination and towards sex worker rights. We plan to have them suspended from the roof above our zone so they will guide you to the zone which most importantly will be home for sex workers at the AIDS 2014 conference. Sex workers interested in contributing or getting involved we would love to hear from you at

A Kiss for Gabriela: What else do sex workers and their organizations need to know about the upcoming International AIDS Conference?

Jules: Disappointingly the International AIDS Society continues to hold their international AIDS conferences in locations that seriously inhibit sex worker and other key communities ability to attend and participate. Like the conference in Washington, D.C., we were concerned about the considerable barriers to affected communities attending the AIDS conference in Australia. Australia does have restrictive immigration policies and it has been our experience that people–particularly those from key affected populations–continue to have issues at the border. Current research shows that border officials do engage in racial profiling, anti-trafficking stereotyping, and discrimination against sex workers and many migrant sex workers, including myself have experienced this first hand at the Australian border. Access to visas is a substantial barrier for sex workers in general but also for sex workers seeking to attend the conference. For example, to get a visa you must meet the ‘character test’.  A person will fail the character test if they have been sentenced to a period of 12 months or a combined sentence of 2 years regardless of whether they have served gaol time or not; if they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct; if in regards to the person’s past and present criminal and/or general conduct, the person is found to be not of good character. Additionally applicants are asked to provide details on any convictions for a crime or offence in any country (including any conviction which is now removed from official records) as well as any offences that are currently awaiting legal action. For many delegates coming from countries that criminalise and often impose significant sentences for sex work, drug use, sexual  orientation, sex and/or gender diversity and activism this will prohibit their participation. A person will also not pass the character test if they receive a conviction of any kind, regardless of whether a prison sentence has been imposed while in immigration detention in any country. A person whose visa is cancelled on the grounds of either a substantial criminal record, or based wholly or in part on the person’s criminal conduct or criminal and general conduct, will be permanently excluded from Australia. Of course this doesn’t apply to all countries. There are reciprocal arrangements with many richer countries such as the US where they are exempt from such requirements.There are a range of other prohibitive requirements such as the need to show evidence of sufficient funds, such as personal bank statements, pay slips, audited accounts, taxation records or credit card limit.This is supposed to show you can provide for yourself and to demonstrate evidence that you have an incentive and authority to return to your home country. In addition to prove this you need to show:

  • a letter from your employer stating your intention to return to your job
  • evidence of enrolment at a school, college or university in your home country
  • evidence of immediate family members in your home country
  • evidence of your visa or residence status in your home country, and your right to return
  • evidence of property or other significant assets owned in your home country.

For many sex workers this will not be possible and therefore prohibit their attendance to the conference regardless of whether their attendance is being sponsored by an organisation. We have been disappointed at the number of sex workers who have been refused abstracts and scholarships to attend the conference too. This has meant that there is a poor representation of sex worker issues at the main conference. Scarlet Alliance along with APNSW and NSWP have been advocating for sex worker inclusion in the main program with limited success but unfortunately there is far more sessions with researchers and medical professionals talking about sex work and sex workers than sex workers talking about our own issues.

Photos by PJ Starr (2012)

Photos by PJ Starr (2012)

PubIic Hearing on Niterói Case Confirms Illegal Actions and Egregious Police Abuses against Sex Workers

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“Everything was wrong, we just want to work, nothing else”.

(Summary of blog post written in Portuguese by Soraya Simões and Laura Murray posted on June 6th).

Photo: Soraya Simões

Photo: Soraya Simões

On June 4th, sex workers from Niteroi participated in a public hearing at the Rio de Janeiro state legislature regarding the rights violations and abuses committed by the police during the illegal police raid on May 23rd. The public hearing was organized by the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for the Defense of Women’s Rights, and presided over by two state legislators, Marcelo Freixo from the Human Rights Commission and Inês Pandeló from the Women’s Commission. The audience at the hearing brought together sex workers, activists from Davida and the Prostitution Observatory, lawyers, attorneys, public defenders, and legislative assistants. The audience did not include the representatives from the civil police force, nor the precincts involved in the abuses – although they were invited to participate and explain their actions.

The first person to speak was Joyce, a sex worker who worked and lives in the building. She spoke of the illegal warrants that were passed out prior to the raid on the 23rd and all of the violence, robbery and sexual abuses suffered by sex workers on the day of the raid. As she said, “everything was wrong, we just want to work, nothing else”. Joyce also emphasized that the women’s police precinct in Niterói, DEAM, refused to register her complaint against the police officers’ behavior and abuses, “The precinct chief said that they couldn’t interfere in the operations of the 76 (police precinct). So none of the women were able to register their complaints in the DEAM, she (the officer responsible) refused to do it”.

Indianara Siqueira, a sex worker and congressional assistant of Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys who has accompanied the case from the very beginning also spoke of the long series of rights violations that have occurred in the building over the past months. She emphasized that the, “violations continue. Women are without a place to life, without a place to work and their children are depending on the help of others”. She proceeded to read a list of questions that Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys demands be responded to by the police.

The public defender who took on the case, Clara Prazeres Bragança from the Women’s Rights Defense Nucleus of the Public Defenders Office, spoke next, affirming, “It is not clear what led to the prison for questioning, and more, in conditions that were not the best…we keep asking if it is the State that has to protect, or the State that protects under and idea of ending that which bothers it. And who does it bother pale face?… There was no need to take these women to the police precinct, if there had been Representative Freixo, I wouldn’t be here.”

Ms. Prazeres had been to the 76th police precinct and talked with the police officers responsible for what happened. She confirmed that “there was no legal motive, but perhaps in their head there was a moral motive…[a justification] which I sincerely disapprove.”

The lawyer from the Human Rights Committee of the Brazilian Lawyer’s Association (OAB) Gustavo Proença, lamented the continuation of the practice of “prison for questioning” , which violates all of the citizen’s rights yet unfortunately have become common practice of the police. He also added that the night before a meeting with building residents was held at the police precinct, and created a humiliating and hostile environment for the sex workers who attended, until being thrown out, along with the lawyers from the OAB present.

Representative Freixo was the last to speak, and he publicly lamented the absence and silence of the Rio de Janeiro State Social Work and Human Rights Secretariat (SEASDH) and of the women’s police precinct (DEAM). He also affirmed that the short response of the 76th Precinct to the Human Rights Commission questions sent did not justify the police action and their treatment of sex workers as criminals, rather than victims of a crime (were the police to follow their logic of investigating exploitation). He was especially upset that DEAM nor responded to the Commission’s letter nor appeared at the hearing.

Furthermore, the Human Rights Commission also investigated and found out that the Civil Defense (Defesa Civil) had never visited the building, in which case the allegation that the building was unstable or a danger, and needing to be partially condemned is unfounded and unjustifiable. Representative Freixo concluded that, “it was an absolutely disastrous and illegal procedure that violated an enormous quantity of fundamental rights of the people affected”. He closed announcing that they will schedule another public hearing later this month in which the police forces will be required to attend and respond for their actions, in addition to the Civil Defense who will also be invited to explain their actions, or non-action, in the building.

The hearing was very important because it confirmed the illegality of the police actions, the unacceptable and deplorable attitude of the DEAM in refusing to register the women’s complaints, the lack of structural evidence to justify the condemning of the apartments where the women work, and moral, rather than legal, motives behind the State’s action.


Serious rights violations against Prostitutes in Niteroí: Urgent Action demanded

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Official letter sent to the Director for the Promotion of Human Rights, State Secretariat for the Monitoring of the Social Welfare and Human Rights of Prostitutes

The facts reported below relate to human rights violations and arbitrary acts committed against women and citizens, many of which were witnessed and denounced by the victims themselves and other accompanying parties who were present during the case. On Friday, May 23, 2014 at approximately 2 pm, officers of 76th District police precinct and the Police Unit for the Assistance of Women – Delegacia Especializada de Atendimento à Mulher or DEAM of Niteroi – with support of officers from 13 other precincts in the State of Rio de Janeiro, stormed the building at 327 Avenida Amaral Peixoto, in Niterói, breaking doors and wreaking havoc in apartments where sex workers provide services independently and where some also reside.215

During the operation, several victims had guns held against their heads, there were assaults and even rapes, theft of personal belongings and money, intimidation, and approximately 100 women and three men were forcibly transported by buses to the 76th District police precinct. There, the women were held for hours, witnessing the continuous arrival of many others – who entered the precinct in single file, wrapped in blankets – until they begin to be released from 5 pm onwards. Two of the women, Bruna and Preta, were locked up in cells, while others chanted “racist, racist” at the police.

The operation was conducted by Police Chief Glaucio Paz, of the 76th police precinct, by order of Judge Rose Marie, of the 1st Criminal Court. However there is no information about what crimes were being investigated.

It seems likely that the operation was nothing more than harassment of the women who independently organize rent rooms to work individually or who share the rental expense of the rooms with up to two or three other colleagues. One of the prostitutes said she was taken to a bathroom and intensely pressured to say she was a “madam”.

The claim that the court ordered closure of the building was because “the premises were found to be in a poor state of repair” clashes with information contained in the document posted on the doors that had been kicked in–the “Notice of Partial Interdiction” or “Edital de Interdição Parcial” (attached)–that further expert inspection needed to be made.

Additionally, the police action targeted only the four floors of the building where about 400 prostitutes work, without any other apartment in the remaining six floors being restricted.

The operation prevented, at least temporarily, the women from working at the location and disrupted the housing of those who live there.  The supposed justification for the notice prohibiting the use of the building was that there had been “confirmation that the site was used repeatedly for committing a crime”–even though the apartment numbers had been registered at the time–the same reasoning that had been used in a summons order (mandados de intimação) two weeks before. And more seriously both the summons order and the notice are generic and do not indicate what crime may have transpired. A police officer said that, “the judge did not order that anyone be taken to the police station, but we (the police) took them” – recognizing that they did not even have legal authorization for that kind of action. In April, in another operation, more than 20 workers from the same building were taken by the police from the same precinct to Bangu prison without any legal process and justification.

porta quebrada loja 2Inside the police station, in the middle of the afternoon of that fateful day May 23, another scene would not go unnoticed by us, nor by the wider audience who, perplexed, watched the tense interactions between the unyielding police and the prostitutes who were outraged by the brutal, humiliating treatment, and the lack of any clear explanation as to what led them to be there. The scene in question involved the police inspector for the case and one of the lawyers present who requested, in front of everyone at the reception desk of the police station, that he be able to enter and monitor any testimony provided by the women.  Faced with this request based on the right of every citizen, the inspector countered surprisingly saying that the attorney, “not look for a fight that was not his.” This statement by a police officer particularly when made to a lawyer, expresses either ignorance of or  total disregard for the democratic rule of law, where a lawyer, by definition, has the responsibility to ensure the rights (or, according to the police inspector’s term “fights”) of each and every citizen.

It is intolerable that the authoritarian practices characteristic of those used during the military dictatorship remain with us and that the treatment of prostitution should based on archaic views about the victimization of and supposed exploitation of autonomous and independent women. Prostitution,  it is worth recalling, has since 2002 been recognized as a profession by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and is listed as number 5,198 in the Brazilian Classification of Occupations.

In addition what has been related above, there are also reports that these actions are driven by economic and property interests, specifically the “sanitization” of the central area of Niteroi with the economic, political and judicial protection of the various stakeholders engaged in this latest urban “redevelopment” project of the metropolitan area.

The (sex work) professionals remain mobilized and demonstrated this Monday, May 26, in front of the police station and the building where the apartments were condemned. The protests are justified by both the way they were (mis) treated as well as because of the loss of the structure that allows them to earn their livelihood. For this reason, they have been carrying banners reading: “Over 500 meninas lost their jobs”, “Take your hands off me, let me work, tomorrow is another day, I have to pay my bills,” and especially, “Prostitution is not a crime”.

To conclude, we urge this Superintendency to give due attention to this very serious situation of abuses and violations that stain the State’s honor, aware of the enormous strides that have been made to end the impunity and humiliations that characterized the “indecent state” that persisted for decades.

Rio de Janeiro, May 26, 2014.

Professor. Dr. Soraya Silveira Simões
Coordinator of the Centre for Prostitution / UFRJ a partnership between Metropolitana-LeMetro/IFCS-UFRJ Ethnography Lab, the Institute for Research and Urban and Regional Planning-IPPUR-UFRJ, Davida, ABIA and APERJ


Text written by Prostitute, Transfeminista and Parliamentary Advisor, Indianara Siqueira, and Advocate Heloisa Melino

Niterói, May 23, 2014

This afternoon in an absolutely illegal operation, officers of the the 76th Police Precinct and DEAM Niterói raided the 4 floors where rooms for independently operated prostitution are located–also the residence of several women workers–in the building above the Caixa Econômica, downtown Niterói.

The operation is part of the redevelopment project (cleansing) of the center of Niterói. Without a warrant, police raided several apartments, took more than 100 women to the police station and seized goods. Women were assaulted and raped – police forced them to do oral sex and put their hands on the women’s genitals. At the end of the day, several women reported theft of drinks (beer, whiskey, vodka and redbull) and theft of money.

A woman who worked all week to be able to pay for her daughter’s birthday party on Saturday (tomorrow) had all her money stolen, including all her money for transportation.

One of the officers who assaulted one of the women shouted to anyone who would listen: “Beat it! She was using curse words! “- as if that were reason for assaulting a woman and as if those more than 100 women had to be quiet as 50 of them were crammed together in a minibus with only 20 seats.

This same officer said, “The judge ordered that we not bring anyone to the precinct, but we are taking you!” Recognizing that the police did not even have the judicial authorization for their actions. It is clear that these women were transported to the station so the police could steal their belongings and money.

111They have done, and they can do, what they will with prostitutes because they have impunity and are sure that society will not hear the women’s cries.

This police operation has been ongoing since October 2013 allowing for these rogue searches of prostitutes. In April more than 20 of them (sex workers) were taken to prison. The losses of these women, their cries and heartbreak, is also the fault of all of you on the Left who are against the regulation (and full decriminalization) of prostitution.

We need you on the street in support of prostitutes and not in debates opposing a bill written by yourselves. We need to show the Government that social movements are united and eye and that NO WOMAN WILL BE LEFT BEHIND. Together and together we have strength to prevent future abuses.



ABIA disseminates a statement repudiating police action against sex workers in Niterói (RJ)

The Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association vehemently repudiates the grave human rights violations committed on May 23rd by civil police against more than 200 sex workers and residents in a building in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro.  Sex workers reported that during the invasion, conducted by police without a warrant, violations including robbery, assault, and rape occurred, configuring an overwhelming abuse of power by the police force.

After being humiliated, the women were arrested and taken to the 76th police precinct for questioning. It is intolerable that during the 50th anniversary year of the beginning of the military dictatorship in Brazil this tactic of questioning, common during that dark period, is still being used.

We also repudiate the destruction and the illegal condemnation of the apartments where the women worked. This act violates the rights of autonomous sex workers to freely work in prostitution. These women are currently without a place to live and work.

ABIA understands that this illegal operation is an extension of the  “urban clean-up” processes that were initially justified by the World Cup preparations. Brazil is among the countries that most committed human rights violations as part of preparations for the event.

The World Cup and Olympics should not be used as arguments to justify a moral panic in the country surrounding prostitution. Implementing laws against the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents and trafficking of persons cannot be a pretext for the repression of consensual adult sex work.

Prostitution is legal in Brazil and, since 2002, recognized in the Ministry of Labor and Employment’s Brazilian Classification of Occupations. Prostitution is not a crime in Brazil. Any person older than 18 and able can freely work in prostitution, just as any person in the same conditions can use their services.

The criminalization of these professionals, in addition to being an act of persecution and multiple rights violations, also increases the women’s conditions of vulnerability, in particular to HIV and AIDS. According to studies conducted by the World Health Organization and World Bank, there are significant relationships between criminalization of prostitution and rights violations, unprotected sex, and HIV infection.

In the places where sex work is criminalized, the HIV response has been frustrated and limited by structural forces which include stigma, discrimination, and physical violence. ABIA, in partnership with the NGO Davida and the Prostitution Observatory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) is conducting a mapping of the rights violations of these professionals with the goal, among others, of strengthening the response to HIV and AIDS.

On International Sex Workers Rights Day, commemorated today, on June 2nd, ABIA joins with the other voices that call for justice for the sex workers that suffered rights violations in Niterói and in other cities. We demand that the Brazilian state implements public policies that guarantee the promotion of rights and protection of sex workers as workers – not as victims – as well as the end of abuse, repression, discrimination, and other forms of violence committed against these professionals.

More photos of damage done by police:

What to watch and do on International Whores Day (June 2, 2014)

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International Whores’ Day —also referred to as International Sex Workers’ Day–has been celebrated on June 2nd each year since 1976. The day honors all sex workers. The event commemorates the occupation of Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon by more than a hundred prostitutes on 2 June 1975 to draw attention to their situation. Given this history, many take the day as a moment to recognize that sex workers often face poor working conditions, and to consider how to make radical change.PutaCampaignJune2_2014 Each year in the spirit of Gabriela’s reclaiming of the word “puta,” A Kiss for Gabriela provides you with our suggestions about what to watch to honor the day and what you might do to support the whores, putas and sex workers in your community.

This year our film recommendation for your viewing pleasure is Somaly Uh Uh (Bad Rehab extended remix). Danceable yet incredibly powerful, this song and animated video is a five minute primer about the real issues for sex workers who are forced into rehabilitation centers in South East Asia- and the devastation wrought by the anti-trafficking “rescue industry.” At the end of May 2014, a leading luminary of the “rescue industry” Cambodia’s Somaly Mam resigned from the leadership of her non-profit organization which had profited handsomely while engaging in  very, very “bad rehabilitation” of sex workers, detaining them without food and medicine, and which had promoted bad policies that made life much harder for sex workers in the region. Melissa Gira in an excellent Op Ed that appeared in the NY Times on May 29 asks us to consider, what is the price of the “sex slave rescue fantasy” that Somaly peddled to wealthy liberals and conservatives alike, including Hollywood’s elite who stacked her fundaisers and threw cash into campaigns that undermine the freedom and rights of people in sex work. If you happen to rub shoulders with Susan Sarandon and Nicholas Kristoff, we recommend that your June 2 action be to dial their digits and ask them to now direct their support to one of the multitude of rights based organizations working for justice. They could take a heart from Laverne Cox’s beautiful and timely call to support Monica Jones during a gala event organized by GLAAD. You can be glamorous and do the right thing, here’s looking at all of you in Hollywood to change your ways this June 2, 2014.

Additionally this June 2 the “putas of Niteró” still need your support as they fight back to defend their work spaces, homes and safety as police converge to “clean up” their area as we approach the World Cup in Brazil. If you are in Rio de Janeiro, A Kiss for Gabriela recommends attending one of the many events organized for the “Mega Dia Internacional das Prostitutas” by DASPU and Davida. If you are not in Brazil today then please take a moment to tweet, write and raise awareness of the effects of policing in Niteroí. La luta continua!


Police raid in Niteroi, damaging work places and homes

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Nitero_01On May 23, 2014 police in Niteroi, aided by agents of over 13 police stations in the state of Rio de Janeiro, illegally stormed the building where more than 300 prostitutes work. Approximately 100 were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning. The police prevented lawyers from being present during the questioning. These are the tactics of a military dictatorship. There were reports of rape, robbery, physical and psychological violence and also that the police planted “evidence” in the women’s belongings.

The authorities characterized the neighborhood and work places as a “crime scene”, even though they did not have legal warrants to enter and arrest the women. The “Notice of Prohibition”, tacked up on the doors of the building, said that the partial ban was justified because of there was “confirmation that the site was repeatedly used for committing a crime.” However, the number of the apartment was written on the document at the scene, the same practice that is used for a writ of summons. Summons documents are generic and do not indicate in advance what particular infraction may have been committed.

As can be seen in the pictures, the police broke down the doors of the prostitutes’ work places and living spaces. Afterwards the apartments could no longer be locked and were at risk of robbery—although in many cases the agents had already stolen almost everything—hindering the prostitutes’ work and imperiling the homes of those who also live there.


The tape covering the door way reads, “crime scene, do not cross.”

We heard reports that the police ordered that the doors of the apartments be closed and that they then broke into them, so as to preclude sex work from continuing, to destroy the housing, and deteriorate the condition of the building on floors where women work. Many of the women also reported that after being forced to leave their rooms and brought illegally to the police station, that when they returned they found that their belongings stolen and the apartment doors broken.

What happened was a crime yes! But the crimes were committed by the police and not by the prostitutes!

Here some pictures of the apartments, broken doors and protest signs made ​​and placed in the building the next day.

"If you arrest me I will yell, I'm a whore and proud."

“If you arrest me I will yell, I’m a proud whore.”