Sex worker rights are LGBTQI rights!

Recognizing the links between queer and trans justice, economic justice and gender justice, Astraea is honored to support sex worker groups.

Anti-hate-crimes legislation or anti-discrimination legislation will not protect the community because many of the community members do sex work. You have to decriminalize sex work at the same time to protect the LGBTI community. There are clear linkages between LGBTI rights and sex workers’ rights.

Kemal Ördek, Red Umbrella Project, Turkey

Astraea is excited to celebrate International Sex Workers’ Day today, which commemorates the eight-day occupation of a French church in 1975 by more than a hundred sex workers demanding improved working conditions. More than a quarter-century later, Italian sex workers marched through the streets with red umbrellas as part of an exhibit at the Venice Biennale of Art. Symbolizing strength and protection from violence, the red umbrella was adopted by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers as the official symbol for sex worker’s rights several years later. This rich legacy of sex worker organizing continues today around the world.

Despite facing violence and criminalization and having limited funding for their activism, sex workers are challenging sexism and transphobia by demanding their rights to bodily autonomy. They are pushing for access to quality healthcare and fair working conditions; documenting human rights violations and fighting for police accountability; leading harm reduction strategies and educating peers about their rights. LGBTQI sex workers in particular are disproportionately profiled and experience heightened violence at the hands of law enforcement.

Recognizing the links between queer and trans justice, economic justice and gender justice, Astraea is honored to support sex worker groups, including:

  • The first and only open sex worker rights organization in Turkey, Red Umbrella Project powerfully resists the human rights violations that all sex workers experience in their daily lives. Red Umbrella builds alliances within the LGBTQ, sex worker and feminist movements in Turkey and internationally. In 2016, it published a report documenting over 700 cases of transphobic violence and discrimination against sex workers in just a year.
  • In Baltimore, Maryland, Power Inside is a sex worker-led organization that fiercely advocates against police abuse and sexual violence against sex workers, lesbians and transgender women. Most recently, Power Inside compiled and documented testimonies of women who have experienced police brutality and sexual misconducts at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department and presented them to the US Department of Justice.

Astraea envisions a world in which all people are free to exercise self-determination, bodily autonomy, and freedom of choice––regardless of their occupation. It is through the work of sex worker activism that we will build a better world for LGBTQI people…and all of society.

 

Astraea 2014 Highlights

This was another radical year for Astraea and the movement for LGBTQI justice. As we stand at the brink of 2015, these are some of our 2014 highlights.

Broke grantmaking records. 2014 has been our biggest grantmaking year yet. We made nearly $3 million in grants to 81 partners in 35 countries.

Astraea hits Broadway! We were on Broadway for an Uprising of Love! spearheading a movement of LGBTI activism with celebrities like Sting, Patti Lupone, Jane Lynch and many others. The concert benefited Astraea’s $20m Fueling the Frontlines campaign and featured the work of Astraea and our grantee partners!

Created the first CommsLabs. We launched the first-ever Media, Communications and Technology Lab (CommsLabs) in Bogotá, Colombia as part of the Global LGBTI Development Partnership with the USAID. Astraea convened more than 30 activists from Latin America with 12 practitioners in technology and communications, to co-create new media strategies and digital advocacy tools specifically designed to meet the needs of LGBTQI human rights defenders.

Kika Child, CommsLabs Colombia, 2014. Participants exchange gifts. Photo: Ben Parker

Four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Astraea received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. The ratings, which are assessed annually, take into account organizational governance practices, fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. It was the highest score of any national LGBTQI organization awarded.

Mourned the loss of icons. The community mourned the loss of gender warrior Leslie Feinbergand Vernita Gray, one of Chicago’s longest and most prolific activists for LGBT rights.

              Left: Vernita Gray. Right: The 1993 Lesbian Writer’s Fund Awards Gala,

Pictured left to right: Cheryl Clarke, Leslie Feinberg, Minnie Bruce Pratt, event emcee Karen Williams, and Cheryl Neal Reed

Intersectional organizing to end state violence. Astraea grantee partners are collectively organizing mass action to end state violence. #BlackLivesMatter is an intersectional movement, led by African American people and queers. Many of Astraea’s grantee partners have helped amplify and lead these waves of change. BreakOUT! and the New Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice organized a Children’s March for Human Rights on October 24th. Streetwise and Safe (SAS) organized a #GetYrRights tweeter rally to bring attention to the power of knowing your rights when interacting with the police as LGBTQ youth. Southerners on New Ground (SONG) coordinated #BlackLivesMatterEverywhere actions with other community organizations and blocked a busy highway in Atlanta, Georgia in honor of the 19th annual National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. Astraea continues to partner with Communities United for Police Reform(CPR) campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York.

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Southerners on New Ground. #BlackLivesMatter Action ATL GA Photo: Lorraine Fontana

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) wins across the globe.

  • UN human rights body condemned violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Cuba banned employment discrimination
  • In Ecuador, 450 public servants in the health and judicial sector received training on SOGI non discriminatory practises
  • In the United States, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to protect LGBT workers
  • Australia passed the first non-discrimination law protecting intersex people.
  • The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights passed a resolution condemning violence based on SOGI
  • In Kenya and Peru the court legalized trans* name changes and supported individual rights to self determination.
  • Secured partial adoption rights for same sex couples in Colombia
  • Achieved a seventh resolution on LGBTI rights in Latin America.

Trans* rights gained momentum. But we have a long way to go. The Indian Supreme Court officially recognized a third gender, paving the way for access to improved state welfare. 10,000 people gathered in Istanbul for the largest Trans* Pride March ever, despite increased attempts by the state to repress protests since Gezi. Actress Laverne Cox became the first trans* person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine. However, violence against trans* folks and women of color in particular persists. The IDAHOT 2014 update reveals a total of 1,509 reported killings of trans and gender variant people in 61 countries worldwide from January 1st 2008 to March 31st 2014.

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 Istanbul Trans* Pride March 2014. Photo: Yasin AKGUL Astraea, grantee partner Instanbul LGBTT

Marriage equality reached a tipping point. 2014 will be recognized as the tipping point for marriage equality in the US. 35 States legalized same-sex marriage, just over 60 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a state where marriage equality is legal.

Africans celebrated wins despite the increasing sanctioned homophobia on the continent – Uganda held the first pride rally after the ‘abominable’ anti-gay law was overturned. Astraea grantee partners Freedom and Roam Uganda lead a constitutional challenge to the anti-homosexuality bill along with public education and media advocacy in Uganda.

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Freedom and Roam Uganda at Uganda Pride. Photo: Molisa wa NyaKale

In 2015, we stand at the nexus of a movement for justice, recognizing that the fight for gender, racial and class equality is one we are deeply committed to. Help us support brilliant and brave LGBTQI activists on the frontlines of our communities’ struggles for liberation. Here’s to another year in this gorgeous struggle.

Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association

Red Umbrella builds alliances within the LGBTQ, sex worker and feminist movements in Turkey and internationally.

Founded in 2013, Red Umbrella is the first and only open sex worker rights organization in Turkey, focusing on the human rights violations that all sex workers experience in their daily lives, affirming their rights to live freely and work, as well as improving their sexual and reproductive health. Red Umbrella recently held a national conference in March 2015 on the human rights situation of sex workers, which attracted attention from a number of ministries and local administration officers, some of whom sent representatives for the first time to a sex worker rights event. The conference drew 350 participants and positive media coverage. Red Umbrella has leveraged its position to successfully advocate for greater access to sexual health materials. Identifying as a feminist organization, Red Umbrella builds alliances within the LGBTQ, sex worker and feminist movements in Turkey and internationally; it also builds with progressive groups, such as the Platform for New Constitution, Think Civil Platform and others.

Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association

Self-identifying as a trans* organization that fights for LGBTQ rights and human rights, Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association formed in 2007 in response to experiences of transphobia.

Self-identifying as a trans* organization that fights for LGBTQ rights and human rights, Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association formed in 2007 in response to experiences of transphobia in larger LGBT groups and out of a need to provide a space that recognized how gender identity, class and ethnicity interacted with sexual orientation. Their core activities include providing legal and social support to LGBT people who experience discriminatory or violent policing practices, monitoring transphobic hate crime cases, conducting street actions to protest human rights violations and raise awareness of trans* issues, engaging in broader movement advocacy to include SOGI protections in Turkey’s constitution, and providing trans-sensitive sexual health and psychosocial counseling. They recently supported production of a documentary film “Trans X Istanbul,” which was presented at the Istanbul International Film Festival in international competition section and won a Special Mention/Face Award. The film was used to launch a campaign against transphobic hate crimes and hate speech called the “We need a law!” campaign. Launched on Trans Day of Remembrance, 70 people from 7 cities mobilized and marched together to the parliament in Ankara. In 2013, they launched the “Trans* Guest House Project,” which continues to serve as a transitional home for queer and trans* asylum seekers from Syria, Iran, Iraq and refugees from inner Turkey.