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Sex Work, Trafficking and Labor Migration: Views from Inside The Sex Industry

Friday, June 05, 2009
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Event Type:
Carol Leigh
Location Details:
Artists Television Access
992 Valencia
San Francisco, CA

Sex Work, Trafficking and Labor Migration: Views from Inside The Sex Industry

BAYSWAN, Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network, co-sponsors this provocative and educational evening at Artists Television Access at 7 PM on Friday June 5th, offering San Franciscans a rare view of issues for migrant sex workers, outside of the conventional discourse on trafficking.

Why do some human rights experts say that the US 'sponsors trafficking?' This evening’s presentation explores the contradictions within the anti-trafficking framework and examines sex work migration from an unusual perspective.

In the 21st century we witness a return to a focus on trafficking and slavery in the context of discussions about commercial sex. Indeed, 'trafficking' functions as a metaphor for prostitution. This evening's presentation includes a number of movies, which offer extremely candid accounts of the experiences and travails of migrant sex workers. This content is rare, including a US Premiere from Taiwan, “To See or Not To See.”
These stories do not glamorize, nor condemn sex work. Rather they challenge stereotypes of migrant sex workers from Southeast Asia, widely seen as 'sex slaves.' They present the viewer with a rare understanding of women who travel across borders to work in the sex industry. This program addresses the day to day challenges faced by migrant sex workers, along with the “collateral damage” of anti-trafficking policies (as Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women calls it) with an emphasis on support for those who continue working in these industries in the context of anti-immigrant policies and sex work criminalization. The movie “Happy Endings” explores issues for sex workers from Korea and presents the community activism in Rhode Island as community come out on both sides of the issue. This issue is particularly timely and disturbing as two weeks ago the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed legislation criminalizing these women, now awaiting passage in the Senate

We also look into the struggles for sex workers in Cambodia who are faced with a new wave of criminalization through video from Asian Pacific Network of Sex Workers. Viewing these interviews in these movies is a valuable part of human rights education regarding sex work issues.

This year the San Francisco Sex Worker Festival is honored to share eight short works from the collection of sexworkerspresent, the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, including a number of APNSW works. These powerful productions and collected work provide a valuable library of first person accounts of sex worker's lives and organizing efforts in Asia and around the World.

More about the movies and event are here, and also pasted below:

We recommend that you prepay for tickets to reserve your seat.

On Saturday, June 6th, the Festival presents a full day of videos by and about sex workers at the Roxie Cinema from noon to 2 am.

7 PM June 5th, Friday
Films and discussion on
Sex Work, Trafficking and Labor Migration:
Views from Inside The Sex Industry
Artists Television Access
992 Valencia, San Francisco
Cost: $6-$20 (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Info: 415-287-31114
swfest [at]

The Movies:
7 PM Anti-trafficking: Cambodia, the Reality
Produced by APNSW (Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers)
First-person stories of the effect and human cost of US backed anti-trafficking laws on Cambodian sex workers, including accounts of a sex worker's stay in a notorious "reeducation camp" prison. (Thailand, 4:43 min. - 2008)

MTV and the Trafficking Law in Cambodia
Produced by No Exit News
MTV and U.S. AID want to save Cambodian women from sex work, but some very irate Cambodian women think MTV forgot to have a conversation or two along the way... A heartfelt response by sex workers in Cambodia to the MTV Exit Campaign against trafficking and exploitation. (Cambodia, 9 min-2008)

7: 15 PM To See or Not To See
Director: Tsai Yi-Feng
(US Premiere screening) tells the fascinating story of immigrant sex workers from Mainland China in Taiwan. Director Tsai Yi-Feng rides in the backseat with a driver for the sex workers, and follows the women from their recruitment in Chengdu, Sichuan, to their workplace in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. As immigrants, the women in this video might be stereotyped as 'trafficking victims,' but the movie documents the real lives, perceptions and difficult choices for these women. This movie is a must see for all those who suspect that behind the sensationalistic trafficking headlines, there is a deeper and more complex story about the struggles of sex work immigrants and the choices women make. (Taiwan, 64 min.-2003)
2004 Taiwan International Documentary Festival-Nominated for Image Taiwan Award
2003 WuShanTou Film Festival - Opening Film, Taiwan
2004 Taipei Film Festival - Jury's Special Prize

8:15 PM Happy Endings
Director/Producer: Tara Hurley; Editor: Nick Marcoux; Sound Design: Timothy O'Keefe
This guerilla style documentary follows the life of "Heather" over three years as she works in a massage parlor, while the Rhode Island legislators debate over what they have strategically called a "loophole" which that allows prostitution behind closed doors. The movie features interviews from massage parlor workers in Rhode Island as they are confronted with the racism and xenophobia of local anti-prostitution activists. This film also features interviews with many Rhode Island's movers and shakers including Providence Mayor David Cicillin Steve Brown of the ACLU and anti-prostitution zealot, Donna Hughes.(US, 80 min- 2008)

9:30 Discussion

Suggested Reading:

The following materials provide some background on rights-based approaches to trafficking.

Several reviews of Laura María Agustín's, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, include interviews and additional material about this issue. Spiked, The New Statesman, and Reason.

Global Alliance Against Traffick in Women's 'Collateral Damage' reviews the impact of anti-trafficking measures on human rights in 8 countries. This anthology emphasizes the critical need for a re-assessment of anti-trafficking initiatives around the globe in order that human rights do not get written off as 'collateral damage' in combating human trafficking.

For more about this discussion, visit:

Added to the calendar on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 2:58PM
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