News

Petite Jasmine, 1986-2013 (Photo via her Facebook page, courtesy of Rose Alliance)

Petite Jasmine (Photo via her Facebook page, courtesy of Rose Alliance)

On Friday, Swedish sex workers’ rights organization Rose Alliance released this statement on Facebook: “Our board member, fierce activist, and friend Petite Jasmine got brutally murdered yesterday (11 July 2013). Several years ago she lost custody of her children as she was considered to be an unfit parent due to being a sex worker. The children were placed with their father regardless of him being abusive towards Jasmine. They told her she didn’t know what was good for her and that she was “romanticizing” prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn’t realise sex work was a form of self-harm. He threatened and stalked her on numerous occasions.  She was never offered any protection. She fought the system through four trials and had finally started seeing her children again. Yesterday the father of her children killed her. She always said, “Even if I can’t get my kids back I will make sure this never happens to any other sex worker.” We will continue her fight. Justice for Jasmine!”

Rose Alliance coordinator Pye Jakobsson was gracious enough to answer some questions about Jasmine’s struggle with the state and murder for Tits and Sass.

Caty Simon: So, for starters, can you tell us a little bit about how you met Jasmine Petite and what she worked on for Rose Alliance?

Pye Jakobsson: Jasmine contacted me around three years ago, just after the local council took custody of her kids. She was looking for help with this and had been advised to contact us. Her main activism was around her own situation and others like hers, plus a lot of stuff around the Swedish Model.

Caty: The Swedish Model criminalizes the clients of sex workers in Sweden. How does it affect sex workers there?

Pye: The biggest overall result is the increased stigma. Practical results have to do with the police going after clients. Street workers have lost valuable assessment time they need before getting into a client’s car [because the clients are too nervous about arrest to stop and talk.—ed.]  Also, their clients have more control and can say, ” Don’t drive to that spot, I know a better one the police don’t know about.” Police target  indoor workers too, trying to catch their clients. That means the focus is now on making clients feel safe enough to see us, rather than us focusing on our own safety.  In addition, the pimping laws force us to work alone. It’s also illegal to rent out premises to us. Many work from home, and if the landlord finds out, he is forced to evict you. So they want to save us, but they punish us until we are willing to be saved. And if we say we want to be “saved,” all they offer is therapy [rather than economic alternatives—ed.]

Caty: Can you tell us a bit more about Jasmine’s custody battle? In the Facebook statement from Rose Alliance re: her murder, you guys wrote that she had been pathologized for not admitting that her sex work was a form of self-harm, and that her ex was given custody of the kids because she was a sex worker, despite the fact that she’d reported that he abused her. Can you elaborate on how the state justified taking her kids away from her?

Pye: She had kids with the same guy who was abusive towards her, mostly verbal abuse, though he was convicted for physical violence 12 years ago. They had already separated when the second child was born (the children are four and five now). So they had shared custody of the oldest and then she had sole custody of the youngest.

She was doing sex work as a way to stay at home with her kids, but after only a few months of working, a relative of hers called social services to let them know she was selling sex. The relative also called the father of the kids, who also called Social Services, claiming she took clients home, etc. The truth was she only worked in Stockholm, one hour away from the city where she lived.

[READ MORE]

{ 28 comments }

Suzy Favor Hamilton in all her badass athletic glory (photo by Getty Images)

Former escort and college athlete Suzy Favor Hamilton in all her badass glory (photo by Getty Images)

The New York Times ran a substantial piece on the still-unsolved Long Island sex worker murders by Robert Kolker, author of a forthcoming book on the same subject.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric assassinated by a US drone strike in Yemen, “regularly visited high end prostitutes” — if you think 7 times over ten months counts as regularity. How wonderful that this is a topic of discussion, and not his status as a murdered US-born man not charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime. (Can anyone clarify what counts as “high end” in the eyes of mainstream media? The only requirement seems to be working indoors.)

Canada’s recent Supreme Court case has sparked a discussion about indigenous women’s (overrepresented) presence in the nation’s sex trade.

There’s been a bunch of brouhaha over a recent bust in Melbourne, from which we’ve learned that being an East Asian migrant sex worker equates to being exploited. Strangely enough, none of the 100 women “saved” have been interviewed.

A German straight male escort is profiled here, if you’re curious. Warning: link contains confessions.

Suzy Favor Hamilton continues to be punished for working as an escort; the Big Ten has stripped her name from their female Athlete of the Year award.

Irish Senator David Norris, our new hero, says “the deliberate blurring of the boundaries between trafficking and sex workers is wrong.”

[READ MORE]

{ 2 comments }

Image via The Guardian

Image via The Guardian

Anmar, an Argentinian trade union for sex workers, launched this fantastic graffiti campaign to combat stigma and stereotypes around prostitution.

This week’s biggest news story was the US Supreme Court striking down the anti-prostituion pledge 6 to 2. Melissa Gira Grant’s take for The Nation is our first pick for detailed coverage, but you can also read more at  The New Yorker, MSNBC, the IEDE, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor.

The FBI gamed P411, a screening website used by escorts to confirm that certain clients are safe and not abusive, to arrest 22 adult women because: trafficking.

Speaking of which, the US downgraded China and Russia to the lowest possible tier on their master list of countries with too much trafficking. The lesson here is for those countries to start arresting more voluntarily working prostitutes, I guess?

In Canada, lawyers highlighted the importance of bad date lists, the flipside of sites like P411, in their arguments against existing prostitution laws. If you’re looking for a breakdown of the elements at play in the current Canada court case, check out this extensive Autostraddle piece or this video, or this one. [READ MORE]

{ 5 comments }

Lenora Ivie Frago

Lenora Ivie Frago

Last week, social media flooded with outrage over the acquittal of Ezekiel Gilbert for the murder of Lenora Ivie Frago. On December 24, 2009, Gilbert and Frago met via Craigslist and agreed that he would pay her $150 for her time as a companion. Time, Gilbert argued, that was supposed to include sex. Frago left without having sex with him, fee in hand. Gilbert then decided that her fee was now stolen goods and shot her to reclaim his property. Frago later died due to her injuries and Gilbert was charged with murder. A Bexar County jury acquitted him, leading the sex worker community and people with general good sense to ask: how in the hell did this happen?

Jury trials are, in theory, supposed to be fairer than bench trials as they are decided by a panel of people who bring a variety of life experiences and thoughts to the table. Both sides of have the chance to weed out a few jurors who they think have too much bias during jury selection, but there is simply no way to weed out all jurors with bias. There is also no way to ensure jurors are actually listening to testimony or understand the law. I’ve seen trials where jurors literally fell asleep and then went off to a small room to decide the fate of another human being.

In this case, prosecutors needed to convince these twelve people that Gilbert had committed the act of murder according to the state’s definition. If the facts did show that Gilbert committed murder, there was still a way to find him not guilty: his attorneys could show that he had a plausible affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is a defense that argues the defendant’s actions may meet the elements of the crime, but his actions had good (and legal) reason behind them. [READ MORE]

{ 19 comments }

(Photo by the Edinburgh Eye)

(Photo by the Edinburgh Eye)

Last week in Cleveland, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry escaped from Ariel Castro’s “house of horrors”  where he imprisoned the women in a nightmare of rape and torture for almost a decade. Castro has been arraigned on four charges of kidnapping and three charges of rape. The courageous women escaped with the help of Charles Ramsey, a neighbor who broke into the home after hearing Berry’s screams. A charismatic man, Ramsey became an instant celebrity after declaring he knew “something was wrong” when he saw that a “pretty little white girl ran into the arms of a black man.”

Everything about the Cleveland kidnapping case—from Ramsey’s critique of race to the captive women’s histories of abuse—has stirred important conversations about domestic abuse, sexual abuse, police incompetence, and race. Unsurprisingly, for those of us who follow trafficking hysteria,  it’s also inspired a lot of talk about sex trafficking.

[READ MORE]

{ 7 comments }