Posts Tagged ‘trafficking


Fighting to keep San Francisco a sanctuary city for ALL migrant workers

photo by Brice McGowen

photo by Brice McGowen

San Francisco’s sanctuary city status was again awakened to Immigration raids at 4am when 17 homes in low income neighborhoods had their doors busted in by immigration authorities, also known as I.C.E last night. There excuse was that there were looking for El Salvadorean gang members from MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) which they created because of these types of deportations and raids. They were actually making the gang bigger and allowing trafficking of drugs to occur by deporting people from the U.S prisons back to Latin American countries!! Such fucking bullshit!  These types of justifications are the same rhetoric that ICE uses to raid massage parlors and rescue trafficking victims that they don’t find. In San Francisco, which is supposed to be a port for trafficking they have found 0 trafficking cases. There were emergency protests at the I.C.E building today, as well as a youth action planned on October 31st. I decided this was the perfect alliance building opportunity for migrant sex worker issues to be addressed, and for some people of color outreach to happen. Cindy Sheehan, who is running for Congress was there. The socialist party, radical women and the sex workers working for a yes on prop K were also there. I went to an organizing meeting for the Oct 31st event. Even though the masses that they hope to attract probably won’t be able to vote (youth under 18 and undocumented folks), I felt that supporting this issue was and is so very crucial to our movement. For anyone who cries “No Human Being is Illegal” should also understand the plight of sex workers, and stand together to help migrant sex workers stand alongside all other workers in the immigrant rights and anti-deportation and state terror movement. I have always felt alienated by the voting process, the groups that I have worked with have always been comprised of folks that feel disenfranchised by the systems in place. The voter handbook is 40 pages thick and requires HOURS to really read and go through. No wonder people just listen to who newspapers tell them to vote for.

Robyn Few, our fearless founder

Robyn Few, fearless founder of Sex Workers Outreach Project. She founded SWOP to vote in Measure Q to decriminalize prostitution in the city of Berkeley 2004 ( the measure lost, but a national organization was founded).

Perhaps I’m too radical for even the Prop K people, I’m not sure. I wanted to protest the raids; others wanted to precinct walk and others wanted to sit in a creative writing class for sex workers. I always get caught up in the spirit of protest against the government. I love how mobilized the immigrant rights movement is. It’s always been inspiring, however, in LA my efforts to try to get them to include sex workers in their dialogue about work has failed because if I weren’t present in their meetings, then no one would make sure that the migrant sex worker or migrant client community would be represented.

yes on K!

yes on K!

Everything has been happening in this campaign and in general at the speed of wind. Reporters call someone from our group and they want to do an interview with AP, CNN, NBC, Chinese language news, AP reporters, the WHOLE list of everyone who is everyone. I guess putting a proposition on the ballot is a sure fire way to make our issues NEWSWORTHY and I am really seeing the media sing a whole different tune in many ways. NBCs reporter wanted to get a sex worker on camera to reveal who she was and how she did her advertising and her work, and Robyn Few our fearless founder of SWOP told them where to put it. “Our story to the media is about proposition K. We are not here for you to exploit and use as newsrags” she said, in short. I love Robyn. We are all working so hard on this campaign. And I notice how hard everyone who is working on any campaign around the city is also working equally as hard. I had never really appreciated the process before.


Cambodian Sex Worker Liberation (APNSW video)

depressed because of criminalization not trafficking

depressed because of criminalization not trafficking

Pisey Ly and Kao Tha are AMAZING activist for Cambodian sex worker liberation!!

PI Say and Kao Ta (sp?) are AMAZING activist for Cambodian sex worker liberation!!

Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) Honored at AIDS Conference (where I am at right now!)

(Mexico City, August 6, 2008) – The Asia Pacific Network of Sex
Workers (APNSW) is the recipient of the 2008 international Award
for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, the Canadian HIV/AIDS
Legal Network and Human Rights Watch announced today. The award,
which recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations that
protect the rights and dignity of people living with or affected by
HIV/AIDS, was presented in Mexico City on August 6, 2008, at the
XVII International AIDS Conference.

“Sex workers routinely face human rights abuses, including the
discriminatory denial of health services, arbitrary detention by
police, harassment, and sexual and physical violence,” said Richard
Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
( ). “This award recognizes
the extraordinary contribution of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex
Workers in the struggle for sex workers’ rights.”

Since 1994, APNSW has represented sex workers in various policy and
educational forums, promoting the participation of sex workers in
HIV/AIDS programs and supporting dialogue between nongovernmental
organizations, governments, and activists. The group has challenged
the increasing criminalization of all forms of sex work and
unethical drug trials with sex workers as subjects.

APNSW has shaped policy at the global and regional levels, and
built the capacity of local grassroots sex worker organizations,
including by creating a network of transgender activists.
Throughout Asia, the network has been challenging gender-based
violence, promoting access to health care for sex workers, and
advocating for the decriminalization of sex work.

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the Asia Pacific
Network for Sex Workers,” said Andrew Hunter, the network’s policy
director. “International recognition of sex workers’ human rights
is vital to curb the HIV pandemic. Governments and UN agencies need
to promote sustainable, comprehensive HIV prevention and care
initiatives for sex workers that are community-led and protect
their human rights.”

The stigmatization, social exclusion, and legal marginalization of
sex workers contribute to human rights violations, and can
exacerbate their risk of HIV infection. Increasingly, according to
APNSW, anti-trafficking efforts and laws criminalizing
transactional sex have resulted in violence and human rights abuses
against sex workers at the hands of police. The organization
pointed to new anti-trafficking legislation in Cambodia, where sex
workers have been sent to “rehabilitation” centers and subjected to
sexual violence and beatings, and had little access to health care
or food.

“Being a part of APNSW – working in solidarity with tens of
thousands of sex workers in the region – has allowed us to
challenge the way the authorities have applied this law in
Cambodia, and to gain strength to bring this issue to international
attention,” said Kao Tha of the Women’s Network for Unity, a sex
worker rights organization in Cambodia.

“The International AIDS Conference presents a forum to focus
worldwide attention on the epidemic and our global response,” said
Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch
( “Unfortunately, too often that response has
been tainted by prejudice and misinformation. Only by ensuring the
health and human rights of sex workers will governments, UN
agencies, donors and nongovernmental groups be effective at
reducing the vulnerability of sex workers to HIV infection. The
Asia Pacific Network’s work epitomizes this.”

The Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights were established
in 2002 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights
Watch. An award is presented annually to one Canadian and one
international recipient. This year’s Canadian recipient was Peter
Collins, a prisoner and health activist in Ontario, Canada.

It’s been a honor to be collaborating with Andrew, Dale and APNSW. PLEASE CHECK OUT THEIR VIDEO and learn more about the situation in Cambodia! WordPress doesn’t let you embed anything from for some dumb reason. Star Whores 2 show tomorrow at 2:45pm!

* APNSW website:
* APNSW video on HIV/AIDS and sex workers’ human rights: http://


HELLO KITTY HAS NO MOUTH and Pimpin Ain’t Eazy

“Happy Endings, American Dreams” photomedia series by Mariko Passion, copyright 2007.






The director of Girl Fest, Hawaii takes a stab at feminist critique of the We, Asian Sex Workers postcard seen in the post BELOW this one, which depicts one of the images that I did as part of the “Happy Endings, American Dreams” photomedia series above that I displayed on the ar+space gallery walls.

“…Notice how this girl on the flyer is made to be or at least look underage, wearing a Hello Kitty jacket– a popular youth logo. Keep in mind, Hello Kitty has NO mouth to speak for herself. This girl is sitting on a bed in a brothel. Below her are the credit card logos of visa and mastercard with the words “BUY FINE ART” in caps. This flyer is not only promoting the pimping and selling of young girls, it is COMPLETELY racist, perpetuation the hyper-sexual underage exotification of Asian women and girls.

To be clear, Girl Fest and I have been working for the rights and protections and services of women and girls with no economic option but to have their bodies sold for sex to survive. We want to get them out of the industry and help them heal. However, WE ARE COMPLETELY ANTI-PIMP and JOHN. We are firmly against the legalization and decriminalization of prostitution. This SWOP/APLE Pimp Lobby is subversively anti-woman, under the guise of the arcane term “Harm Reduction.”

Kathryn Xian and Girl Fest Hawaii ( which also ran a Girl Fest San Francisco the SAME week as the Sex Worker Film Festival and the WE, ASW art show represent the anti-prostitution position that believes that women and girls in sex work are not capable of self determination and that sex worker rights feminists are and should be called out for the PIMPS that they are. She uses Melissa Farley as her source for credible information on why prostitution is harmful. Farley believes that ALL sex work is forced prostitution/rape, all women in prostitution have been prostituted and are unable to consent due to their post traumatic stress disorder, and all male clients are rapists and need to be cured of their insatiable, morose desires.

So, Kathryn showed up at one of our University of Hawaii speaking gigs and called me and the rest of the APLE (Arresting Prostitutes is Legal Exploitation) a bunch of pimps, accused us of taking money from ‘the pimps’, and implying that we make underage girls lapdance at our lapdance fundraisers from SWOP. She was just waiting to throw her accusations at the end of our (Carol Leigh, Stacy Swimme and I’s) presentation, upon which she kept saying,”Hello Kitty has NO MOUTH, Mariko! She CAN’T speak for herself!!” and then in classic high school fight style, she stormed out saying “JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE A QUEER ASIAN FEMALE DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T BE A PIMP, MARIKO!! See you on Monday!” …leaving us to deconstruct her accusations without her….


Before Kathryn’s beautiful illustration/performance of the unreasonable hostility anti-prostitution feminists embody when dealing with sex worker activists in feminist spaces like the Women’s Studies Coalition Meeting of the University, she had sent the above analysis in email blast to all the local feminist organizations. I was honored to have been the subject of her deeper examination. That, after all is the POINT of making GOOD ART. If I have made you THINK, (re)think, re-examine and converse about MY work–then I’ve done my job as a post-porn modernist (as Annie Sprinkle might say) artist.  Success!

and now for some thoughts, STRAIGHT FROM THE KITTY’S MOUTH:

First off, calling me a pimp is CRAZY! Not because I have not perhaps technically participated in what could be considered as pimping (I ran a failed escort agency, which never never profited off of prostitution, it was more like an expensive experiment in advertising debt) believe me, so I’m apt to think it wasn’t pimping). PIMP is a an amorphous, ambiguous, misused and misunderstood term that has a pop culture definition (big hat, feather, gold grill, cane..a Black man usually) and a LEGAL defintion (profiting off the avails of prostitution) which makes an escort agent, a stripclub manager, a boyfriend/partner/husband ALL technically able to call themselves pimps. Then there’s the pop culture def which is like the N WORD in that it’s used just as much in songs and movies but has been so far removed from what it originally was that it’s lost it’s meaning because of cultural appropriation and bastardization.  Just like with many racially weighted and charged words, like the N word.

What do people MEAN when they say the word PIMP? And what does it mean to call a SEX WORKER ACTIVIST a PIMP? And to say that in some way, we are being PAID by pimps is even more ridiculous, cuz if any of you know the rules of the game: REAL PIMPS GIVE THEIR MONEY TO NO ONE, especially not to [NO BITCH.]

Pimps and self determined, independent, outspoken prostitutes like myself and the rest of the activists on the speaking tour with me, would certainly not work together financially. We WISH we got funding for our activist efforts by other donors besides OUR CLIENTS. At best, in some situations, like with Pam from APLE who did street outreach for years in Waikiki to girls who DID have stereo typical pimps who wreaked stereotypical violence on their workers, the activists and outreach workers who worked on giving the sex workers some sense of POWER, LOVE AND FREE CONDOMS were at best, tolerated.

Hello Kitty was born and created in Japan in 1976, and is “made in China” these days, making her half Chinese and half Japanese and 31, JUST LIKE ME!! The girl in the image is made to imitate the many, many, faceless, long, black haired, shamed, trafficked Asian sex slave that she thinks I really am in that photo.

To be clear, I have been working on giving Hello Kitty a mouth my entire sex work activist career of 9+ years. In this sense, HK stands for the voices of Asian women’s sexuality, Asian feminism, Queer Asian women even. On a more personal note, I do IDENTIFY with Hello Kitty because of her childlike sexuality, it’s true. But that has always been a part of my specifically very hyper sexual, hyper ethnic style of art making and performance art; ever since I was known as the asian****… If Hello Kitty is the voice of Asian women, Asian sex workers, Asian culture then, in every way, with the work that I do, I try to give HK a MOUTH to speak for herself. We, ASW was a group show, not a solo exhibition and it featured the MOUTHS of many many Asian women from Bangladesh to Chicago, and it seems to me that anti-prostitution events like Girl Fest might do the opposite of allowing the Hello Kittys of the world to speak for hersel[ves].

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