Asia Pacific Network Of Sex Workers – Speech at the International Women’s Development Forum

SWOP-Chicago normally only publishes original content. However, this speech was so powerful that I felt it was important to share.

Hello everybody

I am Kthi Win from Myanmar and I am a sex worker. I manage a national organization for female, male & transgender sex workers in Burma & I am also the chairperson of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers.  Until now, organising anything in Myanmar has been very difficult.  And people ask, “how did you set up a national programme for sex workers?”

And my answer to them is “Our work is illegal.  Every night we manage to earn money without getting arrested by the police.  We used to work and organise together, so we use this knowledge in order to work out how we can set up the National Network without making the government angry”.

This topic is about transforming economic power.  I want to say to you, that when a woman makes the decision to sell sex, she has already made the decision to empower herself economically.  What we do in organising sex workers, is we build on the power that the sex worker has already taken for herself – the decision to not be poor.

Like other workers, we gain more economic power by organising collectively and demanding our rights.

The key demand of the sex worker’s movement in Burma, in Asia and all around the world is simple.  We demand that sex work is recognised as work.

But we have one OTHER key demand, specific to certain parts of the women’s movement.

We demand that we are not treated as victims.  Sex work is work! Sex work by definition, is NOT trafficking. Treat us as workers and not as passive victims.

For me and for sex workers movement in Myanmar, the thing that changed us the most and inspired us was to meet other sex worker activists and to become part of the broader sex workers rights movement through APNSW.

We organised for members of APNSW to come to do a workshop in Myanmar and we met other sex worker activists and learned about how they organised and how they can do things for themselves.

Until then we thought that we would be led by and learn from non sex worker experts in other NGOs. But what we learned and what made the change was that we realised, that instead of having to do what other people told us, we could do it ourselves and become more powerful by being part of a regional and global movement for sex workers rights.

Many people always assume that sex workers have less power than our customers. They assume that because customers are men they have all the power. But who pays whom?

Who makes the money?

It is sex workers who make money. And by understanding men and what it is they want from us, we usually end up walking away from them with more money than they agreed to give us at the beginning.

Also people do not realise that many customers become our good friends and they keep supporting us.

It is this same skill we use when dealing with government or dealing with donors.

We have learned to work out what it is that the donors want from us, or what it is the national government or district officials expect from us.

We then frame what we need in ways that will help them to do what it is that they need to do.

SO in building our movement we build the confidence of sex workers to use the skills they have already learned.

We get a lot of quiet support from most of the women’s movement.

But we face daily attacks from a small fringe group who have hijacked the whole debate on sex work by defining all sex work as trafficking and claiming to speak for all of YOU – claiming that “real feminists” all oppose prostitution and that “real feminists’ all know that sex work is not work.

They say that women like me are all victims.

They tell you that there is some pimp or madam who has told me what to say.

They tell you that some man who works for an “international sex trafficking and pornography syndicate” will beat me or violently rape me if I do not do what I am told.

So, let’s talk about attacks and violence against sex workers.

And when I say attacks on sex workers, I don’t just mean verbal attacks or debate within a movement.

I mean real violence on a daily basis against women like me.

Do you know that sex workers do not live in fear of violent clients?

We live in daily fear of being “rescued”.

The violence happens when feminist rescue organisations work with the police who break into our work places and beat us, rape us and kidnap our children in order to save us.

As a movement, feminism is meant to believe in agency. Even oppressed women in sex work can make choices.  But we cannot chose not to be saved when a policeman or police women has a gun pointed at our head.

What we need is for the mainstream women’s movement to not just silently support our struggle but to speak up and speak out against the extremists who have turned the important movement against real trafficking into a violent war against sex workers.

I ask that you all to stand with sex workers.

We ask you to TALK with sex workers.

Nothing about us without us.

It’s time for the silent majority of feminists to stand with us and say:

Sex work is work!!!

Kthi Win – APNSW

Prostitute says rate here is $700 to $800

Prostitute says rate here is $700 to $800

HIGH-END CALL GIRL | Call girl: ‘I offer an authentic experience’

March 16, 2008

It’s not easy trying to get a little alone time with a high-end call girl.

“I can give you 15 minutes in 10 minutes,” a high-priced Chicago escort told a reporter after five or six attempts at a cell phone chat.

Then, with a giggle, she said it would actually be in an hour, explaining, “I’m still doing this little thing.”

She meant, she explained, that she was checking out real estate on the East Coast.

A little later, the woman — who spoke on the condition she would not be named — was eager to talk about now-former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s trysts with a prostitute and about Chicago’s elite hooker scene.

Chicago’s hourly rates for women of her caliber, she said, are appallingly low — “way less than what they should be.”

“It’s about time the rates for high-class escorts are broadcast,” she said.

Not that she would say exactly what she charges, other than that it’s “not much higher” than what she described as Chicago’s going rate of $700 to $800 an hour for top prostitutes.

At the Emperors Club VIP in New York, where Spitzer dabbled, fees start at $1,000 and rise to $5,500.

“I offer an authentic experience,” the Chicago escort said. “I only like to see people who are at the top of their game, like CEOs.”

Here, high-end hookers for every imaginable — and unimaginable — taste are available on the Internet. The teasing language on these Web sites is usually written in transparent code. Customers are “hobbyists,” and prostitutes are “providers.”

The encounters take place in pricey condos on Lake Shore Drive and ritzy hotels, as well as at spots near O’Hare Airport, according to someone who knows — a Chicago Police vice cop.

Like many big American cities, Chicago has a storied history of prostitution.

There was, for instance, the campaign back in the 1850s by Mayor Long John Wentworth, who made his name by leading an army of police officers through the city’s first vice district, tearing down the hookers’ shanties.

In this decade, Rose Laws — known as the madam of the Gold Coast — ran a nationwide prostitution ring in which call girls hopped from Chicago to New York to Miami, then on to Los Angeles. In 2003, Laws was sentenced to 22 months in prison for her part in the ring. Former Chicago insurance magnate and political power Michael Segal blew some of his company’s money on one of Laws’ $400-an-hour hookers.

The Chicago call girl said her clients have included “a couple of basketball players and a baseball player.” She wasn’t naming names.

She feels genuinely sorry for Spitzer. “Why should he resign?” she said. “It’s [his] private life. It didn’t affect the public trust.”

She makes a distinction between extramarital affairs — which she’s against — and hooking up with a prostitute. With the latter, she said, “There is no ongoing attachment.

“Sex is a visceral, carnal need, and it’s a healthy urge,” she said.

She wouldn’t say how old she is — “I look awesome. I have the body of an 18-year-old.”

She said she always makes it clear to her clients who is in charge.

“I’m not there to service” the client, she said. “I’m there to enjoy myself.”

She said she won’t see a client until she’s researched his family, his profession and his income. And don’t try to get away with a freebie: “I have called many a wife when someone doesn’t honor their agreement,” she said, adding, “I warn [the clients] many times before I make that contact.”

She also said she’s made enough money in the business to retire but enjoys her work.

“I’m very happy in life,” she said.

Contributing: Frank Main