The following update on the Uganda anti-gay movement comes from the Box Turtle Bulletin:


American Evangelist To Rally Against Gays In Uganda

Jim Burroway

April 21st, 2010

The month of May will be a very dangerous time to be gay in Uganda, as Pentecostal churches there gear up for a series of crusades, marches and rallies commemorating the 50th Jubilee of the Pentecostal movement there. An anonymous BTB reader in Uganda reports that television is already carrying commercials advertising at least one event, a three-day conference to be held at the sports grounds at Makerere University (Uganda’s largest institution of higher learning) with a march and rally to be held the following Friday, May 7.

In the midst of that expected furor steps yet another American anti-gay extremist, Lou Engle of The Call, who has announced plans to hold a rally in Kampala on May 2, also at the Makerere University Sports Field. The Call Uganda’s web site gives these reasons for holding the rally:

It is intended to awaken and revive the young and the old, men and women, church and family, government and the public and to fight vices eating away at our society. We shall all join our hearts across tribal, political, denominational, and generational boundaries, to cry to God to help us with the challenges in our country such as:

  • The heightened political tensions and wrangles in the country, especially as we go towards the 2011 general elections
  • The increasing level of social evils in our society, some which are threatening our values and lifestyles e.g.
    • Witchcraft and human sacrifice
    • Homosexuality and increased immorality
    • Disasters and the resultant suffering of the people
    • The decay of morals and infrastructure of our city Kampala

Engle’s emotionally-charged extremism and violence-laden rhetoric has become quite familiar here in the U.S. Engle believes that gays are possessed by demons, and was part of a major rally for Prop 8 in San Diego where he called for Christian martyrs. Casey Sanchez, of the Southern Poverty Law Center describes one talk that Engle gave this way:

“I believe we’re headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground,” said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah.

“There’s an Elijah generation that’s going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion,” Engle continued. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire.”

Engle has also said, “The most ‘dangerous terrorist’ is not Islam but God. One of God’s names is the avenger of blood. Have you worshiped that God yet?”

Last year, a BTB reader shared with me his experience of attending a Call rally in Nashville in 2007.  Tyler (his last name is being withheld) remembers that day vividly — July 7, 2007 (07/07/07 was their “Holy Date”):

I went to Nashville and the day was a whole day of fasting and prayer to “turn the nation back to God.”  Their tactics include, in my opinion, a lot of manipulation using emotionally-driven songs, yelling, dancing, and the like to get individuals charged up.

The Call Uganda’s web site lists the following endorsements by Ugandan Christian leaders:

  • Bishop Simon Peter Emiau – Chairman Evangelical Fellowship of Uganda;
  • Archbishop Luke Henry Orombi – Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda;
  • Pastor Jotham Mutebi – Chairman Full Gospel Churches of Uganda;
  • Pastor Titus Oundo – Chairman Deliverance Churches of Uganda;
  • Apostle John Mulinde – World Trumpet Mission, which also has extensive staff in Orlando, Florida under International Director Mark Daniel.
  • Apostle Jackson Ssenyonga – Christian Life Ministries;
  • Pastor Gary Skinner – Watoto (formerly Kampala Pentecostal) Church. An elder of that church is Stephen Langa, who helped to organize last year’s anti-gay conference featuring three American anti-gay activists. That conference delivered the “nuclear bomb” that served as a precursor and catalyst to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament.
  • Apostle Joseph Ssewadda – General Overseer of Born Again Federation;
  • Peter Asiimwe – Uganda Evangelical Mission Agency;
  • Pastor Fred Wantaate – Coordinator for Pentecostal Golden Jubilee – Full Gospel Church.

The next several weeks will prove to be exceedingly dangerous for LGBT Ugandans. Last year’s conference led to a massive public anti-gay pogrom that included a public vigilante campaign in a major Ugandan tabloid and various FM stations in Kampala in which gay people were forcibly outed. We have reports that several people lost their jobs and were abandoned by their families as a result. Several were arrested, and there are reports of at least one death in the eastern city of Mbale.

Frank Mugisha, president Sexual Minorities of Uganda, said, “Gay people are already fleeing their homes and have to move from house to house because of threats to their lives. Americans need to stop Lou Engle from coming to Uganda.”

When we first reported on the anti-gay conference last March in Uganda, we warned that it was a very dangerous move. But even knowing and warning of those dangers, we had no idea that it would ultimately lead to a proposal to put gay people to death under certain circumstances.

After that experience, there now can be no excuse. We know what can happen following rallies like this one. And whatever happens as an aftermath of this rally, no one can say they could not predict what would happen next. Given the virulent hatred openly expressed by ordinary Ugandans and their religious leaders toward the gay community, Engle’s rally is a dangerous and reckless escalation.


I’d like to know this: at what point will other countries began offering political refuge for gay Ugandans? At what point will there will be airlift evacuations? When will American people of faith intervene with these extremist religious leaders?

Related Sexuality & Society posts:

A legacy of White Supremacy: Why Ugandans embrace U.S. Christian right’s anti-gay-agenda (Jan. 13, 2010).

Growing Global Opposition to Ugandan “kill the gays bill” (Dec. 14, 2009).

Homo hatred in Uganda: A gift from US conservative evangelicals (Dec. 9 2009).

Gonorrhea and syphillis get sporadic attention from the press–and now is one of those times because rates of STIs in the US are increasing. In recognition of STD Awareness month, William Smith of the National Coalition of STD Directors provides an overview of these and other contemporary STD/STI and sexual health trends. As noted below by Smith, gonorrhea rates are particularly acute in the African-American population, while syphillis is making a come-back among MSM (men who have sex with men). Smith warns that “we are on the verge of a highly untreatable gonorrhea epidemic:”

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection and bacteria have a funny way of developing resistance to treatments – their own built-in evolutionary survival mode. This is what has happened with gonorrhea, the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States with more than 336,000 cases reported in 2008.

It is also among one of the most racially- and age-disparate diseases. For example, according to the CDC, though blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, more than 70 percent of reported cases of gonorrhea in 2008 were among blacks. It also affects young people disproportionately, with the majority of new cases being consistently reported among 15 to 24 year olds. In early 2007, after much reporting of resistance to the class of antibiotics known as quinolones, the CDC stopped recommending them for use in treating gonorrhea. We now have just a single class of antibiotics left to treat gonorrhea but resistance is also developing with this class and the pipeline of new drugs is nearly empty. Future treatment might require multiple drug combinations or multiple doses over a longer period of time and even then, we are not sure what the future holds.

Gonorrhea leads to all sorts of adverse sexual health outcomes including infertility and likely exacerbates susceptibility to HIV. Something called Disseminated Gonococcal Infection that can cause crippling arthritis could become commonplace, and toxic blood and outright organ failure are likely prospects for infected persons if we do not get ahead of this situation with new treatments. I hate to sound alarmist, but the prospects of this situation are frightening.

Over the past several years, Advocates for Youth have also voiced alarm over gonorrhea rates in the US, especially in comparison to the Netherlands and other European countries. The following graph from Advocates for Youth illustrates a cross-national comparison of teens in both countries (but no distinctions by race, sex, class, etc):

"Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, and U.S. adolescent rate is almost 33 times greater than the reported teen rates the Netherlands." (Source: Advocates for Youth).


In addition to the escalating rates of gonorrhea, syphillis is back in business in the US. William Smith of the National Coalition of STD Directors also warns that “we are about to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in the battle against syphillis”:

Once on the verge of a major public health success story, the nation’s efforts to combat syphilis – still optimistically termed as an effort to eliminate it – have virtually collapsed. In 2008, we had the highest number of reported syphilis cases since 1995 at 13,500 (these are primary and secondary syphilis cases which is when the disease is most infectious). There were another 431 cases of congenital syphilis in 2008 – cases where mother to child transmission occurs. In Chicago last year, one colleague told me that two babies died of congenital syphilis. Yes – in the 21stcentury United States of America, children die of syphilis. Where is the outcry? And the disease is now increasingly shifting to men who have sex with men, where syphilis infection in a sexual network can have devastating results both on its own and in increasing susceptibility to HIV infection. NCSD has called for a renewed discussion on our nation’s approach to syphilis control and sexual health and we will be convening a meeting later this year to help pave a new way forward.

The graph below from Advocates for Youth also shows a gap in syphillis rates between the US and the Netherlands:

"Among teens, syphilis rates in the United States are more than twice those in the Netherlands." (Source: Advocates for Youth)


The reasons for these and other sexual health distinctions between the US and the Netherlands are a complex, involving a mixture of social, institutional, and cultural factors. And, race and class relations–and their intersection look very different in the US and the Netherlands. Regardless, much work is needed in the US to offset these and other negative sexual health trends, and raising the visibility of these trends is at least one step toward this goal.

Bibliography and Related links:

Adolescent Sexual Health in Europe and the U.S.: Why the Difference? Advocates for Youth.

William Smith. (4/15/2010). “What I didn’t know about sexual health: Reflections from a new perch. Rh Reality Check.

GYT (Get Yourself Tested)

National Coalition of STD Directors

Last week Iceland made history by becoming the first European nation to abolish strip clubs — made effective by passing a law that makes it illegal to profit from the nudity of employees. The law will take effect on July 1, 2010. What is perhaps even more unusual on a global scale is this law is being reported as a NOT a result of religious, but of feminist influence. Julie Bindel in Guardian UK writes:

Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first proposed the ban, firmly told the national press on Wednesday: “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.”

Bindel continues:

According to Icelandic police, 100 foreign women travel to the country annually to work in strip clubs. It is unclear whether the women are trafficked, but feminists say it is telling that as the stripping industry has grown, the number of Icelandic women wishing to work in it has not.

This news (all of it: that strip clubs will be banned and that mostly foreign women work in those clubs) came as a surprise to many including me. But then again, my only experience of that country comes from a short layover in Reykjavik a few years ago on my way to Oslo. From my window airplane seat I looked down on a landscape unlike any I’d ever before witnessed, a fascinating result of glaciers, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. At the Reykjavik airport in my jetlagged state, I looked for Bjork and wondered if perhaps the plane had mistakenly landed on the moon.

"The Road Home to Reykjavik" wallpaper, from HDR Landscape Wallpapers


Now that Iceland is back on my radar (and I’m not currently jetlagged), I thought it would be a good time to take a better look and to investigate how and why strip clubs are being banned on this North Atlantic island. Bindel’s Guardian UK article credits the triumph of feminism, calling Iceland “the world’s most feminist country.” I’m intrigued by what does appear to be a very strong showing of feminist abolitionist (anti-sex work) sexual politics. But I’m also curious about how the demographic context — including the sex and race/ethnicity of migrant laborers — may be influencing this current abolitionist stance.

First, a look at indicators of gender equality in Iceland. According to the 2007 Global Gender Gap Index (published by the World Economic Forum), Iceland ranks fourth in the world in providing equal economic, political, and health standards for women and men. The current prime minister of Iceland is a lesbian woman, the world’s first openly gay leader.

Iceland Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir


For some feminist commentators these cultural and structural factors explain how strip clubs became ousted from Iceland. After all, aren’t all feminists and lesbians opposed to the commercial sex industry?

Because the answer to this question above is “no,” I’ll move to another line of inquiry: Might other, demographic, variables also be encouraging this abolitionist stance?

Let’s look at who lives in Iceland. According to Statistics Iceland, the population of Iceland has decreased for the first time since 1889:

On 1 January 2010 the population was 317,630, compared with 319,368 1 January 2009. The population decrease is due to a record negative net migration in 2009, while the natural increase (births less deaths) was 1%.

In other words, people are leaving Iceland, and those who are staying aren’t having many babies. The TOTAL population of Iceland is LESS than the population of most major US cities, and comparable to the population of many Carribbean and South Pacific islands (see list of world populations by country here). The vast majority of people in Iceland live in the Reykjavik area (120,000 in the city proper.)

(Side note: Reykajavik is a small town. It’s not usually a good idea to work as a stripper in the same small town where you grew up. Things quickly get uncomfortable when your brother, uncle, friend, former coach, and dad show up. If you are an Icelandic woman who wants to be a stripper, go elsewhere!)

Given Iceland’s decreasing population, it makes sense that immigrant workers may be needed in many occupational sectors. Indeed, there has been an increase in citizenship granted to immigrants:

“The largest number of those who are granted Icelandic citizenship come from Europe. In 2009 the majority of those originated from Poland (153) and Serbia (76). Asians are the second largest group, with 106 who had formerly a Philippine citizenship and 51 Vietnamese.” (Statistics Iceland).


Click on the graph to see a larger version


This pattern of immigration from Europe and Asia is not new, at least within the past few decades. As seen in the graph to the right, since 1991 there have been relatively stable (and low) patterns of immigration from Europe, Asia, the US and Africa. What has changed however since 2001 is an increase of immigrants from Europe.

It is interesting that in the news coverage of the strip club ban (which has mostly replicated the Guardian UK article quoted above), the topic of “trafficking” is mentioned. What is curious is that there does not appear to be any direct evidence for women being trafficked (forced) in to Iceland to work in strip clubs. If there is, it’s not being reported. Instead, readers are left with comments such as Julie Bindel, who writes:

“I have visited a strip club in Reykjavik and observed the women. None of them looked happy in their work.”

Not exactly reliable evidence of trafficking.

And so I am left once again with the suspicion that this ban isn’t about protecting workers from being trafficked. It’s about the tensions that arise over immigration; it’s about a conflict over the meaning(s) and use(s) of sexuality; it’s about not recognizing sex work as labor, and hence not assuming that sex workers deserve basic labor rights. It’s also about a lack of reliable research which, at minimum, investigates the experiences of people in the industry. Visiting a strip club and thinking that people don’t “look happy” doesn’t count.

Some people, the majority perhaps, cannot imagine ever choosing to be a sex worker. Since they cannot imagine it, they assume that they must be forced into it (and thus either must be saved or punished). Some people also believe this about gay people.  It is no coincidence that the GLBT movement has long fought for freedom from arrogant attempts to “save” and/or punish them.  Thus I find it more ironic than understandable that a lesbian Prime Minister has decided to outlaw the sexual and occupational choices of others.

For more reading about the misdirected politics of anti-trafficking and anti-sex work policies, see Laura Austin’s recent article on the South Africa preparing for the World Cup.

Stories about Catholic priests and sexual abuse are so common that for some, “priest” is nearly synonymous with “pedophile.” Because the bulk of *known* Catholic Priest sex abuse cases have involved boys, the association also leads to assumptions about priests’ latent homosexuality. Reflecting and reinforcing these associations about Catholic Priests are the plethora of jokes on late night talk shows:

“I read this in the paper this morning: New York City has a priest shortage. So you see, there is some good news in the world. … To give you an idea how bad it is, earlier today in Brooklyn an alter boy had to grope himself.” —David Letterman

“As you’ve probably heard, the Pope has asked all the Cardinals to return to Rome. You know how they got them all to come back? They told them that there was going to be a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir.” —Jay Leno

“The Cardinals will be staying at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the new hotel at the Vatican, where turn down service means the bell boy isn’t interested.” —Daily Showhost Jon Stewart

Just when it seems like surely all the scandals have been aired and all the jokes have been told (and for some the bigger scandal may be that the Priests might be “gay”, rather than that they sexually abuse children), we hear about more Priests abusing massive numbers of children and of the Catholic hierarchy systematically attempting to hide the abuse.

In an article published today in the Huffington Post, Rev. Debra Hafner, an Ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, discusses the need for faith communities to directly address sexuality and sexual abuse. Hafner also calls upon Pope Benedict to “move beyond apologies to action,” … urging “all religious institutions to address sexuality in healthier, more open and responsible ways.” 

I’m not holding my breath on Pope Benedict suddenly becoming a proponent of sexual health (!). On the other hand I am hopeful about the leadership of the Religious Institute, which is calling for religious leaders to move away from guilt and shame framings of human sexuality toward framings which support holistic sexual health.


Up to the Pope: Stop the Pandemic of Pedophilia“, by Rev. Debra Hafner.

The latest revelations about sexual abuse against children by Roman Catholic priests are nothing short of revolting. The story of Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused more than 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee over decades, despite the boys’ speaking out and calling for help, should outrage us all. The new revelations from Germany and other European countries add to the understanding that the prevalence of pedophile priests are, in the words of my colleague, Dan Maguire, “a global Catholic Church pandemic.

“It went up to the Pope,” a formerly Roman Catholic friend said to me yesterday, with tears in her eyes. “How is it possible that people knew and didn’t stop it?” Unfortunately, the answer is that the Catholic hierarchy did know, and chose to transfer the priests rather than address the crimes they were committing against children.

Yes, crimes. In the secular world, the offending priests and their superiors would be held criminally accountable for their behavior. It is not enough for the Pope to apologize, as he did to victims last week. It is unconscionable when Catholic apologists try to explain away the church’s inaction as a relic of another time, when people didn’t talk as much about sexual abuse. We are talking now – and learning, to our dismay, how widespread sexual abuse in faith communities really is.

A national research study from Baylor University last year revealed that three percent of adult women, across a range of Christian and Jewish traditions, were involved in instances of clergy sexual misconduct. Most of this occurs between adults; sexual abuse of children and youth by Roman Catholic clergy is of a different magnitude altogether. Still, we must not deceive ourselves that other houses of worship are safe havens from abuse and harassment – or that clergy are prepared to address sexuality issues in a healthy and responsible way. Indeed, many religious leaders are complicit in the silence that has shrouded sexuality concerns in congregations for decades.

Last month, the Religious Institute published a report – Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade – that envisions a future when all faith communities will be “sexually healthy, just and prophetic.” In practical terms, this would require:

  • Sermons and sexuality education that will break the silence around sexuality and help to mitigate the stigma and shame that too often attend sexuality issues among people of faith.
  • New requirements that seminarians (or those studying to be clergy) examine and reflect on their sexual histories, understand the dynamics of sexual attraction, commit to clear boundaries regarding intimate connections with those they serve, and complete training in pastoral care for sexuality-related issues.
  • Established polices for safe congregations, including screening of staff and volunteers, background checks for those who work with children and youth, annual trainings on sexual and physical abuse, prevention education for parents and youth, referral agreements with local assault programs, and clearly stated grievance procedures. Every congregation should have a clear, well-publicized policy that sexual contact by clergy, pastoral care providers, religious educators and youth leaders with any congregant, of any age, is not only inappropriate but also actionable. 

The Pope now has an urgent responsibility — and an extraordinary opportunity. He must not only move beyond apologies to action, but could also use his influence to urge all religious institutions to address sexuality in healthier, more open and responsible ways.

Pope Benedict, the world is watching and waiting.


Related links:

When Madonna released “Like a Virgin” in 1984 she dedicated the album to “all the virgins of the world.”  At that time, her fans (including me, a reserved high school girl infatuated by Madonna’s commanding sexuality) thought we knew what she was talking about. But if this album were released today, it’s likely that many high schoolers and others would have a more diverse understanding about Madonna’s message.

This is because several forces have been in the works for many years (at least in mainstream American culture) which have allowed people to envision “sex” — and hence, virginity —  as including more than the presence or absence of heteronormative, procreative, penile-vaginal intercourse. (Societies and cultures across time have always had a variety of meanings attached to various sexual acts, so this shifting and broadening perspective on “sex” is actually a global norm). A new study from researchers at The Kinsey Institute provides further empirical support that the idea of “having sex” is not seen as static or universal in contemporary US culture. The following comes from a press release from Indiana University, which houses the Kinsey Institute:

The study involved responses from 486 Indiana residents who took part in a telephone survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at IU. Participants, mostly heterosexual, were asked, “Would you say you ‘had sex’ with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was …,” followed by 14 behaviorally specific items. Here are some of the results:

  • Responses did not differ significantly overall for men and women. The study involved 204 men and 282 women.
  • 95 percent of respondents would consider penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) having had sex, but this rate drops to 89 percent if there is no ejaculation.
  • 81 percent considered penile-anal intercourse having had sex, with the rate dropping to 77 percent for men in the youngest age group (18-29), 50 percent for men in the oldest age group (65 and up) and 67 percent for women in the oldest age group.
  • 71 percent and 73 percent considered oral contact with a partner’s genitals (OG), either performing or receiving, as having had sex.
  • Men in the youngest and oldest age groups were less likely to answer “yes” compared with the middle two age groups for when they performed OG.
  • Significantly fewer men in the oldest age group answered “yes” for PVI (77 percent)

…   William L. Yarber, RCAP’s senior director and co-author of the study, said its findings reaffirm the need to be specific about behaviors when talking about sex. 

According to Yarber, because “There’s a vagueness of what sex is in our culture and media,” it is especially important for sexual health workers to be specific about what they mean when they talk about sex:  

“If people don’t consider certain behaviors sex, they might not think sexual health messages about risk pertain to them. The AIDS epidemic has forced us to be much more specific about behaviors, as far as identifying specific behaviors that put people at risk instead of just sex in general. But there’s still room for improvement.”

These study results appear to show that respondents have a broad range of understandings of sex: Men and women across generations are likely to count “sex” as including oral, anal, and vaginal activities. And while many assume that sexual change always starts with youth, this study indicates that the attitudes and behaviors of older men (who were LEAST likely to count penile-vaginal activities as sex) as not what we might expect. 

Given the disconnect between popular culture and people’s lived experiences around sexuality, I have a proposal:

  • To Madonna: I think that you should re-release “Like a Virgin” in 2014, 30 yrs after its original release, and partner with sexual health organizations like SIECUS and the Guttmacher Institute to critically discuss the various meanings and cultural associations attached to being a “virgin” as well as being “like a virgin.”
  • To sexual health workers: By entering into a cultural conversation around the varied meanings that people attach to virginity and sex, you would open up a needed, and much broader conversation about sexuality, health, and the various pathways to living a vibrant life. (Plus, come on, how cool would it be to partner with the goddess herself?!)


Study citation:

  • Sanders, S., Hill, B., Yarber, W., Graham, C., Crosby, R., Milhausen, R., (2010) “Misclassification bias: diversity in conceptualisations about having ‘had sex,'” Sexual Health. 7(1), 31-34.
  • It seems appropriate that our follow up to the Facebook “Kill your hooker” story is a post on Sex Worker Rights.

    Today, March 3, has been named by sex worker rights activists as a day to recognize sex worker rights as human rights. The following article comes to us via the St. James Infirmary, a free medical and social services clinic in San Francisco run by and for sex workers:


    International Sex Worker Rights Day

    The 3rd of March is International Sex Worker Rights Day. The day originated in 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival. The organizers, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group whose membership consists of somewhere upwards of 50,000 sex workers and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3 March as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

    Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (2002): “We felt strongly that we should have a day what need to be observed by the sex workers community globally. Keeping in view the large mobilization of all types of global sex workers [Female,Male, Transgender] , we proposed to observe 3rd March as THE SEX WORKERS RIGHTS DAY.”

    This year, we celebrate March 3, International Day for Sex Worker Rights with a lobbying day in Sacramento. Our issues include criminalization of out communities, targeting of transgendered workers, migrants and sex workers of color, lack of police protection and recourse in cases of abuse, and targeting sex workers in lieu of addressing the real issues of trafficking.

    This March 3rd Sex Workers Outreach Project NorCal members are bringing forth a specific and urgent issue for which we seek you support. Among the numerous hardships which effect our communities, it is surprising that our insistence on condoms for protection is actually used as evidence in prostitution cases by police and District Attorneys in this state. Although sex workers use condoms, it is clear that condom use is inhibited when the mention or use of condoms can be employed against them. This practice is rampant. In fact, two SWOP members are challenging cases which use this type of evidence. The legislation we bring to Sacramento will halt this practice.

    As the late Senator Milton Marks wrote in a 1994 letter condemning this practice, “The result of this has been a fear among prostitutes to use condoms. This is alarming to me and should be alarming to all public health officials, as it runs directly counter to the work we have done in the AIDS pandemic.”

    We believe ONLY RIGHTS CAN STOP THE WRONGS.  If you would like to join us please call SWOP 877-776-2004


    Other resources on US-based and international sex worker rights movements include:

    Last Tuesday, Feb. 9, I learned of a Facebook fan page dedicated to “Killing your hooker so you don’t have to pay her.” As a sex worker ally, sexuality scholar, and someone invested in the humane treatment of all people, I became dedicated over the next 24 hours to shut that page down. I immediately reported the page to Facebook administrators, and encouraged all of my Facebook friends to do the same. On Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 1:26 pm (PST) when the site was still up, I posted the following to my Facebook friends:

    This was the image for the Facebook page, "Killing your hooker so you don't have to pay her." The group inserted the word "Fail" on it to illustrate the failure of this fan page.


    “In less than 24 hours, I have seen the FB site dedicated to “killing your hooker” increase from 17,500 fans to now more than 22,000. Please join me in kicking this FB group out of our community; report it to the FB directors. This group is in clear violation of FB rules, including: 6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.7. You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, … etc”

    Many other sex worker activists and humanitarians across the globe were simultaneously doing the same work. By Wednesday at 5 pm (PST), just over 24 hours after I learned of the site, and just days after its creation, Facebook administrators deleted the site. For Facebook, this was not a matter of “free speech”; it was a matter of a clear violation of their community rules. (Hate groups and bullies all of kinds are free to proliferate on the internet, but are not welcome on specific community membership cites such as Facebook).

    Unfortunately, I fear and see that this is just the beginning of hate-speech pages on Facebook. Because Facebook allows anyone to set up an account, and because (at least for now) it seems that Facebook administrators are not pro-active in monitoring hate groups, everyday Facebook users (people like me who would otherwise be taking breaks from work to post about their kids or their cats) have found that they have an ethical obligation to also watch out for and report Facebook hategroups.

    The group is one such group that this week has found itself to be one of these reporting the abusive, hate-filled page. As might be expected, those behind the “killing your hooker” fanpage are not happy about the critique. Here’s one quote from the “killing your hooker” folks:

    “The worthless CUNTS over at Feministing are reporting you because they think they are the policemen (oops policePERSONS) of the internet. Let Feminist cunts know what you think about their crusade to silence all free speech they deem “inappropriate.” (see article in

    These slurs against women and feminists are as old as misogyny and a common tactic for diverting attention away from serious, grownup critique and dialogue. The issue of “free speech” is one that is incredibly important, but it is a principle that is always constituted and negotiated within particular parameters. “The internet” is a broad space that allows all (and hence not a true “community”), but Facebook is a smaller space with particular rules. (the group reporting on this story above) is a community that is very much dedicated to freedom of speech and expression, but it too is absolutely opposed to the inclusion of hategroups in the Facebook community. In their mission statement Carnalnation states that:

    In our view, fear and disdain of all things sexual have led to a society that too often vacillates between impulsive titillation and compulsive repression. Such extremes can only have a negative impact on our physical, psychological, and social well being.” is encouraging its readers to report hategroups such as “killing your hooker,” and has found that there are “232 (Facebook) groups that currently have the words “dead hooker” in them.  (Dead Hooker Storage, Accidentally Pissing On A Dead Hooker, and A Dead Hooker A Day Keeps The Doctor Away are just three of them.)” is also reporting that “killing your hooker” now has simply morphed into a new Facebook fan page (still live as of this writing), entitled “GTA taught me that if you kill a hooker, you get your money back.” (note: GTA here stands for Grand Theft Auto, a video game.)

    According to today’s Sydney Morning Herald the creator of “killing your hooker” has been identified. Who was the creator of this page, Gary Ridgeway?

    (Gary Ridgeway, AKA “The Green River Killer,” is serving a life sentence for the murders of 48 women, most of whom he picked up on the streets of Seattle/Tacoma as prostitutes. After his sentencing Ridgeway admitted to a “career” of murdering 71 women.)

    No, the source of “killing your hooker” is an Australian boy described as a “Catholic school student”:

    A Catholic school student has been “dealt with” after he set up a Facebook page that appeared to advocate killing prostitutes. … The principal of St Laurence’s College in Queensland, Ian McDonald, confirmed a student from the school had been disciplined over the creation of the page.

    “It has been sorted out and the boy has been dealt with,” Mr McDonald told AAP on Friday.

    Ian McDonald, the principal of the private Catholic school (which at least one Australian newspaper describes as “elite”) went on to underscore that:

    “This didn’t happen at the school, but does highlight the fact that we really need to educate the students about the dangers on the internet.” (emphasis mine).

    In this logic, the magical, uncontrollable “internet” is the problem, as opposed to cultures that support (or do not directly challenge) the violent degradation of entire groups of people.

    Case in point: In one of the several online groups discussing this case today, “Middie” complains about people taking this issue too seriously:

    There are so many sites going against this. Jesus people, take a fucking joke. Do you realize this is based on the game GTA? I know the guy that did it, and i’m pretty sure he didn’t make it for real life hookers. By the way, hookers are illegal, so they have no fucking rights in my eyes. (emphasis mine).

    Dear Principal McDonald: please note that that “Middie” is probably one of your students. These attitudes do not come to exist in a cultural vacuum. The culture of your school is what you need to be concerned with, not the “internet.”

    Dear “Middie“: your point brings us precisely to the larger problem of a lack of support for the human rights of all, including sex workers. And although prostitution is actually LEGAL in parts of Australia (where you apparently currently reside), your point illustrates the need for clearly articulated and enforced sex workers rights in Australia and elsewhere.

    Principal McDonald, parents, internet and sexuality scholars and activists, please do not blame “the internet” for sites like this; we must investigate how our own assumptions promote (or stay silent on) everyday acts of cruelty.



    In addition the obvious humanitarian need to oppose the degradation of any group of people, many public health scholars emphasize the importance of reducing stigma for sex workers. Here is a link to a recent blog post by Dr. Petra Boynton, on Sex workers, Stigma, and Barriers to Health.

    Thirty-seven years ago today (Jan. 22, 1973), women in the U.S. were granted the right to ask for and receive abortions from trained medical professionals. This decision set off decades of protests by pro-life activists which occasionally have turned violent. (In a strange coincidence, the trial of Scott Roeder, who was arrested for murdering Dr. George Tiller, also begins today.)

    While stalemate debates over abortion ethics continue, a promising series of side movements have emerged in recent years that help to contextualize the issue of abortion within a larger framework of reproductive, sexual, and social justice. An example of how this shift can occur is provided by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, a grassroots community organization based in Oakland, California.

    The graph below demonstrates how ACRJ conceptualizes reproductive oppression and reproductive justice, and how to build a reproductive justice movement:

    Click here to download a full-size PDF

    The following two graphs illustrate how ACRJ conceptualizes the connections between social justice and reproductive justice. Note how the lower circle (which shows ACRJ’s work) also includes principles of sexual justice (although this is unnamed, and in my opinion could and should be more clearly articulated):

    We at Sexuality & Society applaud the work of ACRJ;  their leadership in modeling reproduction and sexuality within much larger frameworks of social justice is an inspiration to critical sexuality scholars, practitioners, and activists. Happy anniversary, Roe v. Wade.

    See also:

    “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

    -Martin Luther King, Jr.

    MLK day, commemorating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., is one which inspires an ethic of service across the United States. In the wake of the horrific earthquake in Haiti, we along with many others in the U.S. and across the globe are compelled to turn our attention, concern, and service toward the people of Haiti.

    Haiti is approximately 90 miles from Cuba, 680 miles from Miami, Florida, and 660 miles from Caracas, Venezuala.


    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake as “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in decades” … “The damage, destruction and loss of life are just overwhelming,” Ban said after witnessing it first hand (Huffington Post Jan. 17, 2010).

    The scramble to salvage lives is still on, with untold numbers still trapped under slabs of concrete. Tens of thousands are in need of immediate medical care, as well as food, water, and shelter. Meanwhile many are also deeply worried about the days, weeks, years, and decades to come. Where does one even begin in helping Haiti, with such a shattered infrastructure and pervasive poverty? How did Haiti get to be so poor and shattered to begin with?

    Paul Farmer, Ph.D. M.D., an internationally recognized health scholar, activist, and practitioner (working in Haiti for 15 yrs, author of several books and articles including Pathologies of Power, and founder of the non-profit organization Partners in Health), has coined the term “structural violence” to explain how patterns of poverty and human misery are linked to particular global social-economic contexts:


    The term “structural violence” is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way … The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people (typically, not those responsible for perpetuating such inequalities). With few exceptions, clinicians are not trained to understand such social forces, nor are we trained to alter them. Yet it has long been clear that many medical and public health interventions will fail if we are unable to understand the social determinants of disease. (Farmer et al, 2006).


    While structural violence is not the cause of Haiti’s earthquake, it has everything to do with the context of Haiti before, and now potentially also after, the earthquake. The concept of structural violence can be seen as intimately connected to all health and life outcomes including issues related to sexuality to sexual health. In their book, Sexuality, Health, and Human Rights, Correa, Petchesky, and Parker apply this sort of holistic thinking to encourage sexuality scholars to reject false divisions between “erotic justice and social justice (and consequently between movements for sexual rights, and those aimed at economic development and ending poverty and war)”… “Such a division makes no sense in the context of real people’s lives,” they state. They continue by arguing that:

    “Treating sexuality as something separate from political economy ignores the fact that health care access, affordable housing, adequate nutrition, safe environments, and secure livelihoods are indispensable for safe and pleasureable erotic experience to be real.” (Correa et al., p. 220, 2008).

    The need for help in rebuilding Haiti is comprehensive, across all occupational and institutional sectors. It is important to support groups such as Partners in Health which address both the immediate health and human needs and also work toward alleviating the structural causes of inequality.

    “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.-MLK


    Recommended reading:

    This post by Edwin Okong’o comes via Rh Reality Check. Okong’o is a contributing blogger at RhReality check and an editor at New American Media (where the story was originally posted). Okong’o explains the cultural context under which the Ugandan “kill the gays” legislation could occur (Why Uganda? Why not Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, or Wyoming — where plenty of people hate gays?). Okong’o’s answer points in part to deep seated white supremacist beliefs — both by the religious proselytizers/colonizers and the religious proselytized/colonized:

    “Having gone through schools reading mostly textbooks written by white men, Africans are programmed to accept any Western literature. Add the word of God to that and the white man’s message becomes gospel truth. That’s why when a white religious fanatic like Scott Lively writes in his book, “The Pink Swastika,” that Nazis committed the Holocaust because they were gay, without hesitation Africans promise ‘to stand firm to fight homosexuality.'”

    Please read on below:

    By Edwin Okong’o, New America Media

    picture-3161January 13, 2010 – 7:00am

    There is a joke among Africans about how colonialism began. A Christian missionary came with a Bible in hand, told our ancestors to bow their heads for a prayer, and when they opened their eyes their land was gone. Today, the same can be said about African constitutions.

    American religious right-wingers are flocking to Africa and are having more success in passing new legislation criminalizing homosexuality there than they are having in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

    The most vicious of those laws is in Uganda, where Parliament is now considering a bill that would make some homosexual acts punishable by death. Although they have denied it, evidence suggests that American right-wingers are in the forefront of this war on homosexuality.

    Among them is the Fellowship Foundation, better known as the Family, a secretive but powerful evangelical club that includes U.S. senators and congressmen. Republican senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback belong to the group. The group includes members like Mike McIntyre, a conservative Democratic congressman, who believes that the Ten Commandments are “the fundamental legal code for the laws of the United States.”

    Publicly, the Family’s most prominent event is a National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C., which has been attended by congressmen, senators, and even presidents. In his book, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” New York University scholar Jeff Sharlet writes that of the Family’s $14 million budget, “the bulk of it, $12 million, goes to ‘mentoring, counseling, and partnering with friends around the world.'”

    In other words, having failed to turn the United States into a true “Nation under God,” American evangelicals are going to Africa to satisfy that calling. Is there a better place to create Christian nations than in a continent with nearly 500 million impoverished believers, and easily corruptible governments? Similar laws have been proposed, or exist, in Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda and Malawi.

    “You develop a relationship with the [African] presidents in the spirit of Jesus,” Sen. Inhofe said in a February 2009 interview posted on the website of Faith and Action, an evangelical Christian group, whose “mission is to awaken the conscience of our nation by proclaiming Truth to those in positions of power.”

    In his book, Sharlet writes that Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni is the organization’s “key man” in Africa. Museveni’s relationship with the Family goes as far back as 1986, when he came to power following a bloody civil war. David Bahati, the Ugandan lawmaker who introduced the anti-gay bill, is also a member of the Family.

    U.S. evangelical groups have gotten so close to African religious and political leaders that they openly conduct their hateful crusades. In early March 2009, for example, U.S. religious extremists played a central role in the “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda” held in Kampala, Uganda. Among speakers was Scott Lively, a California evangelical pastor who heads Abiding Truth Ministry.

    Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian priest who went undercover to the “viciously homophobic” conference, quoted one Ugandan attendee as saying, “The man of God (Scott Lively) told us about…a movement behind the promotion of homosexuality. … I got to know that there is a force behind homosexuality, which we need to tackle with force. He also told us that these people who are behind this…evil, they have all resources that they need…to spread this evil. We need to stand firm to fight homosexuality.”

    Evangelicals have managed to succeed in promoting homophobia by taking advantage of Africans’ lack of adequate information. They have presented homosexuality as a new “culture,” rather than something that has existed all along.

    Kaoma quotes yet another Ugandan from the anti-gay conference: “Dr. Scott told us about Brazil where, 10 years ago, homosexuality was unheard of. Today, it is the capital. There are people that have been against homosexuality that are having to leave because of the pressure and the threats that they are putting on them. That is how serious it is.”

    Africans take such filth without questions because they suffer from a severe case of inferiority complex. Even worse, they staunchly believe in the supremacy of the white man. Ill-informed Christians like the ones Rev. Kaoma quotes above, place the white man immediately below the Holy Trinity, a belief with its roots in the colonial era.

    Growing up in Kenya, I heard stories about how supernatural the white man was. When we did well in school, our parents and teachers said we were as intelligent as white men. When you went to take a bath, Ma told you to come out as clean as a white man. If the white doctor at the hospital failed to diagnose your disease, death was imminent.

    Even among the “educated,” this plague runs deep. In 2006, I mentioned to my younger brother — a graduate of a Kenyan university — that I had co-taught a writing class at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was studying journalism.

    “Come on! Stop playing,” he brushed me off and laughed.

    When he was finally convinced that I was telling the truth, he asked, “Were there white students in the class?”

    Having gone through schools reading mostly textbooks written by white men, Africans are programmed to accept any Western literature. Add the word of God to that and the white man’s message becomes gospel truth. That’s why when a white religious fanatic like Scott Lively writes in his book, “The Pink Swastika,” that Nazis committed the Holocaust because they were gay, without hesitation Africans promise “to stand firm to fight homosexuality.”

    As I ponder over this issue I’m reminded of the 1980s, when Reinhard Bonnke, a German evangelist who claimed to have healing powers, visited Kenya. Business came to a halt, as people with all kinds of ailments traveled to Nairobi to seek his miracles. Kenyans flocked Bonnke’s sermons because they believed that as a white man, he was closer to Jesus Christ than were black evangelists.

    If Archbishop Manassas Kuria, who at the time was the Anglican primate of the Church of Kenya, had called a press conference to announce that he had healing powers, they would have laughed at him, and perhaps accuse him of blasphemy. Black clergymen do not perform miracles.

    The belief that black people can only speak to God through white men is illustrated in the same interview Sen. Inhofe gave to Faith and Action. Inhofe describes the Family’s work in a “miserable” village in Benin. The hamlet’s name translates to “Village of Darkness,” he says, and children “drink mud and die of dysentery.” The evangelicals rescue the village by providing sanitary water.

    When residents ask why the evangelicals have decided to shine light on the village, the Americans say, “Because we love you.” And when they ask, “Why do you love us?” they answer, “Because Jesus loves us.”

    No one asks why Jesus didn’t send love directly to Africa without going through middlemen. Inhofe says today the village has changed its name to “The Village of Jesus”, thanks to the Savior’s “miracles.”

    Now imagine telling such people that the “force behind homosexuality” threatens to corrupt their children and anger Jesus. They will “stand firm to fight” this “evil.” Enacting laws allows them to hide the blood in their hands.