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American and Indian Sex Worker Cultural Exchange

Written By: Audacia Ray
August 26, 2009

 

SANGRAM I’m going to India at the end of next week to do trainings and documentation of organizations that work on health and rights issues with women and youth in India. I’m starting of the trip by doing new media tools and tactics workshops in Delhi with CREA and the YP Foundation.

Then I’ll head south to Sangli, in Maharashtra, to spend five days with SANGRAM. Since 1992, SANGRAM has worked with sex workers in South Maharashtra and North Karnataka, and since then the organization has expanded to work in women’s health and rights more generally. Sangli has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in Maharashtra after Mumbai. In Sangli, I’ll be spending time with Meena Seshu (read a post of hers about sex workers fighting criminlization here) and documenting the experiences of sex workers there in video, audio, pictures, and text.

Part of my mission in visiting SANGRAM is to brainstorm with them about ways to reduce stigma for sex workers in local and global ways, so I thought I’d start out with a little bit of a cultural exchange, done digitally of course.

I want to bring Indian sex workers a cultural gift from American sex workers. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of room in my suitcase, and I just know that I’d get weird and customs-unfriendly stuff in the mail, so I’m asking for this: if you are a present or former sex worker in the United States, send me a digital artifact that represents your experience in the sex industry.

Send me a picture, a screenshot, a video that you think reflects your experience as a sex worker. If you have a story to tell, call and leave it on my voicemail: 718-554-1714.

I’ll need all these artifacts by next Wednesday, September 2, so I can put them together into some kind of finished product and bring it to India with me. When I’m in India, I’ll share this little lump of digital culture from American sex workers, and I’ll create something with the sex workers there to bring back here.

Here are two suggestions of the kinds of things I’m looking for:

    • An object that you use everyday in your work or something that you find really useful in whatever part of the industry you’re in
    • A symbol that you think represents your experiences as a sex worker in the United States

Please circulate this to networks of sex workers you think would be interested in participating. Remember, I need your stories, pictures, and other digital ephemera in my inbox or my voicemail by Wednesday, September 2. Email me at aray [at] iwhc.org or leave a story on my voicemail at 718-554-1714.

In addition to sharing your digital artifacts with Indian sex workers, I plan on publishing a version online – I will remove names, emails, phone numbers and other identifying info, but if there’s something you’d like shared with sex workers but not with the Internetting public, please let me know.

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