|Harmful Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath|
The anti-prostitution loyalty oath enacted in 2003 requires groups fighting HIV/AIDS overseas to pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking before receiving U.S. funding. This requirement applies to organizations whether or not they work with those in the sex worker community—and creates barriers to working with these men and women who are too often disenfranchised and without social and health support systems. Because of the sexual interactions between sex workers and their range of clients and because this community is deeply affected by HIV/AIDS, U.S. policy should be paving the way for undertaking more successful health care interventions with this vulnerable group, rather than limiting them through stigmatizing and discriminatory policies.
Restrictions in U.S. law have led to diminished outreach capacity in some and the closure of other programs previously supported by the U.S. government because of their effective work. This has not only created gaps, but has increased discrimination and violence against sex workers due to the environment of blame which our policies are reinforcing. Additionally, issues about the constitutionality of this provision have led to two ongoing court cases in the United States.
Despite the mounting evidence, Congress only considered removing this harmful provision for a short time as initial drafts of the bill were being written. But as soon as a bill was introduced it was back to the status quo and the restrictions remain in place. More insights on the health and human rights of sex workers from one of our colleagues, Meena Seshu, in India, can be accessed here.