June 11, 1997

Minister of the Presidency:
Doctor Asdrubal Aguiar
Secretaria de la Presidencia
Palacio de Miraflores
Caracas, Venezuela
Fax: +58 2 861 0793

Re: the Asociacion de Mujeres para el Bienestar y Ayuda Reciproca (AMBAR), Association of Women for Welfare and Mutual Help

Dear Minister Aguiar,

I coordinate the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver as well as organize a national network of sex worker groups across Canada. I am writing to you concerning an very disturbing event brought to my attention by the International Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and Amnesty International.

On April 23, 1997, members of the municipal police of the Libertador Municipality, in Caracas, attempted to raid the offices of AMBAR, a non-governmental organization in Caracas, alleging that they had the right to inspect their offices. The police officers did not have a search warrant.

Mercedes Perez and Nury Pernia, education coordinator and general coordinator of AMBAR, respectively, stopped them from entering their premises, in the face of claims by the police officers that the women "did not have the moral right to stop this type of procedure, since sex workers are people without any type of rights" ("no teniamos condicion moral para no permitir este procedimiento ya que las trabajadoras sexuales somos personas sin ningun tipo de derechos..."). The police left the offices threatening to return.

AMBAR is a member of the Coordinadora de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales de Mujeres, (CONG, an umbrella organization of women's groups), and provides legal advice to women employed as sex workers, who are often reportedly harassed by the security forces for their activities. AMBAR also lobbies the Venezuelan authorities to introduce legislative measures to protect sex workers and works on AIDS prevention.

AMBAR is highly respected internationally for the services and education that it provides to sex workers. Through the NSWP, AMBAR is connected to sex worker education projects all over the world -- Asia (India, Thailand, Vietnam), South Africa, Australia, Europe, and Central and South America as well as North America. This provides them not only with the most innovative education techniques and up-to-date health information but also international support in the fight for basic human rights for sex workers.

It is often perceived by law enforcement agencies everywhere that "sex workers are people without any type of rights." This is outrageous and unacceptable. Basic human rights should be protected in every county in the world and prostitutes should have the same rights as any other worker. There are two documents which outline prostitutes' rights. The World Charter for Prostitutes' Rights, written at the First World Whores Congress in Amsterdam 1985 states that prostitutes should be guaranteed "all human rights and civil liberties, including the freedom of speech, travel, immigration, work, marriage, and motherhood and the right to unemployment insurance, health insurance and housing."

The second document is the "Resolution on violence against women," adopted by the European Parliament in 1986. (Doc. A2-44/86) which calls on the national authorities in the Member States to take these necessary steps:

  1. decriminalize the exercise of this profession

  2. to guarantee prostitutes the rights enjoyed by other citizens,

  3. to protect the independence, health and safety of those exercising this profession,

  4. to reinforce measures which may be taken against those responsible for duress or violence to prostitutes, notably those forcing women to practise prostitution for their own financial gain,

  5. to support prostitutes' self-help groups and to require police and judicial authorities to provide better protection for prostitutes who wish to lodge complaints against pimps in order to reduce their fear of being threatened by them.

The resolution also requires that when establishing policy on prostitution the women concerned should be involved in the deliberations.

AMBAR's work is crucial in securing basic rights as well as safe and healthy working conditions for sex workers in Venezuela. Their AIDS prevention work is invaluable -- it is the only way to ensure that AIDS and other sexually transmissible diseases do not become a public health crisis. I urge you to ensure that AMBAR be allowed to carry out its peaceful and legal activities free from fear and intimidation.

Thank you for your consideration and actions on this matter.


Andrew Sorfleet
Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Regional Coordinator, Network of Sex Work Projects

Copied to:

Attorney General
Dr Ivan Dario Badell Gonzalez
Fiscal General de la Republica
Esquina de Manduca a Ferrenquin,
Caracas, Venezuela
Fax: + 58 2 564 7461

His Excellency
Dr Roy Chaderton-Matos,
Embassy of Venezuela,
1 Cromwell Road, London SW7 2HR
Fax: +44 171 589 8887



Box 3075,
Vancouver, BC
V6B 3X6




The Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver was founded in 1994 to fight for sex workers' rights to fair wages and working conditions that are safe, clean and healthy.

SWAV provides information about sex work as it relates to laws, sexual health, commerce and culture.

SWAV opposes any law that criminalizes work in the sex trade.

SWAV is not an agency of the government nor does it receive any government funding.

[SWAV Letters] [Rights Groups]

Created: June 13, 1997
Last modified: September 2, 1997
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710
Email: swav@walnet.org