Anti-Prostitution Pledge Timeline

Trafficking Policy
Research Project:

Examining the Effects of
U.S. Trafficking Laws and Policies


Just Sign on The Dotted Line- The Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath
from Carol Leigh on Vimeo.


Anti-Prostitution Pledge Timeline
(including material from
by Carol Leigh

Trafficking Policy Research Project


The development of this policy demonstrates the way the US exports repressive ideologies through conditions set for foreign aid recipients. Poor countries have little choice but to adhere to the US moral agenda. The Bush administration required that USAID recipients, health service organizations around the world, sign an oath in opposition to prostitution, ensuring that they would not support legal prostitution. This 'gag order' evolved over a series of years through policy statements and federal law. The gag order and anti-prostitution loyalty oath was embedded in a funding mechanism PEPFAR, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief which is set to authorize 48 billion dollars over a five year period.


*The Bush Global Gag Rule: Targets Abortion 2001-01-22
On his first day in office, and, on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, President Bush launched a moralistic and repressive approach to international aid. He signed the Global Gag Rule reinstating a Reagan policy for the USAID program. The target was reproductive rights. This policy restricted funds to groups who also engage in certain activities, even when these activities were not USAID funded, such as providing legal abortion services, lobbing their own governments for abortion reform, or providing accurate medical counseling about reproductive options. The next focus was prostitution...

*Memo from Colin Powell: Restricts USAID Funds to Stop Trafficking 2002-12-19
A December 19th 2002 Memo from Colin Powell launched the policy. At the same time the administration was promoting abstinence-based approaches to HIV prevention which had questionable results. These policies forced U.S. religious dogma on the world. U.S. policies were at odds with best practices and evidence-based approaches which include condom distribution, needle exchange and other harm reduction approaches. The Center For Health and Gender Equity claimed that research shows that those ideology driven restrictions are undermining the goals of PEPFAR. In 2003 Brazil, for example, was recognized as a model for success incorporating non-judgmental approaches.

*AIDS ACT Restricts funds for HIV Prevention Re: Prostitution Gag Order 2003-05-27
During 2003 the anti-prostitution policy was written into the AIDS Act, establishing these restrictions in HIV funding.

*Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization - Amended to include Prostitution Gag Order 2003-12-19
Ultimately the anti-prostitution gag order became part of the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act..
"Such funding restrictions follow other similar - and increasing - efforts to force organizations working in public health to comply with ideological litmus tests that often run counter to both public health practice and human rights standards." (

*USAID Policy Directive: Sign an Oath Opposing Prostitution 2004-01-15
In January of 2004, a USAID Policy Directive with the same language was issued, restricting HIV prevention funding.

*Consolidated Appropriations Bill Exempts UN from Funding Restrictions for AIDS and Anti-Trafficking 2004-01-23
Later that month congress passed legislation which contained exemptions from restrictions for United Nations and other international organizations such as the World Health Organization..
*USAID Funding Revision Trafficking: Restrictions for Foreign Organizations Only 2004-02-26

*USAID Funding Revision AIDS Prevention: Restrictions for Foreign Organizations Only 2004-07-16
In February the first of two USAID funding revisions stating that, ONLY foreign non-governmental organizations had to have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution.

*U.S. Department of Justice: US Groups ARE Restricted-No First Amendment Conflicts 2004-09-20
Then, in a change of direction, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement which advised that funding restrictions COULD be applied to U.S. organizations working abroad.

*President Urged by Rep. Waxman to Reject Pledge Requirements in HIV/AIDS Funding 2005-04-13
Henry Waxman was the first representative to step in and publicly urge the rejection of these new policies.

*Brazil Refuses $40M in U.S. AIDS Grants To Protest Policy Requiring Groups To Condemn Commercial Sex Work 2005-05-02
As international concern over US policies escalated, Brazil refuses $40M in USAID grants in protest.

*Center for Disease Control and Prevention-Grant Application Restricts Subcontractors and US Recipients 2005-05-05
Soon after, the CDC escalated the anti-prostitution strategy. They issued a request for applications requiring all sub-recipient NGOs of UN agencies to have a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.

*200 International Organizations Protest US Funding Limitations 2005-05-12
In a timely response, 200 international organizations signed on to a letter protesting US funding limitations. Witnessing the outcome of this conflation created a new understanding of sex work issues. What followed was a roller coaster of policies law suits and rulings.

*CDC Policy Modification Requested According to Washington Post 2005-05-18
The Washington Post reported that Randall Tobias, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator requested that the CDC withdraw the policy modification.

*Flip Flop: USAID Policy Directive-Restrictions DO apply to US groups 2005-06-09
Despite this, USAID reversed itself, requiring that all foreign and U.S.-based recipients have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.

*Rep. Souder to Examine U.S. Recipients re: Prostitution and Sex Trafficking 2005-09-16
Later that year, another Congressman launched his own anti-prostitution campaign, stating that any organization working with prostitutes is suspected of violating the loyalty oath requirement.

*Lawsuits Filed Against the Administration Funding Restrictions by DKT 2005-08-11
Finally, as a response to the stipulations applying to US groups two lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of the oath and its application to U.S.-based organizations.

*Sangram of India Rejects Funding 2005-10-06

*San Francisco Anti-Prostitution Organizations, SAGE, Inc., joins Equality Now in Amicus Brief Filed in Support of gag order/ loyalty oath 2005-12-09
Although San Francisco is often considered a liberal city, local anti-prostitution organization, SAGE joined about twenty organizations led by Equality NOW in support of the gag order/ loyalty oath.

*Court Rules in Favor of Open Society, AOSI and Pathfinder 2006-05-09

*Court Rules in Favor of DKT: Rejecting Restrictions for US Groups as Unconstitutional 2006-05-18

*DKT Pledge Ruling Reversed 2007-02-27

*DKT Decision Reversed Again-Unconstitutional 2008-08-08
The beginning of 2006 marked a series of successful rulings against the anti-prostitution pledge, which were reversed in 2007, then reversed back in 2008. Currently injunctions against applying the pledge to U.S. organizations are in effect. Foreign organizations are not covered by these injunctions.

*PEPFAR Reauthorized-11th hour Anti Prostitution Oath Remains 2008-07-30
Late in 2008, the Bush administration and the Democratic Congress reauthorized and increased PEPFAR funding with very few policy revisions. In the 11th hour, left the anti-prostitution pledge was left intact.

*Obama Rescinds Global Gag Rule Re Abortion 2009-01-23

*Obama Appoints San Francisco MD, Eric Gossby Global AIDS Coordinator 2009-06-23
The new administration has made some important changes. Shortly after taking office Obama issued an executive order to rescind the Global Gag Rule for abortion. In June of 2009 Obama appointed a San Francisco physician and long time expert on HIV issues as Global AIDS Coordinator.

*US Department of Justice 'Regroups' re: Appeal of AOSI, Open Society Injunction 2009-07-20
In July of 2009 decided to find a new strategy for appeal of the injunction against the application of the oath to U.S. organizations. They dropped it 'without prejudice,' and are reforming their arguments.

* In November of 2009, Rajiv Shah was nominated by President Obama as the next administrator of the USAID program. Rajiv is a 36 year old doctor and scientist who formerly worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's agriculture and financial services program.

* In December of 2009, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human collected public comment on proposed changes to the implementation of the anti-prostitution policy requirement. 2009-12

Among the various changes was a confusing and restrictive set of requirements through which NGOs could set up separate projects that would be exempt from the Pledge, while the funded project would be subject to restrictions. In addition, the language of condemnation of prostitution was expanded, with recipients forced to sign on to the statement, that they are “opposed to the practices of prostitution and sex trafficking because of the psychological and physical risks they pose for women, men, and children.”

* On April 13, 2010, the final regulations were posted. Secretary Sebelius adopted the regulations as proposed with almost no changes, despite the more than 400 signatures and expert commentary against this proposal. The expanded anti-prostitution language is now part of Title 45 (45 C.F.R. § 89.1.) 2010-04-13

* On July 6th U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit defended the right to speak freely about sex workers and in so doing will help us fight HIV/AIDS, ruling that "The right to communicate freely on such matters of public concern lies at the heart of the First Amendment....Defendants cannot now recast the Leadership Act’s global HIV/AIDS-prevention program as an anti-prostitution messaging campaign." 2011-07-06

* On September 6, 2011, the Administration asked for an “en banc” review (that is a hearing of the full court), which was denied in February 2012. The administration has a little less than 90 days to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. Although it is expected that they will appeal, the Court does not have to take the case. 2011-09-06, 2012-02

* April 22, 2013 The US Supreme Court begins hearings for the OSI PEPFAR Case.