Sex workers and allies attend ICPD25 Nairobi Summit


Sex workers and allies attended the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit, 12-14 November 2019, calling for strong support of human rights-based programming for sex workers in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming.

Winnie Byanyima, new Executive Director of UNAIDS, affirmed her commitment to support the decriminalisation of sex work at the pre-meeting of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition on 11 November 2019.

“I’m going to fight criminalization of sexual orientation and the criminalization of sex work. No hesitation.”

- Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS

During the ICPD Summit, Grace Kamau from the African Sex Workers Alliance spoke as part of a panel called HIV: Unfinished business for those most left behind. She called for meaningful involvement of sex workers in decision-making spaces, and closer working with the women’s movement:

“We continue to be pushed away from the women’s movement, because the women’s movement don’t acknowledge sex work as work, and they don’t see us as women. This has pushed us away to a corner where we as sex workers continue to [be] alone, we continue to struggle with our issues, so until we claim full spaces and insist we belong to spaces that women belong to, we [must] claim spaces that belong to us."

"As sex workers, we want to be acknowledged as sex workers, we want governments to acknowledge sex work as work... Saying ‘leaving no one behind’ is including sex workers."

“When we say engagement, we see we are engaged not meaningfully… What sex workers want is meaningful engagement of sex workers, so that we can be able to talk about our lived experiences… We don’t want to see people talking on our behalf, but we want to talk about the issues that we face as sex workers. It’s time for governments to recognise that we sex workers, we are here, we want to be given a space ourselves.”

ICPD refers to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development meeting, where 179 governments adopted a Programme of Action and called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take centre stage in national and global development efforts. 25 years on, the Nairobi Summit (co-convened by Kenya and Denmark) took place between 12th-14th November, seeking ways forward in fully implementing the ICPD plan of action. More than 9,000 people attended the two-day Summit. Read more about the Nairobi Summit and background to the ICPD here