Failures of Justice: State and Non-State Violence Against Sex Workers


This community-based research by the Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) is about sex workers’ experiences of state and non-state violence, and hindered attempts to access justice in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The study was undertaken in sixteen countries of our region, with local research teams comprised of sex workers and allies joining efforts. It provides an insight on how stigma and the criminalization of sex work enables daily violence and repression that sex workers face from police and non-state actors. This entails barriers to accessing legal aid and justice, as well as harm reduction, health or social services.

Contents include:

  • Lawful and Unlawful Repression
    • Seizure of Condoms and Safe Injecting Equipment
    • Extortion, Arrest and Detention
    • Forced HIV and STI Testing
    • Extortion, Arrest and Detention of Clients
  • Displacement and its Impacts
    • Reduced Ability to Screen and Refuse Clients
    • Psychological Impacts: Hiding and Constant Fear
    • Economic Losses
  • Violence by State Actors: Police
  • Social, Racial and Gender Profiling for Repression and Violence
  • Violence by Non-State Actors
  • Obstacles to Reporting Violence by State Actors
  • When Sex Workers Report Police Violence to Police
    • Retaliation: Police Actions
    • Police Collusion and the Cover of the Law
    • Police Inaction or Mistreatment
  • Obstacles to Reporting Non-State Violence
  • Sexual Violence: Issues of Law, Evidence, Outing and Self-Incrimination
  • When Sex Workers Report Non-State Violence to the Police
  • Dynamics between State and Non-State Violence
    • Mutual Reinforcement
    • Economic Security VS Physical Security: An Impossible Trade-Off
    • Child Custody Dynamics
  • HIV Implications

You can download this 108-page PDF above. This resource is also available in Russian.