Resources

Anti-rights movements pose numerous threats to sex workers, with their diverse ideologies, aims, and emerging alliances. These threats must be better understood to promote sex workers’ rights.

This resource is a Community Guide to the Briefing Paper: The Impacts of Anti-Rights Movements on Sex Workers. It provides an overview of the full Briefing Paper, and provides key recommendations for respecting and protecting sex workers’ human rights.

In recent years, movements organised against the rights of marginalised and criminalised groups have grown in influence and impact around the globe. Anti-migrants’ rights groups have lobbied for more restrictive border policies, in violation of the right to move and migrate. Anti-sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and anti-LGBT groups have pushed back access to sexual and reproductive services and gender-affirming care for women, trans, and gender-diverse people, in violation of the right to health.

Sex workers were among the hardest hit at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be impacted by this global public health crisis. The challenges that sex workers faced before COVID-19, as a result of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, were all exacerbated by the pandemic.

Legislation around sex work can be extremely complex and different legal models exist in different countries, and sometimes even within countries. While understanding the written laws and regulations is important, it does not provide a complete picture of the impact of sex work laws on the lives of sex workers. To understand this, it is essential to understand how the laws are interpreted, enforced, and implemented on the ground.

Sex workers worldwide are overwhelmingly excluded from social protection schemes and government emergency responses put in place for other workers. Criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, and the failure to recognise sex work as work compound sex workers’ exclusion and foster economic insecurity. Sex work must be recognised as work and all aspects decriminalised to ensure that sex workers can access the same social protections, emergency financial support, and labour rights as all other workers.

This infographic summarises the Briefing Paper on Sex Workers’ Lack of Access to Justice.

Sex workers around the world face a wide range of barriers to accessing justice, both as victims of crime and when charged with crimes. Since sex work is widely criminalised, most sex workers are denied access to the benefits and rights afforded to other workers under labour laws and face the risk of criminalisation, detention, deportation and legal sanction.

Misinformation about sex work and sex workers has long served as a tool for politicians, religious leaders, fundamental feminists and abolitionist groups, and anti-trafficking organisations to advance anti-sex work agendas.

Misinformation about sex work and sex workers has long served as a tool for politicians, religious leaders, fundamental feminists and abolitionist groups, and anti-trafficking organisations to advance anti-sex work agendas. The conflation of sex work with trafficking and exploitation is at the root of misinformation on sex work. ‘End Demand’ models that criminalise sex workers’ clients, ‘raid and rescue’ operations, and ‘exit’ and ‘rehabilitation’ services further deny the diverse lived experiences of sex workers while obscuring true victims of trafficking.

The struggles for sex workers’ and women’s rights are innately interconnected. Worldwide, most sex workers are women, who share challenges in their fight for justice, equality, and the right to be free from violence, stigma, and discrimination. Nevertheless, within the women’s movement there have been obstacles to acceptance of and meaningful engagement with sex worker-led organisations, ranging from ideological opposition to outright abuse.

This resource is a Community Guide to the Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Sex Workers/ Sex Worker-led Organisations. It provides an overview of the full Policy Brief, and provides key recommendations based on important lessons learned throughout the pandemic. 

You can download this 5-page resource above. This resource is available in English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

As a criminalised population, sex workers have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, often living in precarious economic situations and excluded from social protection systems. This policy brief includes feedback directly from sex worker-led organisations and sex workers on their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact upon access to services, supplies of HIV treatment, and prevention commodities.

By recognising sex workers as experts and meaningfully involving them in all policies, programmes, discussions, and decisions which affect their lives, allies can play a crucial role advancing sex workers’ human rights and supporting sex worker-led organisations. At the same time, allies can also undermine, invisibilise, and exclude sex workers – whether intended or not – when these principles are not upheld.

NSWP welcomes reports that the online platform OnlyFans has reversed its decision to ban content containing “sexually-explicit conduct” on its website from October 2021, after the backlash the announcement received from its users. The plan would have resulted in a severe loss of income for many sex workers, including those who have moved online to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for whom OnlyFans has become a main source of income as the pandemic continues.

The Global Fund has established Codes of Conduct which employees, resource recipients, suppliers, Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) members, and governance officials must uphold while carrying out their work. One of the requirements, which applies to all parties under these codes, is to prohibit ‘sexual exploitation.’ Due to widespread conflations of sex work with ‘sexual exploitation,’ however, there is concern that this provision may be misinterpreted to exclude sex workers.

This is a summary of NSWP's Consensus Statement on Sex Work, Human Rights, and the Law. The Consensus Statement is issued on behalf of NSWP members and the sex workers they represent including sex workers of all genders, class, race, ethnicity, health status, age, nationality, citizenship, language, education levels, disabilities, and many other factors.

The right to participation in public and political life is enshrined in international human rights law. Broadly, ‘public life’ refers to the realm in which political processes and activities occur. Participation in public life can be formal or informal, taking place from the grassroots to global levels. Through diverse forms of engagement in public life, sex workers have successfully influenced policies, programmes, practices, and discussions which affect their lives.

This animation describes the different legislative frameworks used to criminalise and oppress sex work and sex workers, including oppressive regulatory frameworks.

The Sex Work and the Law animation is a new tool for sex workers' advocacy worldwide. It was designed and created by Smo Sienkiewicz.