Resources

Sex workers all over the world were among the hardest hit communities at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be impacted by this global public health crisis. The structural oppression that sex workers faced before the pandemic as a result of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination was exacerbated as sex workers experienced hardship, a total loss of income, increased harassment, human rights abuses, and health inequalities. The vast majority of sex workers were excluded from emergency responses and national social protection schemes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Misinformation on sex work has flourished for centuries, fuelled by age-old stereotypes, myths, and moral judgments which continue to shape policies and public opinions. Whether falsehoods are disseminated to deliberately deceive, or are shared unknowingly, the spread of inaccurate and misleading information on sex work has significant consequences.

This resource is a Community Guide to the Briefing Paper: Sex Workers’ Lack of Access to Justice. It provides an overview of the full Briefing Paper, and provides key recommendations for policy makers and service providers. 

You can download this 5-page Community Guide above. It is now available in English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese.

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.

This resource is a Community Guide to the Briefing Paper: Shrinking Spaces and Silencing Voices. It provides an overview of the full Briefing Paper, and provides key recommendations for policy makers and service providers. 

You can download this 5-page Community Guide above. It is now available in English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese.

Funding for sex worker-led organisations is shrinking, as has the space for the voices of sex workers, resulting in sex workers having less influence in programmes, policies and other decisions that affect their lives. Civil society organisations and other stakeholders now feel they have the right to funding and advocacy platforms, either because they work with sex workers and are therefore ‘experts’ who can speak for sex workers, or they wish to exclude sex workers’ voices entirely because they refuse to recognise sex workers’ rights as human rights.

2020 is the 25 year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA). This Briefing Note outlines the Beijing+25 review process, how sex workers have engaged in this process thus far, and the priorities for inclusion in Beijing+25 actions.

True progress towards gender equality, gender justice and fulfilment of women’s human rights must be inclusive of women in all their diversity, including sex workers. Sex workers face intersecting forms of criminalisation, discrimination and marginalisation, which cannot be addressed in isolation. 

Legislation around sex work can be extremely complex; different legal models exist in different countries and sometimes even within countries. NSWP published a mapping of national legislation used to regulate and criminalise sex work in 208 countries and dependencies, with sub-national legislation included for some countries.

This Briefing Note outlines the problems with the conflation of the term 'sexual exploitation' with sex work, and how this exacerbates harms to sex workers. 

This Briefing Note outlines the key areas within social protection systems that must be addressed in order to meet the needs of sex workers.

This document is a practical tool for organisations to self-assess whether they meaningfully involve sex workers, and for sex worker-led organisations to assess whether they are meaningfully involved.