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.

NSWP have written an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Government of Spain, and the leaders of all political parties in the Congress of Deputies regarding the legislative proposals to amend the Spanish Penal Code and introduce new provisions regarding sex work. The proposed reforms include amending the Penal Code to extend the punishment of third parties to include non-coercive relationships and decouple it from exploitation and consent, violating sex workers’ right to housing and the security of sex workers, many of whom live and work in the same place.

Download this resource: NSWP Open Letter, NSWP - 2022

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.

This report from Amnesty International, based on in-depth interviews with sex workers, experts and representatives of the Irish authorities, provides insights into sex workers’ human rights in Ireland, in particular their right to safety and freedom from violence. It shows that criminalisation of aspects of sex work in Ireland has a “chilling effect” on sex workers’ exercise of their human rights, for instance by preventing them from working together in one apartment for safety.

In New Zealand, the Prostitution Reform Act was passed in 2003. Its purpose is to decriminalise prostitution. Following the Act, the Department of Labour, in cooperation with the New Zealand Prostitues Collective (NZPC), developed the Occupational Health & Safety guidelines for the sex industry. This article looks at the development and effects of the New Zealand approach. It was written by members of the NZPC and was published as part of Research for Sex Work 14: Sex Work is Work.

This large, Canadian research explores the perceived control and power within interactions between sex workers and their clients. Sex workers and clients report that most of their interactions are free of conflict and are characterised by relatively symmetrical dynamics of control and power. The ability to negotiate over the terms and conditions of the commercial sexual services offered and sought before meeting in person is linked to workers feeling more control over condom use and feeling more empowered compared to those whose first encounter with clients is face-to-face. This ability to clearly advertise services allows workers to more explicitly state what is and is not being offered so that there is less confusion over expectations, something  that most clients appear to appreciate  and desire for themselves.

In 2013, the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs) were launched in New York. These courts were the USA's first statewide human trafficking intervention within a justice system. This research explores the impact of these courts through studying 364 cases in 2013 and 2014. It concludes that the HTICS do not respect the human rights of the people they process and distort the line between consent and coercion. This makes it more difficult for people who are victimised – by clients, ‘pimps’, police, and courts – to seek justice.

This research investigates sex workers’ opinions on support services in Berlin, Germany. In Berlin, support services for sex workers range from financial, health and legal support to psychosocial counselling and support with issues of migration, etc. Most are carried out by social workers at NGOs targeted at sex workers. While some of these NGOs advocate for sex worker rights, many aim to ‘rescue’ sex workers and to abolish sex work. The researcher concludes there is a discrepancy between support services demand and supply. This article was published in Research for Sex Work 14: Sex Work is Work.

NSWP member Stella produced 9 fact sheets for sex workers in Canada. The fact sheets provide important information about the changes to Canadian law (the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, 2014) that criminalise sex workers, clients, and third parties. The fact sheets offer practical tools for sex workers and explain how the new laws negatively impact sex workers.

This articles outlines the benefits and shortcomings of German sex work laws. It also describes the danges of  forthcoming revisions to Germany's policies. This article was written by Hydra e.V. and pubished as part of Research for Sex Work 14: Sex Work is Work.

This article explores the origins, use and meaning of the term ‘sex work’. It is written by sex worker and PhD student Elena Jeffreys and was published in Research for Sex Work 14: Sex Work is Work.

This is a Community Guide to the Stigma and Discrimination Experienced by Sex Workers Living with HIV briefing paper. It looks at the different types of stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers living with HIV globally. This community guide provides recommendations for policies and practices which respect their  human rights. It uses case studies that highlight the experiences of sex  workers living with HIV and the efforts required to meet their needs, and advocate for their rights.

This briefing paper looks at the different types of stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers living with HIV globally. Sex workers living with HIV are at increased risk of violence, criminalisation and vulnerability to other infections. This briefing paper provides recommendations for policies and practices which respect their  human rights. It uses case studies that highlight the experiences of sex workers living with HIV and the efforts required to meet their needs, and advocate for their rights. A Community Guide is also available.

In August 2015, the International Council of Amnesty International voted in favour of a resolution to develop and adopt a policy that protects the human rights of sex  workers, including full  decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work between adults. This case study reflects on the process towards Amnesty International's resolution, its impact so far and on the roles of NSWP and NSWP member organisations in this process.

This case study reflects on the development and impact of the Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA). The SWAA is a ground-breaking learning programme for community empowerment and capacity building, led by and for sex workers. The Academy brings together national teams of sex workers from across Africa to develop organising skills, learn best practices, stimulate national sex worker movements, and strengthen the regional network.