Conflicts and humanitarian crises, such as natural disasters, pandemics, civil and cross-border wars, and other emergencies, are increasingly impacting communities globally. By the end of 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), reported that 108.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to humanitarian crises. Sex workers are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises and conflicts due to structural barriers and intersecting forms of oppression which increase their vulnerability to violence, economic hardship, and human rights abuses. Widespread criminalisation, stigma, and discrimination not only exacerbate marginalisation, but impede sex workers’ access to vital health, social, legal, and other services, in violation of their fundamental human rights.
This policy brief explores the lived experiences of sex workers in conflict zones and humanitarian crises, highlighting challenges faced in diverse settings and strategies for upholding sex workers’ human rights. It draws on the findings from a global e-consultation conducted with NSWP member organisations between June and July of 2023, interviews with sex worker leaders operating in humanitarian crises and conflict zones, and other key informants. The policy brief concludes with recommendations to ensure that sex workers’ health, safety, and human rights are upheld in the response to humanitarian crises and conflicts worldwide.
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