On 13 October the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion was launched during the first Congress of the European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance (ESWA). 15 organisations including La Strada International have joined this coalition calling for decriminalisation of sex work and meaningfully inclusion of sex workers and sex worker rights defenders in decision-making related to sex work.
Sex workers in Europe face high levels of discrimination, violence and human rights violations. In many Western European countries, the vast majority of sex workers are migrants, often undocumented, asylum seekers or refugees.
Despite decades of self-organising, community building and advocacy, sex workers and their organisations are too often discriminated against and their rights attacked, by both private and public actors. Sex worker rights defenders are often defamed, stigmatised, and threatened. Sex workers’ voices are rarely heard in prostitution and anti-trafficking debates – and their needs rarely met – by policy makers in charge of these policies.
The conflation of trafficking and (migrant) sex work has been – and continues to be – instrumentalised to push for a pro-criminalisation agenda that is at odds with a human rights, migrants’ rights and racial justice approach and there is no evidence that criminalising sex workers, their clients or third parties has any positive impact on the lives and human rights of sex workers or the reduction of human trafficking.
On the contrary, decades of evidence from academic research, civil society organisations and sex workers themselves proves beyond doubt that repressive policing and criminalisation – including the criminalisation of clients also known as Swedish, Nordic or – oddly even referred to now as the ‘equality’ Model – directly impact the health, well-being and social inclusion of people who sell sex, in particular those marginalised in multiple ways such as racialised, LGTBQ1+ and undocumented migrant sex workers.
To address this, the 15 organisations stand in solidarity with sex workers, sex worker rights defenders, and their organisations and echo their demands. The organisations who make up the Coalition are leading European civil society networks and human rights organisations. Next to La Strada International and the European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance (ESWA), the coalition includes Aids Action Europe (AAE), Amnesty International, Correlation European Harm Reduction Network (Correlation EHRN), European Aids Treatment Group (EATG), European Digital Rights (EDRi), European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Equinox – Racial Justice Initiative, Fair Trials, Human Rights Watch, International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Europe (ILGA-Europe), Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), and Transgender Europe (TGEU).