Your Rights

The Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, agreed at The European Conference On Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour & Migration includes a section documenting abuses of sex workers’ human rights. ‘Under international law it is a fundamental human right that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law”,’ the declaration states. Below are some of the examples of human rights abuses.

It is illegal for sex workers to work together for their own protection without facing prosecution for ‘pimping’ one another, violating their right to peaceful assembly and association and favourable conditions of work.

Sex work is legal and sex workers are registered, but cannot marry. If they do, they are not allowed to continue their work legally and lose their license. Sex workers are therefore forced to choose between the human rights of enjoying their right to marry and found a family OR to livelihood and practice a profession.

Sex workers are subjected to mandatory sexual health controls, but other sexually active citizens are not, promoting the image of sex workers as ‘unclean’ and violating the principle of non-discrimination.

A sex worker’s child, upon reaching legal adulthood, may be prosecuted with ‘living off’ the sex worker’s earnings, violating the rights of sex workers to respect for private and family life and to be free from arbitrary interference with this right.

Sex workers in brothels are required to undergo and pay excessive fees for sexual health checks by owners, the results of which are not kept confidential, thus violating their right to privacy and medical codes of practice.

With impunity police confiscate and dispose of sex workers’ possessions, thus violating their rights to own property and the state’s obligation to provide an effect remedy in respect of their right to property and equal protection of the law.

Sex work is accepted as legal work but migrant sex workers are the only category of migrant workers to be excluded from getting legal work permits, thus violating the right to non-discrimination.

Sex workers lose custody of their children through social services or family courts solely because of their occupation, and not based on any specific evidence of harm or incapacity to parent, violating their right to be free from arbitrary interference with family life.

Health workers may with impunity refuse medical care to sex workers, violating their right to protection by the state of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Politicians and policy-makers have threatened to withdraw from public debates if sex workers are also to participate and sex workers have been systematically excluded from public debate, violating their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Street-based sex workers are criminalized and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are used to restrict freedom of movement. In some cities posters identifying sex workers have been printed and distributed in communities, vilating the right to privacy and to participate in public life.

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