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BUILDING KNOWLEDGE AMONG SEX WORKERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

BUILDING KNOWLEDGE AMONG SEX WORKERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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BUILDING KNOWLEDGE AMONG SEX WORKERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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  1. BUILDING KNOWLEDGE AMONG SEX WORKERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS Veena Lakhumalani British Council, Ukraine

  2. WHY DO SEX WORKERS NEED TO HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS?

  3. SEX WORKERS OPERATE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF VIOLENCE, INTIMIDATION, THREAT, NEGATIVE ATTITUDES, STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION

  4. WHERE HUMAN RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED ON A REGULAR BASIS • WHERE THERE IS LITTLE SUPPORT IN COMMUNITIES OF SEX WORKERS AND THEIR PROBLEMS • WHERE SERVICE PROVIDERS AND PROTECTORS OF LAWS AND HUMAN RIGHTS ARE THEMSELVES AMONGST THE MAJOR VIOLATORS OF THE WOMEN’S RIGHTS

  5. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHERE SEX WORKERS THEMSELVES ARE OFTEN NOT AWARE OF THEIR RIGHTS • AND BECAUSE OF LOW SELF ESTEEM AND LACK OF TRUST AND CONFIDENCE, THEY USUALLY DO NOT SEEK JUSTICE AND REDRESSAL

  6. MOREOVER, MANY OUTREACH WORKERS WORKING IN NGOS ARE NOT AWARE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS THAT PROVIDE A FRAMEWORK TO PROTECT WOMEN IN SEX WORK FROM HARASSMENT AND THREAT • AND WOMEN ARE SEEN AS A RESERVOIR FOR HIV AND OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES

  7. AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF A GROWING EPIDEMIC OF HIV AND AIDS IN EASTERN EUROPE, UKRAINE IN PARTICULAR, SEX WORKERS HAVE A RIGHT TO : • HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE • PROTECTION FROM VIOLENCE • FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION AND STIGMATISATION

  8. HEALTH : A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity World Health Organisation

  9. UKRAINE AS A CASE STUDY: SEX WORK WAS CRIMINALISED IN SEPTEMBER 2001 THERE WAS OUTRAGE AMONGST ACTIVISTS AND NGOS TO THIS DEVELOPMENT ALTHOUGH IN REALITY THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT SEX WORKERS HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN PROSECUTED……………..

  10. THE LAW IS USED TO TERRORISE, SUBJUGATE AND COERCE WOMEN AND WORSE, IT GIVES THE POLICE AND PIMPS THE FREEDOM TO FURTHER EXPLOIT THE WOMEN – SEXUALLY AND FINANCIALLY • IT ALSO MEANS THAT WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN TRAFFICKED FOR SEX WORK AND RETURN TO UKRAINE ARE AT RISK TO HAVING THIS USED AGAINST THEM IN THE COURT OF LAW

  11. WHAT THE CRIMINALISATION OF SEX WORK HAS DONE IS ADVERSELY IMPACT THE WOMEN’S ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE SERVICES • THEY MOVE FROM PLACE TO PLACE TO AVOID THE POLICE • THIS MAKES HIV PREVENTION WORK WITH THEM DIFFICULT

  12. IT ALSO VIOLATES THE RIGHT OF SEX WORKERS TO EARN A LIVING TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES • ANOTHER CRIMINAL ACT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SPREADING HIV IF AN INFECTED PERSON IS AWARE THAT S/HE IS HIV POSITIVE

  13. IT IS EASY TO BLAME SEX WORKERS IF MEN FIND THAT THEY ARE HIV POSITIVE, BUT HOW DID THE WOMEN GET INFECTED IN THE FIRST PLACE? • ALSO, THE LAW PLACES ALL CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEX WORK ON WOMEN. AS WE ALL KNOW, SEX WORK IS ABOUT THE DEMAND FROM MEN FOR SUCH SERVICES, SO WHY THIS DISCREPANCY IN THE LAW?

  14. HOWEVER, ACCORDING TO THE UN COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, ARTICLE 10, ALL PERSONS DEPRIVED OF THEIR LIBERTY SHAL BE TREATED WITH HUMANITY AND WITH RESPECT FOR THE INHERENT DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN RACE

  15. WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS THAT NEED TO BE OVERCOME? • INTERESTINGLY, THERE IS DISCUSSION IN UKRAINE ON CHANGING THE LAWS IN RELATION TO INJECTING DRUG USERS, RECOGNISING THAT THIS IS A MEDICAL PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED. HOWEVER, LITTLE OR NOTHING IS SAID ABOUT SEX WORKERS. • WHERE ARE THE ACTIVISTS’ VOICES ON THIS?

  16. SOME POLICE OFFICERS WANT TO LEGALISE SEX WORK. BUT WHO HAS ASKED THE WOMEN WHAT THEY WANT? IS THERE A DEBATE ON THIS ISSUE OR NOT? • NOT ALL STAFF OF ARE AWARE ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS AND LEGAL ISSUES • SEX WORKERS THEMSELVES SHY AWAY FROM PUBLICITY AND FROM OPENLY ADMITTING THEIR PROFESSION.

  17. THEY ARE THEREFORE RELUCTANT TO SEEK LEGAL SUPPORT IF THEIR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED OR IF THEY HAVE BEEN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE AS THEY FEEL THAT THE LEGAL SYSTEM WILL BE VERY UNSUPPORTIVE AND THAT THERE MIGHT BE UNDUE PUBLICITY ABOUT THEM

  18. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CHANGE THE LEGAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ENVIRONMENT FOR SEX WORKERS? • MOST IMPORTANTLY, PROVIDE SEX WORKERSWITH SUFFICIENT KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS IN SIMPLE, COMPREHENSIBLE LANGUAGE • ENSURE THAT THEY ARE NOT VICTIMISED BY THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, THE MEDICAL PROFESSION OR OTHER AUTHORITIES

  19. DEAL WITH HER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS – DON’T JUST DISTRIBUTE CONDOMS AND NEEDLES AND SYRINGES OR ENCOURAGE HER TO GO FOR VCT. IF HER PIMP OR POLICE HAVE BEEN VIOLENT OR THE CLIENT HAS HARMED HER, THAT IS HER FIRST CONCERN. HIV PREVENTION MAY NOT BE HIGH ON HER LIST OF PRIORITIES.

  20. ADVOCATE FOR CHANGES IN THE LAW – DECRIMINALISATION AT LEAST IF NOT LEGALISATION • CREATE PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR WOMEN IN SEX WORK THROUGH PRINT AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA

  21. IT IS IMPORTANT TO WORK WITH CLIENTS IN ANY HIV PREVENTION WORK WITH SEX WORKERS FOR THE PROGRAMMES AND PROJECTS TO BE EFFECTIVE • NGOS WORKING WITH SEX WORKERS SHOULD DEVELOP A LEGAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY FOR THEIR ORGANISATION AS WELL AS FOR THEIR STAFF

  22. WORK WITH GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA TO PROMOTE THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS FOCUSING ON THEIR VULNERABILITY TO HIV ANDOTHER INFECTIONS IF THEIR CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL OR CULTURAL RIGHTS ARE NOT RESPECTED

  23. WITH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 2006, NGOS AND ACTIVISTS SHOULD ADVOCATE WITH POLITICAL CANDIDATES TO CHANGE THE LAWS AND TO FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR PROFESSION, TO HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTH, SOCIAL AND OTHER SERVICES THAT WOULD PROTECT THEIR HEALTH AND THEIR DIGNITY IN A NON-DISCRIMINATORY AND NON-JUDGEMENTAL ENVIRONMENT AND MANNER.

  24. AS ONE SEX WORKER SAID TO ME IN CALCUTTA MANY YEARS AGO, WE ACTUALLY PROVIDE A SOCIAL SERVICE, AND THIS MAKES WOMEN LIKE YOU SAFE IN THE STREET.