Artemis' Umbrella: a new security app for sex workers

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Author: 
Europe Regional Correspondent
Source (institute/publication): 
NSWP

A new security application, Artemis' Umbrella, has been developed for sex workers in Finland, and can be used anywhere in the world. The app alerts a trusted contact when sex workers are in trouble, and uses location services to track the smart phone.

“The idea for the application came up about two years ago when I visited Nairobi, Kenya, with a parliamentary committee and met some local sex workers on my own. I realised that even though the sex workers were in a tough spot with the legal system, stigma attached to work and poverty, they all had a smart phone, which could be used as security resource. After meeting up with them I started planning, would it be possible to build a safety application for them,”- says Anna Kontula, the member of the Finnish Parliament and the president of Sosiaalasema X, who was interviewed by NSWP’s Regional Correspondent in Europe. Sociaalasema X is a small non-profit association whose aim is to develop peer support tools and practices.

With this application, it is possible to alert a pre-arranged friend if something like a customer meeting goes wrong and needs help. The alarm can be triggered via the alarm button or via the timer (the alarm will be triggered if the function is not shut down in time). Both alerts will also include the person's location information.

The application has been developed with the help of sex workers. They participated in the project’s steering group, which made the blueprints for the development work and the application was eventually tested among them in both Helsinki and Mumbai. Development of the app focused on anonymity, being free of charge, comparability to other apps and simplicity to use.

“Even though Finland is globally relatively safe place for sex workers, it does not mean that they don’t face higher risk of violence than the average person. As the first piloting in Helsinki showed, there was a high demand for such a safety app. There are plenty of similar safety apps, but none of them are designed from the perspective and needs of the sex workers. Artemis’ Umbrella differs from these since it is completely free, anonymous and can be used without holding the phone. Therefore it is somewhat the only application designed especially for them by them,” added Anna.

“I find this application very useful, especially for sex workers, who are working alone. It can also be used when doing an outcall. But first of all, we would like the police to be our friend and to treat us without discrimination when we report crimes. Also, there is sometimes a lack of solidarity among sex workers,”- adds Victoria, migrant sex worker from Helsinki.

The app is available in English and Finnish at the moment, and can be downloaded free of charge from www.artemisumbrella.com. The application is web-based, so if general networks work, this should work anywhere in the world.