The Caribbean Sex Workers Coalition (CSWC), a regional collective of sex worker-led civil society organisations and sex worker advocates, is calling on Caribbean states to end discrimination against sex workers, recognise transgender people and create laws to protect sex workers from stigma and discrimination.
These and a raft of other proposals, dubbed the “Montego Bay Declaration” was issued by the CSWC following the conclusion of its annual general meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica at the end of August.
The Coalition reiterated that ‘sex work is work and must be recognized and treated at par with other professions where labor conditions are just.’ In addition, the group called for the decriminalisation of sex work saying ‘selling sex should not be a crime; there are practices and policies that harm sex workers.’
They also said that sex workers have the same human rights and duties as all other people and they ought to be respected at all times since they value themselves like everyone else in society, with equal rights and access to justice.
Further, the coalition called for the rights of sex workers to be respected, and demanded that sex workers be allowed equal opportunitiers to work, health care, education, food, shelter and retirement benefits. ‘Sex workers would like to be able to access effective social services without fear, favor or compromises,’ the group said.
The meeting ended with a call for an end to all ‘discriminatory legal, social and religious practices that target sex workers, their families, partners, colleagues, clients and anyone associated.’
Among the demands by the group, several were aimed at Caribbean governments and included:
‘Respect and protect human and constitutional rights and create legislation, policies and practices which effectively protect human rights of sex workers’
‘Respect sex workers right to livelihood and freedom to work’
‘Respect sex workers right to freedom of movement and migration’
The group further urged:
‘Provision of non-discriminatory health and social services to sex workers’
Ensure the respective Ministries of Health, the National AIDS Programs and other agencies recognized the different sub-populations of sex workers and design programs that response to their needs’
Partner with and train health care workers to effectively provide services for sex workers, including unconventional health services such as mobile clinics
‘Ensure that sex workers are NOT subjected to compulsory HIV testing by employers’
Finally, the group also wanted the difference between trafficking in persons and sex work be recognised and separated. This follows reports that the US had flagged a number of Caribbean countries as host to human trafficking, adding that traffickers forced their victims into prostitution and sex slavery.
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