ICRSE and SWAN recently hosted training on community mobilisation and activism for the first time in Poland and Albania. The training took place over two days and was then followed by a roundtable with several NGOs. Despite the hard living and working conditions experienced by many of the participants, with high rates of homelessness and violence, the community is starting to organise to fight for their rights.
A 3-day meeting in Poland, organised with Sex Work Polska, brought together sex workers of various genders, with different experiences across all types of sex work, coming from different parts of Poland and with various experience of migration to Western Europe. The group mapped various working conditions, chose certain issues they would like to mobilise around, defined potential activities to organise and pinned down potential allies for their movement. As part of this community gathering, on the last day, Sex Work Polska together with SWAN, ICRSE and allies such as Foundation for Social Policy Prekursor, Political Critique and Kampania Przeciw Homofobii organised an open seminar on the situations of sex workers in Europe and Poland. The seminar gathered interested parties and potential allies from other movements, LGBT and trans groups, local civil society groups which had a lot of insightful questions or comments to add.
Albania is one of the countries where sex work is fully criminalised, and there is a lack of opportunity for sex workers’ self-organising. The 2-day training took place at the office of Aleanca, an LGBT organisation. Although sex workers from various genders, with different experiences and types of sex work were invited, the training was only attended by trans and MSM sex workers, the majority of whom were young. Their situation is very precarious with many of them living in the LGBT shelter or in the streets. Aside from focusing on access to justice with the session led by Ms Irma Baraku, Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, the group did a lot of brainstorming, discussion and sharing about main issues faced which were categorised in three overlapping themes:
- Discrimination, including: dual discrimination both as trans/LGBT individuals (no access to education, bullying, lack of employment options, lack of housing) and as sex workers;
- Health, including: limited access to health services (discrimination - refusal by officials to treat them), no condoms, poor treatment from health professionals when living with HIV;
- Criminalisation/police, including: the impact of sex work being fully criminalised; police violence and corruption, police refusal to protect sex workers.
These three themes were presented on the third day, at the round table with NGOs and sex workers’ allies. SWAN and ICRSE then presented some of the key programmes and actions that would benefit sex workers, including:
- Support for sex worker self-organising
- Development of a drop-in centre with condoms, sexual health services and legal support
- Sensitisation trainings with police, health professionals and social services.
- Documentation on international human rights and research on discrimination.
- Advice on CEDAW shadow reporting.
- Roll out of SWIT (Sex Worker Implementation Tool).
- Running a decriminalisation campaign.