The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) have written a briefing paper focussing on the experiences, views, needs, and rights of sex workers who use drugs. The Briefing Paper discusses existing research and writing, and also includes case studies from sex worker-led and drug user-led organisations on the perspectives and experiences of sex workers who use drugs, and on how best to meet the needs of this community.
Double Criminalisation, Stigma, and Discrimination
The Briefing Paper stresses that sex workers who use drugs face double criminalisation as a result of their drug use and sex work. They also face double stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, and violence, due to both drug-userphobia and sex-workerphobia. Sex workers who use drugs face stigma, discrimination, and violence from the police, health and social care providers, as well as from the community, and their families.
The needs of sex workers who use drugs are often ignored and sidelined in the provision of health and social care and harm reduction services, and as a consequence appropriate and, comprehensive services tailored to their needs are rare. In addition, they also face considerable barriers to accessing those small number of services that are available. These barriers include criminalisation, discrimination, social exclusion, and risks of violence, all driving transmission of blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections, notably HIV and hepatitis C.
In short, the human rights of sex workers who use drugs to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as their right to be free from violence and discrimination, are frequently violated.
Good Practice Recommendations – Nothing About Us, Without Us
Sex workers who use drugs are often seen to be incapable of making decisions about their own lives and wellbeing, and this is used to justify their exclusion from the formation of policy and law that relates to them. As a result, their specific needs are often overlooked in policy development and programme design.
Harm reduction programmes, healthcare services, and policy related to sex workers who use drugs can be counterproductive, insufficient, and harmful when created without the meaningful involvement of sex workers who use drugs themselves. NSWP and INPUD’s joint briefing paper sets out good practice recommendations, emphasising that sex workers who use drugs are experts on their own lives and on what services, laws, and policies they require. As is noted in the document,
“The principle of ‘nothing about us without us’ should be fundamental in developing policies and programmes, and in service provision, ensuring the visibility and engagement of sex workers who use drugs.”
Download the briefing paper Sex Workers Who Use Drugs: A Joint Approach from this website.