Sex workers participated in the Beijing+25 regional review meetings, which took place last week in Africa and Europe.
Sex Workers Forum Russia/SWAN and OTRAS/ICRSE participated in the European regional review session in Europe. Sex workers discussed the conflation of sex work, trafficking and ‘sexual exploitation’, as well as the problems that exist in Russia and in the CEECA region with the protection of the rights of sex workers. For example, the impossibility of officially registering a sex worker organisation and threats and harassment by the authorities.
"There were opposition from abolitionists (radical feminists), who literally tried to scream and stop us from speaking, because in their opinion, there is no sex work, but only male violence against women. But we also had many supporters."
A sex worker representative from SWAN spoke at a side event on 30th October, organised by WO=MEN, focusing on sex workers as human rights defenders. This panel was praised by the Human Rights Ambassador to the Netherlands:
“I am proud to issue this statement in name of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, supported by Dutch civil society… Our international commitments on gender equality are guiding the creation of our national and international policies. In these policies, ensuring fair gender portrayal in and through media, and enforcing legislation for equal rights of women and girls are central. This includes making sure sexual and reproductive health rights are respected, promoted, and fulfilled, both nationally and internationally. Ending all forms of violence against all women and girls and contributing to their empowerment continues to be a longstanding priority of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Here, I would like to emphasize the importance of economic independence of women.
However, the global shrinking civic space for civil society in general, and for women’s rights defenders specifically, is worrying. Women’s rights activists, organizations and women human rights defenders face individual and collective challenges. Women human rights defenders, that intersect with other marginalized groups, such as sex workers, or indigenous or LGBTI communities, especially face repressions. We need to push back against this pushback. Member States have a crucial role to ensure the representation of women human rights defenders and women’s rights organizations at decision-making levels, including by allocating the necessary resources.”
During the regional review session in Africa, sex workers were represented by ASWA and Conscience Et Vie (Côte d’Ivoire). The African official ministerial meeting occurred in Addis Ababa on the 31st of October, and it was preceded by a civil society organisation forum on the 28th and by expert meetings with Civil Society Organisations from the 29th - 30th October.
Further Beijing+25 regional review meetings will take place in Asia Pacific between 27th-29th November, which will be attended by APNSW members, and Latin America in 2020, which will be attended by representatives from PLAPERTS and CSWC.
The 4th Women’s World Conference in 1995 led to the production of the ‘Beijing Platform for Action’, one of the biggest commitments on women’s human rights at the time. 2020 will be the 25-year review, which will happen at CSW in March 2020, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Conference and a one-day mandated General Assembly High Level Meeting in New York, which will take place in September 2020.
These regional meetings will focus on reviewing implementation of the Beijing Declaration & Platform for Action. Civil society meetings are followed by official meetings of the nation states in each region.