Niurkeli, a 33-year-old transgender sex worker, was murdered by a client in Nantes, France. Niurkeli was migrant sex worker of Ecuadorian origin. She was living in Paris with her family. Since 2014 her work conditions have deteriorated. “She was known in the sex worker community and often went to demos for sex workers' rights and against criminalisation,” said Thierry Schaffauser from STRASS.
Since France adopted a new law that criminalises the clients of sex workers, many sex workers have lost income. Many sex workers, including Niurkeli, have moved to more remote and dangerous areas to work because that is where their clients feel more secure. Transgender sex workers were the most affected by the new law because they also experience social exclusion. There are less clients on the streets. Many sex workers do not have enough money to rent an apartment to see clients indoors.
“Since 2003 until now with the suppression of sex work migrant transgender sex worker are the most vulnerable to precarity and STI transmission, “ said Giovanna Rincon, the head of Acceptess Transgenres, the french organisation that protects the rights of transgender people. “Since 2014 it is even worse. Niurkeli decided to work in Nantes, where she met the client who murdered her,” Giovanna continued.
Niurkeli went from Paris to Nantes on 15 October 2016. Then she disappeared. On 21 October her colleague decided to go to the police in Nantes and report her disappearance. Her colleague did not report before because she has been afraid. Niurkeli’s friends found a piece of paper with the phone number of the person they suspected had murdered her. They gave the number to the police so the police could detain the murderer.
“We found a lawyer for her mother. During the court process we will insist that she was in a vulnerable situation: migrant, transgender and a sex worker. We will insist it was a murder with premeditation,” said Giovanna.
The French government stated the law was meant to help and support sex workers who wanted to leave sex work. No sex worker has received this help up until now. “There are sex workers who would really like to leave sex work. But even if the help would be offered to them, who will give a job for a transgender person in a transphobic society?” said Giovanna.
“The most vulnerable community is paying the consequences of this moralistic law. It is a social and human catastrophe for transgender sex workers. They are absolutely lost psychologically,” continued Giovanna, ”there are many HIV-positive transgender sex workers. Due to the fact that now they have to move from the city to city, they interrupt their ARV treatments.”
“There are more reports of violence and rates have increased. We know also colleagues who accept clients without condoms because they don't make enough money. It's really bad,” said Thierry.
“The sex workers now not only accept unsafe sex in order to survive, but they are offering it themselves to persuade clients,” added Giovanna.
It is not the first murder since the law. Two women were also killed in August in Paris.
On Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November), there will be the protest at 5 PM in front of the Ministry of Justice, in memory of Niurkeli and all transgender people murdered. At the protest, people will demand an end to violence against sex workers.