SWAN members marked International Sex Workers’ Rights Day and International Women's Day

European Regional Correspondent

SWAN members marked the International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on 3 March and the International Women's’ Day on 8 March.

For the first time in Ukraine, a march of sex workers took place during the International Sex Workers' Rights Day.

It was a peaceful march of female, male and transgender sex workers towards the government quarter to declare sex workers rights and to repeal the punishment of sex work. 

The march was organised by the All-Ukrainian League "Legalife" together with the Alliance For Public Health.

The local branch of Amnesty International took part in holding the banner saying “We stand for decriminalization of sex work”.

On 3 March the members of Tais Plus (Kyrgyzstan) celebrated International Sex Workers Rights Day and the 17h birthday of the organisation. More than 60 sex workers and allies gathered to celebrate the day. It is becoming a tradition at Tais Plus to hold such events in an "open-door" format, when people come during the day in groups. 

Past and present of Tais Plus met on this day: current team met people who started to work at Tais Plus initiative group in the late 90s.

There were many bright moments, one of them was a contest for the best successful story on rights protection. Now there are not many of such examples, but they inspire the Tais Plus team to keep moving forward.

On 3 March, the All-Ukrainian Charitable Organisation "LEGALIFE-UKRAINE" started the flashmob on Facebook under the motto of "Only Rights Can Stop The Wrongs".

On 8 March, the Legalife-Ukraine’ activists - from 8 regions -  joined the Feminist March in Kiev. 

The leader of “Legalife-Ukraine” Nataliia Isaeva said, "I am going for the first time on a feminist march this year. I used to think that feminists do not support sex workers, they are not ready to listen to us and they condemn us, but now I see that we have much in common - we both oppose violence and we fight for equal rights, decent work, and the right over the use of my own body. I do the march because I'm tired of being silent. Sex workers are not criminals.The criminalisation of sex work makes us vulnerable to violence by the police, and officials tell us that this is the question of morality. No need to save us, just abolish the laws that punish us." 

The local branch of Amnesty International also joined the same feminist march in Kiev holding banners “We stand for the decriminalization of sex work”. 

On the International Women's Day SZEXE (Hungary) joined the International Womens’ Strike in Budapest. Klaudia Mako, the lawyer from SZEXE, highlighted in her speech that women should be able to make decisions over their own bodies themselves, and the state should stay away from women’s bedrooms. There are only 2 things the state is responsible for: eliminating violence and provisioning of medical services. She emphasised that the state should not punish women for their decisions on what to do with their bodies, and that the state should protect women from poverty instead of taking away children from poor women and sex workers. 

“The Hungarian sex workers are women, and there is a considerable number of trans people among them, we must stand up for our rights, protection and for self-determination,” said a SZEXE representative on Facebook.  

For the occasion of 8 March, the local TV channel made a programme dedicated to NGO “Ameliya” (Kazakhstan). The programme tells about the history of the organisation and about the work Ameliya does.   

Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, in Turkey, published this statement for the International Women's Day, where they call for the fight against stigma, discrimination, violence, poverty, social exclusion and other challenges that all sex workers are exposed to.

HOPS day center, who support sex workers in Gazi Baba (district of Skopje, Macedonia), also marked the International Women's Day by organising a meeting for sex workers. During the meeting, which 12 sex workers attended, the team discussed the importance of this holiday, rights of the participants as people and women, and then as sex workers. 

The feminist manifesto was read to support sex workers. The participants also talked about activism and work of Laura Feer. With great delight the participants watched the video of her first public appearance. The video was inspiring and motivating.

At the end of the discussion the participants were given small gifts produced by the team of Gazi Baba.