Davida and other members of the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes achieved a major victory in 2002, when the Ministry of Labour and Employment officially recognised sex work as an occupation. The inclusion of ‘Sex Professionals’ in the government’s Classification of occupations (CBO) permitted sex workers access to social benefits as autonomous workers. Sex workers could now officially contribute to the government pension plan in order to receive retirement benefits.Various denominations of sex worker are listed under the category as well as the description of the required activities.
History of the Sex Worker Rights Movement
In 2004 the sex worker leader, Sandra Cabrera was brutally shot in the neck in Rosario. She was called ‘La Sanjua’ as she came from San Juan from where she moved to Rosario in 1994. Her dedication to the sex worker organisation, AMMAR Rosario (Asociación de Mujeres Meretrizes de Argentina), was evident in her struggle for the rights of sex workers and the support of the trade union of AMMAR. She denounced police corruption related to sex work and the exploitation of her colleagues by police demanding bribes.
A police raid in a building where more than 400 hundred sex workers worked, in Niterói, a city on the other side of Rio de Janeiro’s bay, ended with a hundred sex workers jailed in for a day. Some of the sex workers were beaten, others robbed and some were even raped. The raid, on 23rd May 2014, was the final move in a series of institutional violations of the human rights of sex workers. The assault on the human rights of sex workers began in March, with the illegal detention of sex workers in a high security prison.
At the first 3-day meeting of Latin-America sex workers, 60 sex workers from 16 Central and Latin American countries (Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela) came together to analyse their working and living conditions. The discussion focused on the continuous aggression and discrimination as well as government policies and abuses. Prostitution laws in the different countries were compared and the way legislation influences sex work was also considered.
At the first national meeting called,‘The rights of prostitutes and the requests for civil rights’, 70 sex workers from 11 Brazilian states came together. Gabriela Leite, sex worker leader who had been involved, organising for sex workers, since the first protests against police violence in São Paulo (1979) were held, organised the congress. There had been several difficulties in getting the meeting organised including having their use of planned venue cancelled.
After the fall of Franco, and with a new spirit of freedom running through Spain, sex workers from the Costa del Sol, tried to set up a trade union. They called themselves ‘love workers’ and were supported and copied in other provinces such as Granada and Seville. They gained some support from the Democratic Association "Mariana Pineda" widespread throughout Andalusia and in which Maria Izquierdo Rojo from the PSOE and other leftist women had founded a foothold for the defense of women's equality. Unfortunately, this attempt at unionising didn’t succeed.
In Rome a league for the protection of sex workers was founded in September, later re-named ‘Partito per la Protezione delle Prostitute – PPP’
It regarded itself as a union and wanted to fight against criminalisation and for sex workers to have access to social and pension benefits. In Italy, an (illegally) registered sex worker could not get a driver's license and could be expelled of every town with a ‘foglio di via’, an expulsion order, if they were caught. In case of non-compliance they risked a prison sentence.
Before 1972 there were two red-light areas in Cologne, Germany: one in Kleine Brinkgasse and another in Im Stavenhof. The authorities declared the 150 year old traditional small-brothel streets ‘prohibition zones’. Allegedly, the aim of the then police superintendent was to build a new Eros centre – a large commercially owned brothel.
In recognition of the need to develop links between communities sharing intersectional issues and lifestyle choices, in 1988, a consortium of emerging peer-led sex worker organisations from across Australia successfully lobbied the Federal Government to fund a national conference. The conference, primarily organised by Julie Bates, emerged under the moniker, The Australian Sex Industry and AIDS Debate 1988. The conference, supported by the Prostitute’s Collective of Victoria, was held in the historical street-based sex working inner-city suburb of St. Kilda, Melbourne, 25 to 27 October, 1988.
In 2012, the 19th International AIDS Conference was held in Washington, American, ostensibly in recognition of the Obama administration’s 2009 policy shift in overturning the long standing ban on HIV-positive people entering the United States.