Macedonia, forced testing police operations

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20 Nov


HOPS Action video


On the night of November 20, 2008, the police from the “Bit Pazar” station, the “Alpha” special mobile police unit and the local branch office of the Ministry of the Interior executed a large-scale raid targeting a well-known street sex work zone in Skopje, arresting more than 30 people (mostly women alleged to be sex workers) and detaining them overnight on suspicion of “involvement in prostitution”.

The following day, the detainees were subjected to compulsory testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C. Media representatives subsequently published and broadcasted photos of the women and reported on their status as sex workers. The Interior Ministry published photos of the detainees on its website. On the day the tests were carried out, the Interior Minister issued a press statement in which the minister declared the police action was part of the government’s “fight against a socio-pathological phenomenon in society and to eliminate street prostitution.”

On December 3rd, the Interior Ministry issued another press release stating that 7 of the detained women had tested positive for hepatitis C (HCV) and were facing criminal charges for allegedly “transmitting an infectious disease”.

On December 17th, the Eastern European sex workers’ network SWAN released a public letter to protest the arrests, gained support from international NGOs, and documented the story to alert against the human rights abuses. A short movie was recorded by HOPS, a project advocating for the rights of sex workers in Skopje.  Following the action no further forced testing operations took place in Skopje.