International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers: Russia and Ukraine Should Support Sex Workers Against Violence
DECEMBER 17, 2013
“In November last year, I was arrested by the police together with other sex workers. We were taken away somewhere out of town, beaten, forced with a gun to undress and enter the river. The air temperature at the time was below zero. We were forced to be in the icy water for a long time. All five had temperature damage and kidney failure. We were then very ill for a long time. One of the girls died.”
This is one of the stories collected by Conecta project in 2012-2013, which underscores the brutality of violence against sex workers. High levels of violence were encountered both in Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Interviews carried out with sex workers pointed out that 80% of sex workers have been beaten (physical violence) in an average of 2,8 times a year in Russia, and 83,9% had to perform unpaid sexual services or received less than the amount agreed (economic violence) in an average of 5,6 times a year in Ukraine. The assessment also considered data on psychological and verbal violence.
Thus, violence remains an ever-present part of many sex workers’ lives. Conecta’s publications underscored the steps that need to be taken to pass comprehensive laws to prevent and respond to violence against sex workers. But passing laws is not enough — laws have to be implemented. Whereas sex workers remain painfully affected by violence, too few of the attackers are ever punished.
There are important reasons why this happens. It’s up to the authorities to enforce laws, but often they still carry the societal biases that contribute to limiting access to justice. Sex workers are highly stigmatized and discriminated against by prosecutors and the police.
Evidence also reveals that violence is frequently perpetrated by law enforcement officials, as well as by people posing as clients. Criminalization of sex work is fostering an environment in which sex workers rights and safe working conditions cannot be safeguarded.
Today, Conecta project, in collaboration with the sex worker-led organisations Silver Rose (Russia) and Legalife (Ukraine) calls on the Russian and Ukrainian government to decriminalize sex work and to reduce the negative impacts of violence on the enjoyment of sex workers’ right to health and life. Sex workers have different jobs, but should have equal human, civil and labour rights! Sex work is work!
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