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  • Writer's pictureStudents for Global Health UCL

Sex Workers: Do they have rights?

March 3rd: International Sex Workers Rights Day.Since 2001, this day has been important in the diary of sex workers across the world. It began in India where 25,000 sex workers gathered at a festival despite attempts by prohibitionists to stop the event, and now March 3rd has become an annual occasion to honour sex workers worldwide. 

The red umbrella has become a symbol used at such events, first seen in 2001 at the 49th Venice Biennale of Art. The art installation (which saw sex workers walking through the streets of Venice) drew attention to the abuse and human rights violations faced in the industry. Now the red umbrella is the internationally recognised icon for sex workers’ rights, as well as a symbol of their strength. So what are these rights and what are people campaigning for?

It goes without saying that sex workers are one of the most marginalised groups in society. Yet despite their vulnerability to abuse, rape and discrimination, they often get very little, or even no, legal protection. Nevertheless sex workers are entitled to the same human rights as all other members of society. From the right to just and favourable conditions of work, to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; why should sex workers not be protected by these same rights just like everybody else? 

Currently sex work and related activities are criminal acts in most countries. Yet due to this criminalisation, sex workers have a lack of control over their working conditions and are frequently subject to violence and discrimination. Hence one of the main aims of the sex workers rights movement is to decriminalise sex work. This would mean that criminal prohibitions on sex work would be removed so sex workers would not be working against the law. Consequently they would be less likely to have their human rights abused. Surely this would be a step in the right direction to protecting the human, civil and labour rights of sex workers? 

If you want to find out more about sex worker rights, come along to our Gender Equity event on the 17th November! 

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