As a worker in any kind of job, security is of the utmost importance, which is why there are laws and rules in place to ensure that people are protected. But when it comes to the protection of sex workers, there is none and on top of that they are stigmatised, marginalised and exploited. So on International Sex Workers Day, which is marked every June 2, we take a look the problems and challenges that sex workers face.
A little bit about the idea behind International Sex Workers Day, is that it honours sex workers and recognises their often exploited working conditions. It marks the day, June 2, 1975, when the Saint-Nizier church in Lyon was occupied by more than a hundred prostitutes to draw attention to their inhumane working conditions. Decades later, nothing has changed for them and their fight to decriminalise and destigmatise sex work.
Discrimination and Stigmatisation:
The rights of sex workers are non-existent, and those doing such work face discrimination due to their criminalised status. These individuals are looked down upon and have no place in society, and most times are treated harshly by their landlords and even the law. Their fight to be given the same human, health, and labour rights as others, continues as they are not deemed as falling under the same category as other workers. For example, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is rendering most jobless, sex workers are the most affected as without clients they have no money, and their efforts to look for another job are thwarted, as most won’t hire them.
Abuse and Exploitation:
Most times, sex workers are exposed to a slew of abuses that range from physical to mental attacks. They would face harassment from clients, their own family members, the community, and even from people who are supposed to uphold the law. If they were to be attacked, nobody would come to their aid, as, along with lacking legal protection, they are not deemed important enough.
Safe Working Environments:
As previously mentioned, a sex worker who operates in unsafe environments ends up being abused and attacked. But most of them do not have access to clean and safe housing, as they are refused outrightly by owners or the society. With most entering the trade due to lack of money, they set up shop in dingy places, and at times what they earn is also taken away from them by the police as bribe or stolen from them.
Most important of all would be getting access to essential health services that include treatment for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, which they are denied.
Many organisations working for sex workers have articulated that sex work is a contractual arrangement where sexual services are negotiated between consenting adults, its high time that it was decriminalised. Since in most countries prostitution is not legal, sex workers face the threat of being arrested, and none of them want to be seen as criminals.