Sex Workers Speak Out

The Sex Workers Speak Out project gives sex workers the chance to speak out about sex work and decent work; and sex work, sexual and reproductive health & rights (SRHR) and bodily autonomy. 

The commitments made during the Generation Equality Forums are not easily accessible, and it would be problematic for the sex worker community to monitor and hold commitment makers accountable in 2021. Sex workers have spoken up outside of the GEFs, but had few opportunities to speak out during them.   

Each video has English subtitles with the plain text below. To enable subtitles, play the video and click 'CC'. Where subtitles are available in more than one language, you can select the language you'd like to read by clicking on the icon that looks like a cog and selecting the correct language. You can also use the Google Translate function at the top of the page to translate the text below each video into more languages from around the world. 

This work has been supported by the Count Me In! Consortium.

Logos from the Count Me In consortium

Charmaine, Zimbabwe

Greetings! My name is Charmaine Dube and I am from the Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance. Zimbabwe is one of 103 countries worldwide in which sex work is criminalised and this leaves us unprotected by the law and exposed to a lot of human rights violations. As sex workers, decriminalisation of sex work means us having improved working and living conditions. As the Zimbabwe sex workers we call for the removal of all laws that directly or indirectly criminalise sex work as this is the first step in ensuring we are protected and our dignity is upheld. Decriminalising sex work and sex workers will ensure that sex workers enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms. Decriminalisation of sex work will help improve our living and working conditions as sex workers. #RecognizeSexWorkNow #SexWorkIsWork
I thank you …

Kali, Spain

Hi my name is Kali, I am a sex worker. I really believe that if we saw sex work as "decent work" or just work, we would face a lot less violence in our community. The word decent is even morally loaded, who gets to decide what is good or bad, or what's moral or immoral? Often sex work has a lot of moral judgements attached to it from the outside world and that in turn creates violence towards us and stigmatisation. If we could see sex work as basically just a service and nothing more than that, I think that we would face a lot less violence. When we go to the hairdresser, it's just a service, right? it's not a good or bad thing, it's just a service. If we could see sex work in the same way, I really believe that we could destigmatise our jobs and then in turn face less violence in our interpersonal relationships whether that be with our family, friends or intimate partners.
 

Boby, Nepal

In Nepal, the law does not give legality for the sex work profession. Because of this, transgender sex workers are being caught, arrested and charged for public offence acts. So, what I want to say is, there should be law that does not criminalise the sex work profession. 

Fellona, Suriname

My name is Fellona Roberts, I am a advocate for sex workers in Suriname. Within the organisation SUCOS. Some of the barriers sex workers are facing is discrimination and lack of security by law enforcement officers. What need to be change to remove the barriers? Some policies to be implemented to decriminalise sex work.

Ceyenne, USA

Hi, I'm Ceyenne Doroshow, founder of GLITS Inc. This is about the disparities between high-end sex work and decent sex work and what is considered decent sex work. While stripping and high end sex workers are considered to be “decent”. When we all know sex work is sex work. There are no disparities, there are no differences. These things need to be broken. We need to stop prioritising which sex work is good and what is not.

Manow, Thailand

Hello, my name’s Manow or Now. I’m 53 years old from Thailand.  I work from Rachdamnoen Road in Bangkok. I am a freelance worker, a sex worker. Sex work not a disgusting job. It depends on how different people view it. Personally, I decided to do sex work because it made my life better than ever before. Besides I have the right to choose the work I do and I don’t cause trouble for anyone else. It’s about two people talking together, agreeing and ending with happiness in my job.

 

Bongekile, Eswatini

My name is Bongekile Ntshangase, I am sex worker from the kingdom of eSwatini and I am 32 years old.​Some barriers that we face as sex workers is that some sex workers are educated but cannot access scholarship privileges. These days there are social welfare outreach workers that register HIV positive people and the unemployed in communities for food packages, which we are not registered or considered for as sex workers. There is still stigma in communities we are not free to participate in activities like going to church and we also face stigma and discrimination from police officers that we are afraid to report our cases where clients are violent to us or do not pay us. As I end, Sex work is work.

Diana, Russia

When we talk about sex work, transgender women have almost no choice. If you have documents from your past life in your hands, then problems start everywhere - from buying cigarettes to finding and renting housing, and it is not possible to get a job in Russia when your actual gender does not correspond to what is written in the documents.  Families refuse transgender women, relatives and relatives turn away, society does not accept them - so we become even more narrow. 
Sex work is a salvation for us. Sex work gives us a stable income, a roof over our heads. Sex work helps us to recognize and accept our body, to love ourselves. That's why I want to encourage everyone: "Accept that Sex work is Work!"

Jacob, Peru

Hi, how are you? I'm Jacob Casaverde, I'm from the organisation Miluska Vida y Dignidad, I'm a sex worker, not because I do this, I do this, because in the first place, with this I can pay for my studies for this economic life, since in a normal job I don't because it does not have financial support. I would like to have a law where sex workers protect us, where people are not thinking that we are criminals. Society looks at us like that just because we are sex workers in my case, for example, in the case of many colleagues. I have also heard that because they are sex workers, they have to change society's thinking, which also I suggest it is to sensitise society that there is a law as you have already repeated that there is a law to sensitise people not also to be in solidarity with us. Also more sex workers are self-employed and are not forced to do things that we are not obliged to do. We do what we like. I like my job. I like it, I love it, I enjoy it.  I feel happy because the clients are also happy. When they come they come with stressed, they come with super problems and here for example when this stress just goes away. That is what I like the most about my job. Well that it would be all, thanks.

Kayla, USA

If sex work were seen as decent work and treated as decent work then I would not have to worry about my clients stalking, or murdering or raping me or abusing me, or robbing me at higher rates than almost any other industry. And if those things did happen then I would not be as afraid of going to the police because I would not be scared that they would arrest me for being a sex worker because if it were decent work it would not be criminalised. I would be able to apply for jobs with sex work on my resume and get more calls back than I do now because they wouldn't look at me any differently and they would value the skill sets that I got while working in the industry. I wouldn't be worried about being kicked out of school because they found out that I'm a sex worker, and I wouldn't be worried about not being approved for housing or of losing my housing because the landlords and property managers found out about my job as a sex worker.

Simangele, Eswatini

Good Morning Everyone. My name is Simangele Dlamini am 32 years old and I am a sex worker from the Kingdom of Eswatini. If sex work in the country was legalised or seen as decent we would be not be facing abuse as sex workers like the violence we face from clients, sometimes being picked up by a client that will not pay you, sometimes being picked up by police to rape us and not pay us and also police brutality. All the streets of trade that we use should have policemen guarding us on them against abusive and violent clients. And we would also have brothels where we can assemble as sex workers and we are picked up from there by clients so that we can be able to register and take pictures of the client and vehicles picking up the sex workers with all necessary information that will help track the client and the sex worker in cases where they are not returned to the central place in time. Thank you.

Wendy, El Salvador

Sex work is decent work for many women, since our families and our children are raised from this work. Discrimination barriers for us do not exist since we have become accustomed to the world, our work is dignified, it is not a sin, sex workers survive from day to day performing our work with great effort. Since for us sex workers this work is worthy, we do not attribute to the changes in thinking about sex work since many people think that this is a vulnerable work that is a sin for sex workers, sex work is worthy to carry the sustenance of our families.

Niger, Bangladesh

Greetings from the sex workers of Bangladesh. The major barrier for sex workers in Bangladesh is anti-sex workers law and policies. These anti-sex workers law and policy created huge violence, stigma and discrimination against sex workers. Currently, violence, stigma and discrimination are the major challenges for sex workers. 

Eva, Russia

Hello! My name is Eva. I’m convinced that sex work is decent work. Workers of sex industry do their work honestly, bringing joy to their clients and providing for their families. These people should share equal rights with all other citizens. They shouldn’t be subjected to discrimination and violence. In my country sex work is criminalised, the rights of sex workers are frequently violated by the police. Workers of sex industry are often denied healthcare and justice. I’m convinced that the most urgent measure the government should take to stop this discrimination is to repeal article 6.11 which prescribes liability "for prostitution". Thank you for you time.

Gregory, Zimbabwe

My name is Gregory Kata the national coordinator of Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance. One barrier that hinders sex work to be recognised as decent work in Zimbabwe are the inequalities and legal impunitive environment that hinder sex work to be recognised as work and people's ability to view sex work without bias. Sex work is unlike many other professions in that most adults have some experience with sex and as a result bring their preconceived notions of what it is to discussions of sex work. The decriminalisation of sex work will help in the conditions in which sex workers operate and also their working conditions. Maybe it's high time that political leadership admit that not talking about issues is not healthy for a nation, sex work is a human rights issue, thus the need of human rights approach to it.Sex work is work. Decriminalise sex work now!!

Destina, Turkey

Although we accept sex work as a profession, unfortunately it is not accepted as a profession in Turkey on the grounds that it is against general morality and the Turkish family structure. This is one of the biggest obstacles to the acceptance of sex work as a profession. In addition, the legislation and existing policies that criminalize sex work are among the biggest obstacles to accepting sex work as a decent work.  General houses in Turkey are workplaces where sex work is legal. However, they are closed one by one because they are against the Turkish family structure and general morality. The general houses that continue to work, on the other hand, are experiencing troubled processes due to the situation in Turkey. In Turkish society, where sexuality is not spoken, sex work is also called a sin, shame and prohibition. This reinforces the prejudice in the society. Barriers to the acceptance of sex work as a profession can be removed with education given within the family and at schools.

Ana Cristina, El Salvador

I belong to the sex workers organisation in El Salvador. Now I come to talk about the barriers to sex work being considered decent work. Some barriers that sex workers face are the absence of favorable policies for us such as conservatism, religious fundamentalism and above all the patriarchy that makes sex work not recognised as work in El Salvador. Nor can it be legalised as such, these barriers come with various types of violence and some ways that we consider to prevent sex work from not being considered work is to fight for a policy that legitimises sex work as work.

Ayeesha, India

According to me, we see sex work as decent work because of the freedom we get from it. I get decision making power from it, and I am able to decide what to do with my own money. I can decide where to spend my money, how to maintain my property, how much money to send home, how to handle my partner. The power and freedom that I have, I get from sex work and I openly say that I am a sex worker. Along with this, I also say that it is very important for us to form collectives because we first become friends, then family. We are able to share our joys and issues with each other. We fight as well, but we stay together and trust and love each other. Collectivisation is important because people can move ahead and fight for their rights.

Shukriddin, Kyrgyzstan

Good afternoon.

 One of the obstacles to respecting bodily autonomy is that most medical staff are unfriendly to us in the sex worker community, and we hear and see even more negativity if we have overlapping identities, such as me being a sex worker and a queer person. This leads to us stigmatising ourselves even more and not going to health services. What needs to change? First of all we need to change doctors' attitudes towards sex workers regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, Secondly, organisations working with sex workers need to work with the community to reduce internal stigma.

Ts'episo, Lesotho

How would sex work being seen as decent work make your work safer and protect you?

If our work can be valued, the police and clients will stop assaulting us, raping us, and stealing our money. We urge the authority to implement laws that can protect us.

Shova, Nepal

Many women, men and transgender people still do sex work in Nepal, but Nepal's law criminalises sex work. The state still does not consider sex work as work. As a result, sex workers have been deprived of the fundamental rights and entitlements guaranteed by the state. Therefore, in Nepal, first of all, sex work should be decriminalised.

Laura Libertad, Bolivia

How are you, my name is Laura Libertad. I am from this great country Bolivia. I am a transsexual woman, a Quechua identity sex worker. I believe that patriarchal structures, colonialist and sexist structures, have made sex work not so autonomous, because they have been denying sexual and gender diversities. Just as they have made us racist and classist; and now fascists. We are against these questions of denying the other with their sexual and gender diversities; We are against trafficking and we say no to pimping and sexual exploitation. I invite you to share with me, say no to racism, say no to classism. I am Laura Libertad and I send you a big greeting from the city of El Alto, in the Plurinational State of Bolivia. I thank you.
 

Monika, Macedonia

One of the barriers for sex work being seen as decent work, like every other in our society is the mentality of people and the patriarchal upbringing.

 The rule of patriarchy in the 21st century is a big obstacle, but with enactment of legislative, i.e. decriminalisation of sex work, society would see us and our profession differently.

We all know that everything under legal framework is more acceptable in society, so with regulation of sex work, it will probably be seen as a decent work.

Batte, Uganda

Much as bodily autonomy is about the right to make informed choices on one’s body, the current unfavourable laws and policies in Uganda and other countries at large including various myths and misconceptions in relation to sex work have hindered sex workers’ access to comprehensive SRHR services. Also the cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes towards sex workers have created barriers to sex workers’ bodily autonomy not being respected including lots of other inequalities especially in regards to access to SRHR services. However, what needs to be changed to break the barriers is ensuring that the unfavourable laws and policies in Uganda and other countries are fully aligned with the international human rights standards in order to deliver obligations to meet the SRHR needs of their citizens regardless of their different identities. Sex workers should further be meaningfully involved in the designing and implementation of SRHR programmes that are tailored to our needs.
 

Ella, Argentina

Speaker 1: How could sex work be seen as decent work to make it safer and protect you?
Speaker 2: First of all, decency goes the other way and for sex work to be safe and protected, for this to happen, it must first be decriminalised, recognised and decriminalised. To make it safer and more protected, first of all, the State has to recognise it and decriminalise it, in order to thus have access like any other worker, the right to a retirement, a mutual benefit and everything that this entails when a job is recognised. And this at the same time would allow us to carry out the work calmly and not enable mistreatment, rape, persecution, and murder of sex workers.

Lilit, Armenia

I am Kuka Kasyan, a transgender woman and sex worker. As a trans sex worker, I have faced stigma, discrimination and violence by the society. All the sex workers must be accepted and protected. Until now, sex work in Armenia is considered illegal and there are fines for sex work. All the countries must work to decriminalise sex work and eliminate the unfair application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers. I'm proud to be a sex worker. My body is mine, I decide how to use it.

Amaka, Nigeria

Hello, my name is Amaka Enemuo and I work for Nigerian Sex Workers Association. A sex worker is anyone that exchanges sex with other benefits in order to make a living. It can be financial, material or any other benefit. What do you do to make sure that sex workers are in a safe place? Number 1 is that we need to decriminalise sex work. What I mean by the decriminalisation of sex work is taking out every criminal act that is attached to sex work. For example, in Nigeria, sex work is not criminalised but the people that benefit from the proceeds of sex work. So if you attach this law to our clients, they cannot come again. Sex work is just like every other work.

Much, Thailand

Hello my name is Musuya and my nickname is Much. I’m 35 years old from Thailand and I work at the bar in Udon Thani for many years. I’m proud of my job because I can take care of my family, my kids and take care of lots of people in my family. Sex work is work and my body is my choice. I decide to do this work because it is just like work, like every job in this world. It's equal of work, you are not just any body, not just about words. Human life is fair for everyone. Everyone has freedom to choose their job. Thank you.

Bouakham, Laos

Greetings from Lao. The most important barrier for sex workers in Laos is the criminalisation of sex work. All other barriers are linked with the criminalisation of sex workers. We have high level of violence because of the illegal status of sex workers, everyone including the police can involve with violence against sex workers because everybody knows that there are no consequences after executing violence against sex workers.  We have strong stigma and discrimination against sex workers because of the illegal status of sex workers. This stigma and discrimination also leads to violence. In Lao, there was no sex workers organisation before WLIC, also because of strong stigma and discrimination against sex workers. Nobody wants to respect sex workers and nobody supports sex workers, as a result, sex workers were not able to build an organisation. It is most important for Lao to reform the law and policy and decriminalisation of sex work. Until we can change the law and policy, we cannot fix other barriers. We demand decriminalisation of sex work in Laos as soon as possible. 

Marina, Russia

Hello, my name is Marina Avramenko and I am from Russia and I want to answer the question, what obstacle prevents sex work from becoming a calm and safe job.
I think this is primarily due to the fact that sex workers are not given a word, are not allowed to talk about their work, are not allowed to speak for themselves. The fact that sex workers are being deprived of their voice. Anyone speaks for them. The state speaks for them, the radical feminist movement speaks for them, "fighters for morality" can speak for them. Anyone can speak for sex workers, but not the sex workers themselves. When the voice of sex workers is heard, when people understand that sex workers know how to talk, want to talk, and they themselves know how they need to live and how to work, so that everyone feels good, so that no harm comes to anyone, neither to the state, nor to sex workers themselves. On the contrary, only help! Sex workers benefit society, it's obvious.
That's when sex workers will have their own voice and this voice will be audible and they will be given the opportunity to speak freely at all venues, without fear of persecution, without fear of punishment, that's when sex work will become worthy and sex workers will be more protected. I think so.
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Ndiaye, Senegal

Her name is Fatou Ndiaye, she is a member of the association And Soppeku, she says that sex work for her is decent work. Although Senegal is a country where the majority is Muslim and the cultural values do not allow sex work, yet it is a poor country and many women find it difficult to provide for their children. She says sex work pays her bills, food and school fees for her children and considers it a decent job for her.

Vanita, India

My name is Vanita, and I am from Saheli Sangh, Pune and also a member of NNSW. Sex work is my work. Through sex work, I am able to pay rent for the house I live in, I take care of my kids and their education. It is important that I am able to work in safety - I speak to brothel owners, work with the police and also explain to customers so that everyone's health is protected. To make sure that we are working in safety, please don't discriminate against us, talk to us and try to understand our lives so that we can live in safety together

Rosa Alma, El Salvador

When it comes to bodily autonomy of sex workers, it is meant that they do not have to see it as something bad, but rather see it as work recognising that sex work is work and that it is not a sin, is not something forbidden. That is what refers to when  we speak of bodily autonomy of sex workers. What you have to do is change the chip so that they accept that sex work is a job like any other. What is the stigma and discrimination to eliminate this barrier that she recognises, in what sex work is a job and don't be ashamed why you do it?

Zinenani, Malawi

The barrier we face towards sex work is the law of our country. It does not legalise the practice of sex work. We would have been grateful if the government legalises sex work as a legal form of work. The way it is with everybody else. Surprisingly, our country receive funds for sex work projects yet we’re denied to practice sex work legally. We would have loved if the government makes clarification on laws concerning sex work for our awareness was we conduct sex work activities.

Lilith, Norway

If sex work was seen as decent work, safety in that work would have been something important for society collectively to give me, regardless of what they think about the work, because my work would be just one of several professions we collectively care about of the labour rights to.

I think one of the barriers that prevents people from seeing sex work as decent work is the myth of virginity, we dedicate people without sexual experience a holiness and purity and are culturally concerned with not only preventing people from having sex, but also acquiring knowledge about the existence of sex, and since sex work in its nature is so obviously outside of these principles, sex work becomes an antithesis to purity and holiness.

To remove that barrier, we need to make it more expected that you talk about sex and intimacy, especially with children, young people, and other vulnerable people, so you grow up with the fact that sex is normal, and not dirty, mysterious, or dangerous. Because when sex is an ok thing to talk about everywhere, then it's ok to do, and then it's ok to work with.


Zinenani, Malawi

"I make this video because my vagina is political and so am I."
It worries me to read texts, reports, books, publications of great scholars in the field of sexual and reproductive health that mention different communities, but never the people who carry out sex work. So I wonder:

• Do people who engage in sex work deserve to have the right to sexual and reproductive health?
• Does anyone think that this right should be respected in people who engage in sex work?
In Peru there is a section that says: (I imagine that in many countries) that I have the right to live my sexuality free of violence, harassment, exploitation of abuse. However, they break the door of my room, they break my home!
•    Who is it?
The police, the bad elements that are state officials, whether from municipalities or other institutions to force me to have sex in exchange for my freedom, to extort money from me, to harass me, in other words, crudely: “To rape me.” So what sexual and reproductive rights are we talking about, when they force me to have sex without a condom, putting me at risk of having an unwanted pregnancy in a country where abortion is criminalized.

In a section on sexual and reproductive rights, they tell me that I have the right to have a private life, to have the right to my privacy.
So why do they break down my door and come in with cameras, to film me half naked on national television, while another with a microphone starts yelling: "There's the prostitute who sells her body for money", causing me serious moral damage, denting my life! self-esteem, my spirit, my soul!
• Do you know when this is going to end?
The day will come to an end when you... if YOU, defender of human rights, great scholar on this subject, mention me and consider me in your GREAT speeches, in the institutions where you work, like UN Women, where the organizations that defend the rights of women, of LGTBI people and recognize and worry that we also deserve and have the right to sexual and reproductive health.
This is going to end the day you understand that I have autonomy and the right to decide about my body, that charging or not charging is irrelevant, that I have every right to integrate myself into a society and my development, and that you understand that what I do really is a job and that has to be respected.

I'm Angela Villon
President of the association of sex workers "Miluska Vida y Dignidad" and the Coordinator of the Movement of sex workers of Peru.