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Interview with Sasha, a male sex worker from Macedonia

“I would like to make this job a little bit more upper level like in European countries because many of the sex workers in Macedonia don’t know that they can charge more and demand respect. Because of all the stigma and discrimination, they don’t have confidence. They need to appreciate themselves because sex workers in the history have had something that the God gave them - to give pleasure to people and make people happy. And I work very hard on this, to help girls have more confidence and feel good and strong. For us, to see our power. To not be ashamed; to be proud of this. And to feel like me, I feel very powerful and I’m very happy because I am very good in my job! And nobody can stop u ! I can be soldier for our rights. I can support everybody who is a sex worker who needs help.”

SWAN: Sasha, can you tell us a little about the first sex workers’ parade that took place in Skopje this year with the help of HOPS?

Sasha: It was a parade for April 1st which is Fools Day in Macedonia, a day when everyone wears costumes and celebrates at masquerade balls. We got together in the sex work community. We were 15 people, sex workers and our friends. We were all dressed up as sex workers. We had a signs that said “Sex workers, we are too good to be true! or what !”. We got together in front of the very fancy hotel in Skopje and then we paraded around as a community chanting “Sex for money, love for free!” and “Rights for sex workers!” It was our first attempt to put the idea out there and for a lot of sex workers, the chance to parade around being themselves. Most people didn’t know who we were, because it was Fools’ Day, there was the safety of everyone around being in costume. It was an experiment. To feel the pulse, to see if we could do it, to see how it would feel.

We were a mixed group, there were transgender woman who used this as a first chance to walk out in public dressed as a woman and feel good, as part of the group. There were sex workers from the Roma community who are usually isolated and don’t come to the city center so for them, it was a very important opportunity to walk proudly as they are and as they feel, in the town center. We were a whole mix: male, female, working on the street, working in the Roma community, working by phone or over the internet.

„It was very powerful. People felt powerful and beautiful”

We were chanting our slogans, and we decided to go up to the parliament. Even though, it was night, and there were only guards working. We stood in front of the parliament and said “Give rights to sex workers!” It was like a small exercise.

It was very crowded in the city center that day. We got whistles and cheers and cars honking to support us. It was very fun. But the other side of it was very serious for us. It was the first time, at night, when we are usually working, that we all decided to take off work and come together and walk together and say our message.

It was very powerful. People felt powerful and beautiful. It was ice-breaking. Because we all had so much fun and felt so amazing so if something is organized again, we will all come. It was a first step and people trust each other now and feel comfortable. They are all asking, can we do some kind of other event !”