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SWAN represents CEE/CA in Vienna

July 18-23, Vienna, Austria – This year sex workers and allies from Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia had a chance to talk about barriers and issues that sex workers face in their countries, to show what groups and organizations have achieved in addressing the pandemics and violations in their region. The Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) was represented by 11 activists from Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia and Montenegro, a team of young and energetic volunteers from Odyseus, Slovakia and a performance group from Bliss without Risk, Czech Republic.

In order to make SWAN activities more visible and to attract international attention to sex work related issues in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, SWAN secretariat applied for a marketplace booth at the Global Village at IAC and some of SWAN member-organizations brought handouts and brochures to be distributed at the booth. Also the products - hand-made or designed by sex workers and their allies - were sold in order to raise money for SWAN members’ programs. Thanks to Odyseus’s full-time staff and volunteers and the HCLU team, the booth provided a variety of fun educating activities and as well as occasions for more serious discussions about human rights violations and how local NGOs deal with them in the region. (Read more in articles here.)

Bliss without Risk, SWAN member from Czech Republic, drew public to the NSWP Networking Zone to see their fun performance. Bliss without Risk is known in their own country for involving youth, sex workers and homeless peoples into staging stories and musicals that reflect their lives. For 40 minutes this inspired team held attention of the Global Village visitors by performing short shows, dancing and singing in Czech. Watch the video recording here .

Besides networking and providing information to those interested in sex work issues at the Global Village, in conference halls of the IAC, SWAN members represented problems that sex workers’ community and service providing NGOs face in their countries. While at one of the sessions SWAN spoke about the role of the community in developing a more effective response to HIV, other members chaired and held presentations on issues around state violence and the role of migration and mobility in sex workers’ access to protection of their rights and health.

One of SWAN’s most active members, Healthy Options Projects-Skopje based in Macedonia, received an award recognizing its significant work in protecting the rights of vulnerable groups in Macedonia. (Read more in following article here)

Together with other members of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), SWAN took part in protests and marches for recognition of sex workers’ human rights, demanded to be included into HIV prevention and treatment programs globally and to be treated seriously when seeking redress of human rights violations against sex workers.

The Human Rights Networking Zone at the Global Village provided yet one more opportunity for sex workers and their allies to express their concern about systematic rights violations in former socialist countries that have a negative effect on the health and lives of sex workers and their families. SWAN secretariat and three SWAN member-organizations: Tais Plus (Kyrgyzstan), Humanitarian Action (Russia) and LegaLife (Ukraine) had received financial support to prepare short advocacy films that would represent sex workers’ voices from the region. Supported by OSI and WITNESS, SWAN developed 4 films that were screened at the Global Village. Though Arrest the Violence (SWAN), Rape in Law (Ukraine), Interview with a Sex Worker (Kyrgyzstan), Without Access to Law (Russia) represent realties in different countries of the region, there is a striking similarity in the ways sex workers’ human rights are violated and the access to protection by law is taken away from them. The films will soon be available for public screening on SWAN’s official website.

SWAN would like to thank all its members, NSWP, donors, partners and allies for direct and indirect technical, financial and moral support. Without such support it would have been impossible to ensure regional representation at this international event.

Contact person: Aliya Rakhmetova, SWAN Coordinator
Email: swan@tasz.hu