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SWAN Member Organizations Use December 17 for Campaign Purposes

Sex workers’ organizations across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia used the opportunity of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers to advocate SW’s rights. Below is a summary of the activities carried out be the organizations.

HOPSand STAR, Macedonia: workshops, screenings

The Program for support of sex workers at HOPS organized a Human Rights week throughout 10-17 December with various daily activities. On 10 December an educational workshop was held where a film was screened on human rights and there was a brief presentation about the importance of the day. On the 14th a workshop “Legislation and SR and the benefits of legalization” was be held, and on the 15th the film “You must know about me” was screened and a a psychosocial workshop was held on violence and the emotions associated with it.
On the 16th there was a poster workshop about December 17th and human rights, and on the 17th the film “You must know about me” was screened again, and a presentation was held about the importance of the day. After a small party organized by the Sexual Workers red umbrellas were handed out. During the entire event, the Manifesto of the Sex Workers and brochures with a short story for 17 December were distributed.

STAR (sex workers' rights activist group) of Macedonia designed and launched a calendar for 2010, to mark December 17th and sex workers’ rights. The calendar may be downloaded from SWAN's website here in pdf format, and quality print versions may be requested from the STAR team (write to SWAN coordinator to swan@tasz.hu).

Siberian Initiative, Russia: awareness campaign
The organization dispatched the press release and materials prepared by SWAN among the organizations working with sex workers in Russia. In case there was time available, copies of the Macedonian documentary "You should know about me" were played to SWs, followed by a discussion.

KOVCHEG, Kazakhstan: roundtable discussion, media workshop, outreach session
A roundtable discussion with the representatives of local authorities, ngo-s and the media was held. The event allowed an opportunity to raise the topic of discrimination of sex workers and IV drug users, as well as people living with HIV.
The issues covered included the legalization of prostitution in Kazakhstan, together with the authorities’ view on it. Also, the pros and cons of the necessity of punitive measures to prevent violence against sex workers were listed, and that penalties should be consistent with the protection of human rights and to prosecute those responsible for non-compliance.
There was also a media workshop with journalists, who revealed problems faced by media professionals when covering the sex industry. We have shared with reporters a few tricks that can be used when writing articles to overcome editorial resent and the readers’ squeamishness.
The next step was the outreach session, where outreach workers handed out red umbrellas of paper carrying the sign "Fight for your rights!" Sex workers received information about the history and importance of this day, and were offered to become activists and to participate in joint activities.

Aksion Plus, Albania: media campaign
Several articles were published on SW-related issues, including the life of transgender sex workers.
Aksion Plus was invited to make a speech on the Second Debate for Human Rights in Albania sponsored by the Dutch Embassy. Aksion Plus attended one of the panels on Homophobia and Discrimination of Sexual Minorities where they presented the current situation.

Juventas, Montenegro: media campaign, workshop
On December the 17th over 180 organizations in Montenegro, the media and UN agencies were informed about this date and it's meaning. There was feedback from only one organization dealing with rights of women. In the organizers view, this is a good indicator of how much society is prepared even to consider the problem of violence against sex workers.

A“mini workshop” was held with sex workers explaining them their rights – like that they can report violence to the police without consequences – which was accepted very well. Also, a questionnaire on violence against sex workers working on the street and in brothels was prepared.

Legalife, Ukraine: media campaign, flashmob, street activism
On December the 17th, Legalife held a press conference on countering violence against sex workers. After the press conference the organization BF "Drop in Centre" held a flashmob in the central square, on the main street and near the Kiev mayor's office with red umbrellas, each bearing the sign "Equal rights!" and "No to violence!". The action was attended by 10 SWs from different regions and organizations of Ukraine. After the rally leaflets and photos were distributed to bypassers.
For more on how Ukrainian SWs combat discrimination and violence against them, click here.

JAZAS, Serbia: media campaign, workshops, roundtable discussions
On December 17th, there was a public announcement on the prominent national TV station B92 about the history and meaning of this date.

JAZAS’ team held two workshops in which sex workers participated in the creation of the poster and postcard for the December 17th action. On December 17th and 18th, JAZAS held a peer education seminar. 12 sex workers participated in workshops facilitated by peer educator Marianne Jonker from SOAIDS Netherlands. The themes of the workshops ranged from safe sex, police violence to peer education principles and the meaning of December 17th,. The JAZAS team conducted outreach activities during which they distributed key chains with messages printed on them (Sex work is work! Stop violence, support our rights!).
On December 18th, JAZAS held a press conference/ round table discussion “Prostitution in Serbia: Is there an adequate answer?” The conference was attended by stakeholders, the non-governmental sector and the media. The round table discussion / press conference provided several different viewpoints on sex work and opened discussion on the different terms and concepts related to sex work like trafficking, legalization, decriminalization and other models of sex work regulation. This was the first ‘meeting’ of this sort in Belgrade, in which different stakeholders were brought together to start a dialogue and shed light on this “taboo” subject.

Odyseus Slovakia: public campaign, screenings
The organization’s 17th December campaign included the distribution of postcards, copies of the declaration of human rights of sex workers, and red umbrellas. The Christmas Meeting of indoor and outdoor sex workers connected with a movie presentation on the human rights of sex workers (Eurosex, video from Brussels conference, HOPS video) and with a nice chat, Christmas cookies, self-support and having fun.

HESED, Bulgaria: seminars, campaign activism
In the period between 14-22 December several seminars were held to reduce stigma of SWs in six towns in Bulgaria. The aim of the seminars was to highlight the work of NGOs on the local level, and to place emphasis on the problems faced by sex workers, including the effect of discrimination and stigmatization of SWs on the spread of HIV and other STDs in Bulgaria. Representatives from municipalities, police and foster homes attended the seminars, as well as young people and doctors.
The Sofia seminar on December the 17th focused on the violence which sex workers face every day. The documentary “You must know about me” was screened and all guests were involved in a discussion about what could be done for sex workers in Sofia. A representative from the municipality said that she would like to help HESED in finding a place for a low-threshold center for sex workers. All guests received a red umbrella.

I Can Live Coalition: informal campaign meeting for SWs and supporters
On December 17, 2009 a SWAN member in Lithuania, the I Can Live Coalition organized an afternoon party for sex workers in cooperation with medical counseling and drop-in centre for sex workers „Demetra“.
The event took place on Demetra’s premises. The women had an opportunity to gather and meet SW’s rights supporters in an informal environment, have a cup of tea or coffee, and share their daily worries and problems. The women complained about violence they are subjected to by partners, clients and pimps. They expressed their fear to file appeals to police as well as doubts that law enforcement could be on their side.
I Can Live Coalition’s executive director Jurgita Poskeviciute introduced the women to the concept and origins of the December 17 campaign, presented good practices and foreign experiences in commemorating this day. The representatives of Demetra distributed the Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, told about successful sex worker movements worldwide for the protection of their rights and urged the women to gather and be more active in addressing their problems. A quiz on HIV prevention was also organized during the event.
The Coalition’s legal adviser, who provides advice to women on the cases of various human rights violations also attended the event. The participants received symbolic presents, including a pin with the red umbrella.

Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan: art exhibition, informal meeting, role playing
Several months before December, an exhibition titled "Crafty hands" was announced in the community. All works had been collected by December the 17th. All partner organizations as well as sex workers were invited.
In the beginning o the party the video from Macedonia was screened, so that the community knew that the December 17 was not only celebrated in Kyrgyzstan but also in other countries. Rights violation and violence against sex workers is prevalent in many countries.
Guests were entertained with poems and a scene from "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale to demonstrate how stigma and discrimination were applied by society, how sex workers’ rights were violated the by clients and law enforcement officials, and how sex workers feared to assert their rights.
LGBT community members shared personal experiences, later guests and employees were invited to enact small sex work-related scenes. Some sex workers also told their stories and how they handled difficult situations. In the evening the rally continued in the street.