16 Days of Activism

16 Days of Activism

From November 25, individuals and organisations all around the world join hands during the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Together we raise awareness around ending gender-based violence and discrimination everywhere.

At Aidsfonds, we take a bold stand against all forms of violence. This year’s 16 days, we amplify the voices of sex workers, taking the opportunity to highlight their experiences. A criminalised environment drives female, male and transgender sex workers underground, increasing the risk to violence, abuse, poor health and HIV infection. We call out to governments and policy makers to once and for all fully decriminalise sex work. #DecrimSexWork #16DaysOfActivism

On our 16 days journey, we will be sharing stories of how our Hands Off and Love Alliance partners mobilise for decriminalisation of sex work. We invite you to join our call for full decriminalisation of sex work by sharing our social posts and articles.

Human rights abuses documented

Capturing evidence on human rights abuses is essential to protect the human rights of sex workers. In the past year, as part of the Hands Off programme, peer educators, rights defenders, outreach workers, paralegals and sex-worker focal points captured violations using confidential and secured community-based monitoring and response systems.

Two female sex workers in a street Two female sex workers in a street

Decriminalise sex workers

Criminalisation violates sex workers’ rights
Not recognising sex work as legitimate work and failure to include sex workers in discussions, hinders initiatives to improve sex workers’ labour rights, working conditions, health and access to human rights.

Violence is one of the structural drivers that increases the risk of HIV infection among sex workers. It leads to inconsistent condom use, and prevents them from accessing legal support and health care services. In Southern Africa, 70% of the sex workers report to experience stigma, discrimination, violence and other human rights violations during their work. Large-scale research shows that if violence against sex workers is tackled, we can prevent up to 25% of new HIV infections. 

The impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated the challenging conditions for sex workers. Apart from unsafe working environments, the pandemic has also affected income generation opportunities, and criminalisation has proven to limit access to support systems such as government relief funds. 

Impact of decriminalisation
With decriminalisation, sex workers’ legal, health and human rights are recognised and upheld. Benefits will include safe working conditions, economic security and social protection, access to health services without being judgemented, and access to justice and police to report cases of violence. Governments will also benefit through sex workers’ tax payments, which will in turn allow sex workers to access government insurance and security benefits such as unemployment funds for times like Covid-19. 

Aidsfonds strengthens sex worker-led networks in becoming a movement of sex workers with strong rights awareness. Together with partners, we set up rapid emergency response systems with peer educators and paralegals in the Hands Off countries, supporting survivors of violence and litigating human rights. We build relationships with police at community and national level, turning them from perpetrators of violence into allies in the HIV response. Aidsfonds is proud that violence has decreased at all sites where Hands Off was implemented, and that sex worker-led organisations achieved these results themselves!

Join the movement

Together, we can end the silence around gender-based violence against sex workers and their fight for decriminalisation of sex work by listening to their stories and hearing what is often left unspoken. We invite you to join our call for full decriminalisation of sex work by sharing our social posts and articles. #DecrimSexWork

Dive into real impact

3 successful approaches that reduce violence against sex workers

What works in reducing violence against sex workers? Together with partners, we developed 3 successful approaches that reached 175.000 sex workers and address the structural determinants of violence. Dive in concrete actions, insights and lasting impact. 

3 approaches that reduce violence against sex workers 3 approaches that reduce violence against sex workers

Sinanzeni - A life story from Zimbabwe

"I like my purple hair because I like colourful things. Some of the men compliment me and tell me I’m beautiful. Other men ask me my rate and then beat me up.Sinanzeni from Zimbabwe. Read her full story. 

Sinanzeni's story Sinanzeni's story

How to create communities of emergency responders

Learn about a collaborative and community-led approach that provides rapid support to sex workers experiencing human rights violations such as extortion, physical abuse and rape. Over 47,000 sex workers were reached in 2 years. 

How to create communities of emergency responders How to create communities of emergency responders

2 success approaches for legal justice

Criminalisation of sex work often results in discrimination, stigmatisation and abuse from law enforcement. Human rights need to be protected by legal support systems. Read 2 success stories on creating legal justice for sex workers in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

2 success approaches for legal justice 2 success approaches for legal justice

“We sensitise members of parliament”

 “Did I think I would be going to parliament and lobbying politicians around sex work? No, but here I am, making real change” Gavin, South Africa. Read a story of political change

AIDS response community-led work AIDS response community-led work

“I feel strong now”

I learned even more about our rights as sex workers but mostly what stands out for me is that we learned to talk about our feelings.” Nono, South Africa. Dive into her story of perseverance.

I feel strong now I feel strong now

4 steps for discrimination-free healthcare

27% of sex workers were verbally abused by health workers. Read the story of SRC and Pow Wow mission training health professionals to treat sex workers with respect.

4 steps for discrimination-free healthcare 4 steps for discrimination-free healthcare

“I feel empowered to speak up and own my work”

"I even went to Geneva this week to present to the UN about sex worker rights! If I think about wanting to do something that is hard, I think about what I have done with Hands Off and it gives me the courage to do it. It feels good to just talk. My story is out there now." Julia from Mozambique. Read a story of pride and exercising human rights. 

“I feel  empowered to speak up and  own my work” (9/16) “I feel  empowered to speak up and  own my work” (9/16)

“Our health is the most important thing”

"What I wish is that the police would stop harassing us and that our communities know that sex work is work." Lindiwe, Zimbabwe. Read her full story of legal justice

“Our health is the most important thing” Lindiwe, Zimbabwe “Our health is the most important thing” Lindiwe, Zimbabwe

3 steps for successful collaboration between sex workers and police

As a result of this approach, sex workers in Mozambique gained a voice in dealing with the police, police have turned from perpetrator to allies in the HIV response and violence is tackled effectively. Read the full approach now. 

3 steps for successful collaboration between sex workers and police 3 steps for successful collaboration between sex workers and police

"Remove your uniform and be a human being"

"Remove your uniform and be a human being. Let's engage police, health care workers, the media and religious leaders..." Watch Melissa's story of pride

https://youtu.be/

“Sex work is my career. I chose my job”

 "I learned about our rights, how we can take care of ourselves, how we can bank our money, how we can report abuse to the police." Aquila, SouthAfrica. Read her story of gender change & economic empowerment.

“Sex work is my career. I chose my job” “Sex work is my career. I chose my job”

“If it were possible, I’d made a safe space for sex workers”

"It’s not possible in our country, but if I could, I would make a safe space for sex workers to work in — a place where it was not criminalised." Atalia, Mozambique. Read her full story.

“If it were possible, I’d made a safe space for sex workers” “If it were possible, I’d made a safe space for sex workers”

Successfully training South Africa's police to work with vulnerable communities

Violence against sex workers decreased, LGBTI police officers feel safer, and training is included in police colleges and force's internal strategy. Access the full approach now. 

South African police and sex workers collaborating South African police and sex workers collaborating

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