Working with police to reduce violence

Working with police to reduce violence

While its their job to combat violence, police are often one of the major perpetrators of violence against sex workers. By engaging with police and training them on human rights of sex workers police officers can play a key role in HIV prevention and national public health outcomes. Here you can read best practices and lessons from the Hands Off programme in working with police. 


Munya's tips: lobbying and working with police

Munya Katumba is consultant for COC Netherlands. For the Hands Off programme he has been closely working with police institutions to develop a training on human rights of sex workers and other key populations. In this video he shares his tips on how best to obtain police buy-in for sex worker programmes and work succesfully within the police hierarchy. 

Best practice: training South African police

Aidsfonds supported COC to work with South African Police Services (SAPS) and civil society to develop the Dignity, Diversity and Policing training manual to address the stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes by South African Police. Read how after intense lobby national police and sex workers in South Africa joined forces to improve sex workers' health and human rights. 

working with police to reduce violence working with police to reduce violence

Succesfully work with police

  1. Build partnerships at national and local level to engage the police pro-actively
  2. Identify champions and ambassadors who can influence others
  3. Take the public health approach, rather than confrontation and litigation
  4. Combine a top-down and bottom-up approach
  5. Understand the police ranks, be patient and follow police protocol
  6. Acknowledge police efforts and award good performance
  7. Take an integrated approach by joining up with LGBTI and PWID
  8. Stimulate peer-by-peer learning: train officers to train other police officers
  9. Using sex workers as subject matter experts is key and works well

Best practice: police champions in Mozambique

While it's important to work on changes at national level, it will pay off to engage with police at community level too. Read how Tiyane Vavasate identified police champions and sex worker friendly officers to turn police from perpetrator to ally.  

working with police working with police

What we've learned

In South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique working with the police has positively changed the way that police treat sex workers. We have learned that to increase impact, these key strategies can be used:

  1. Develop training materials for the police together with police and sex workers
  2. Peer educators and paralegals can help sex workers to report cases and build relations between sex workers and police
  3. Involve police officers in community-level multi-stakeholder forums such as Crisis Response Teams and monthly meetings with police
  4. In countries where police engagement is just beginning, first steps are sensitisation and the identification and recruitment of police champions

It was an eye-opener to see active and full participation by sex workers during trainings. This meant they understood the importance of telling their stories themselves so that government and public also know they have rights too!

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