Words from the Regional Coordinator of ASWA

“We are here! We are here as brothers and sisters, moms and dads, sons and daughters some of us even grandparents, but WE ARE HERE!” These were the words I spoke at the opening of the 1st African sex workers conference in Johannesburg 3 years ago and now I say them again, “WE ARE HERE!”

Waiting for the Inevitable

Sex work in Macedonia, and elsewhere in the world, still represents an illegal and extremely stigmatized activity, which puts the dignity and human rights of sex workers under permanent threat. The unequal treatment in institutions and the access to services, prejudices, negative media image, and various other forms of violence are daily experienced by many women, men and transgender persons in the sexual industry.

Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific




The report is intended to provide an evidence-base for: policy makers working in government, regional and multilateral organizations; parliamentarians; members of the judiciary; civil society organizations; donor agencies; and sex workers and their organizations engaged in advocacy to improve the legal and policy enabling environment for HIV responses. The study focuses on 48 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on low and middle-income countries

UNAIDS calls on Greece to protect sex workers and their clients through comprehensive and voluntary HIV programmes


GENEVA, 10 May 2012—The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) expresses its concern over recent actions by Greek authorities involving the arrest, detention, mandatory HIV testing, publication of photographs and personal details, and pressing of criminal charges against at least 12 sex workers. There is no evidence that punitive approaches to regulating sex work are effective in reducing HIV transmission among sex workers and their clients.

Don’t talk to us about sewing machines: Talk to us about worker’s rights

Sex workers ran a number of exciting and challenging sessions during the AWID Forum in Istanbul. In their interactions with delegates they have been stressing the importance of listening to sex workers and acknowledging sex work as work. There has also been a plea for the silent majority of feminists who support sex workers rights to raise their voices to condemn interventions like anti-trafficking raid and rescues which are often carried out in the name of feminism.

AWID in Istanbul: Linking sex worker rights with feminism and development

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development  Forum will take place in Istanbul in April. It will be an opportunity for women working in international development to come together to  strategize, network, celebrate, and learn from each other. A mix of activists, academics and people from programmes for women will hear presentations and engage in dialogues around this year’s theme which is the impact of economic power on women.

Sex Work and Feminism

By Kate Holden

Public Ledger: A prostitute, because like that paper, she is open to all parties. (eighteenth-century slang)

In April 2010 the Mercury newspaper in Hobart contained a small but historic notice. In a brief paid advertisement a conservative group in Tasmania called the Family Protection Society expressed regret for having published ads proclaiming that sex work was damaging to families and harmful to women. Scarlet Alliance, the peak body representing Australia sex workers, had taken the comment to the Anti-Discrimination Commission on the grounds that the society’s attitude was discriminatory against sex workers. Although Scarlet Alliance had received a voluntary apology of a similar nature from the Salvation Army in 2009, this was the first time such social attitudes had been formally determined as unfair. In the ferocious debate about the ethics of paid sex, the ground is shifting.

Sex work is a major Australian industry, historically ineradicable and, in many states, decriminalised and regulated. Famously ‘the oldest profession’, it is also one of the most trenchantly disputed. In the broader society it is seen as either a normal part of life or a vile, sorrowful trade. For feminism, it is associated with the fracture in ideology that splits ‘victim feminism’ from ‘power feminism’ in complicated but increasingly onerous ways. So, what is sex work? What are the problems people have with it? Why do sex workers themselves feel frustrated with traditional feminism? What are the peculiar aspects of this trade that raise such heated reactions?

‘Doxies’, ‘blowens’, ‘biters’ or ‘strumpets’ as they might have been called by the marines and convicts of the eighteenth century were among the very first white women to step onto the continent of Australia when they arrived at Sydney Cove on the Lady Penrhyn in 1788. One in five of the women had practised the trade before transportation, and, with females outnumbered five to one on the first ships, more had joined the ranks. ‘Good God what a Seen of Whordome,’ exclaimed the aghast naval lieutenant Ralph Clark on the arrival of the women convicts. Every 2 June, more than two hundred years later and only metres from where Australia’s first prostitutes disembarked, their descendents in profession gather on Circular Quay to celebrate International Whores Day and proclaim their pride, their rights and their status as loud, ‘out’, feminist whores. Among the crowd are women in wigs and platform heels working the Betty Page look, transgender persons in trousers or skirts, shyly smiling girls in jeans and jackets, dykes, queers, a few grinning men; every shape and size, various ethnicities. They come from the enormous range of sex work across the country. ‘Poor unhappy women of the town’ no more, the sex workers of Australia are mobilised, articulate and ready to claim enfranchisement.

I am among them, an out and proud former prostitute, beaming as genuinely and self-consciously as the rest as curious tourists turn our way. Twirling the emblematic red paper umbrella someone has thrust into my hand, I wonder if it’s to ward off the glare of exposure or the brisk quayside breeze, or if it symbolises a kindly cupping of community above my head. To be a sex worker in modern Australia is to inhabit a strange zone, caught between infamy and legend, decriminalisation and social censure, pity and pride.

This World AIDS Day the end is in sight

This World AIDS day feels different to all others.  It has felt like the end of AIDS is in sight for some time now but after 30 years with so much hope and so many false alarms the wise have learned not to get excited by each announcement and slogan.