In 2002, against a backdrop of increasingly repressive legislation and policies, a small collective of sex workers came together to form a working group that would track, respond to, and fight back against such ‘progress’. Two years and 15 member groups later, the International Committee for Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) set out to hold an event that would bring their community together and create a much-needed forum to declare, defend and fight for their rights.
In September 2021, ICRSE changed its name to European Sex Workers' Rights Alliance (ESWA).
ESWA is now a sex worker-led network proudly representing more than 100 organisations in 30 countries across Europe and Central Asia. Our aim is to ensure that all sex worker voices are heard and that their human, health and labour rights are recognised and protected. With our actions and approach inspired by our membership community, we work to build a strong, vibrant and sustainable network that mobilises national, regional and international advocacy activity that moves us towards long-term, systemic change.
Our vision is of a world where sex work is recognised as work, and where sex workers can live their lives free from violence, coercion, discrimination and exploitation.
Our mission is to build a network of member organisations and allies united in the fight for sex worker rights – advocating for the development of law, policy and practices that respect and protect the human, health and labour rights of sex workers in Europe and Central Asia.
Our Core Values
- Recognising sex work as work
We advocate for a labour rights-based approach to sex work that ensures that the labour, health and human rights of all sex workers are recognised, protected and fulfilled by national, regional and international policy and law.
- Supporting sex worker self-determination and self-organisation
ESWA supports sex workers’ right to self-determination and self-organisation. Sex workers can and do effect change. Solidarity among ESWA members will ensure that the needs and voices of all sex workers in Europe are heard and addressed equally.
- Opposing all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work
We oppose all forms of criminalisation of sex work and reject the conflation of sex work with trafficking and gender-based violence as a narrative that undermines the human, health and labour rights of sex workers and creates new risks and vulnerabilities for those that work within the industry.
Our organising principles
Our work is rooted in four key organising principles that guide our activities, approach and decision-making process. As part of this, we believe in:
- Being community-led
As a membership organisation, we will always be sex worker-led, with projects and programmes designed to meet the needs and fight for the rights of all those who make up our community. With this, we recognise the diversity of individuals and experiences of those we represent and strive to put the needs and voices of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups at the heart of our organisation and advocacy.
- Taking an intersectional approach
We understand that much of the violence, stigmatisation and discrimination sex workers face stems from, and is compounded by, connected issues of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability and religion. In particular, we recognise the role and impact of gender inequality, racism, and the dominance of western colonial perspectives. Countering these divisive and counter-productive dynamics, we fight alongside movements for feminist and racial justice and centre the voice of women in all their diversity, migrant and racialised sex workers in our work and organisation.
- Building a culture of dialogue and mutual solidarity
To move the conversation on sex worker rights forward, it is important to recognise a range of diverse opinions, some of which align with our mission, some of which do not. As an organisation, we are open to dialogue with all those who wish to meaningfully engage with us, and welcome the chance to expand, reflect on and challenge our own thinking and that of others. For it is only by creating a culture of open dialogue, inviting the critique and self-reflection of all parties, that we can build a movement of respectful, mutual solidarity.
- Prioritising mental health and well-being
We recognise that many individuals within our community have faced and live with the effects of violence, trauma and discrimination. The impact of this experience cannot be underestimated, and it is important that we recognise, centre and raise the voice of victims and survivors - and that we deliver programmes that prioritise and promote the mental health and well-being of our membership community, staff, volunteers and partners.