EU Elections 2024: European Sex Workers Rights Alliance Manifesto

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Over the past five years, Europe has experienced several crises. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how the most marginalised sex workers are unprotected and fall through the cracks of state welfare systems. The pandemic restrictions and the following digitalisation resulted in a migration towards online sex work, against the backdrop of heated debates on digital policies that harm sex workers in various ways in the EU and the world. Then came the energy and housing crises, fuelled by the Russian attack on Ukraine and the moral panic over sex trafficking. In this climate, a revision of the directive on trafficking in human beings and a new directive on violence against women were negotiated. The issue of sex work was high on the agenda. We are witnessing the rise of far-right voices calling for the criminalisation of migration. The new Pact on Migration and Asylum is based on racist and xenophobic assumptions. We are also witnessing the growing influence of the anti-gender movement, which seeks to curtail and restrict the rights of women and LGBTQI communities and to keep women in their traditional roles. ‘Prostitution’ is seen as something that threatens the traditional family and values, and under the guise of combating sex trafficking, new organisations, often supported by American evangelical churches, are forming new alliances with EU governments. In this respect, carceral  feminists, who see all sex work as violence against women, are finding a curious convergence with groups they have traditionally disagreed with.

Sex workers' rights have always been a catalyst for our society's understanding of fundamental human rights.

European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance (ESWA)’s EU Election Manifesto calls on the politicians who run for the EU elections to express their support for sex workers’ self-determination and the recognition of sex work as work. With women’s rights, reproductive rights and gender equality threatened across the European Union and beyond, it is of utmost importance to solidarity with sex workers, who face myriad forms of violence: from structural and institutional to physical and interpersonal. In order to address the systematic oppression sex workers face, we ask all politicians to concentrate their resources on including and amplifying sex workers’ voices in policy making on issues that impact the lives of sex workers and to stop promoting legal frameworks that have been proven to be detrimental to sex workers’ rights.

European criminal justice systems are often oppressive, and therefore we do not see increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the solution to violence against women, trans people and gender inequality. We believe in a transformative justice approach that is rooted in supporting and investing in community interventions, long-term organising and mobilisation against the complexity of violence against women and trans people, including economic inequalities, and the lack of accessible social security nets and services.

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