October 18, 2021 is the EU Anti-trafficking day that has been established to create awareness and to increase the exchange of information, knowledge and best practices amongst the different actors working in this field. European Sex Workers Rights Alliance (ESWA- formerly the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe) would like to take this opportunity to share information from the ground and to reflect on the recent EU policy developments.
1. Greater dialogue and partnership with sex worker communities
In the EU Strategy on Combating Trafficking in human beings (2021-2025), the European Commission encourages states to enable funding for community-led and peer-mentoring empowerment programmes. Sex workers globally organize and develop structures and programmes to protect themselves from violent clients, exploitation and human trafficking with no or very limited funding. Many sex workers also play a crucial role in preventing children from entering the industry or refer victims to services. ESWA calls for greater dialogue and partnership with sex worker community! For more information read our report ‘From vulnerability to resilience: sex workers organising to end exploitation’.
2. Include sex workers to modify the Anti-trafficking Directive
The European Commission is now considering the revision of Directive 2011/36/EU, with the idea of making the provision on demand under art.18(4) binding. The criminalisation of use of services provided by sex workers became the way how several EU member states interpreted the non-binding provisions of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive- to criminalise clients of sex workers- regardless of whether or not sex worker was a victim. ESWA is confident that such laws that extend the scope of the above provision to criminalise clients of all sex workers violate Art. 2, Art.3 and Art. 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In April 2021 the European Court of Human Rights registered the complaint of 261 migrant sex workers against France in a case M.A. and others vs. France (Request n. 63664/19) to assess the French law ‘against the prostitution system’. The case establishes serious doubts about compliance of such a law with the European Convention of Human Rights. Read here the ESWA full feedback to the European Commission. ESWA calls on the European Commission to actively include sex workers and their organisations in the evaluation and assessment of the possibility of modifying the Anti-Trafficking Directive in order to mitigate the possible negative effects on human rights of the most marginalised sex workers and communities. Read a briefing: Tackling Trafficking under Decriminalization Model.
3. Community-led organisations are key to tackling exploitation
ESWA strongly recommends the European Commission to ensure that the EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings serves as an inclusive platform where representatives of sex workers’ organisations are actively included and their views and grassroots evidence is heard and taken into account. Sex worker-led organisations play a significant role in addressing exploitation in the sex work industry. Sex workers and their organisations are best positioned to overcome the issue of distrust of authorities and of social services providers that is widespread among the most marginalised sex workers, in particular migrant sex workers. Sex workers defend human rights, provide information and legal literacy, peer support, safe spaces, and a variety of other services, alongside actively identifying victims and providing referrals to specialised services. Sex worker-led organisations are also very well situated to observe the effects of anti-trafficking laws, policies and practices, and can provide invaluable evidence and information to contribute to effective policy-making. Community-led organisations are key to tackling exploitation, but far too often lack the resources and recognition they deserve and need to be useful allies against human trafficking.