Research: Accessing Justice

ESWA has been busy over the last six months, and is now ready to launch its largest research project to date!

Funded by Porticus, Accessing Justice: the role of policing in sex workers’ experience of justice (working title) is research that seeks to understand how sex workers are treated when they come into direct contact with the police and law enforcement. The project is a continuation of our Rights not Rescue programme, which was conducted in 2019 - 2020.


Our Main Research Question…

How do the police affect sex workers’ access to justice?


We will answer the main research question - how do police affect sex workers’ access to justice? - by collecting evidence about three following sub-questions:


  • What is the experience of sex workers who have direct contact with the police?
  • How are sex workers treated when in direct contact with the police?
  • How does direct contact with the police affect sex workers’ access to justice?



1. What is the experience of sex workers who have had direct contact with the police?

  • Question 1 looks at the generalisations of sex workers’ experience; for example cultural attitudes about the police that sex workers have, how sex workers would generally rate their experiences with law enforcement (poor, good, very good, etc.)

2. How are sex workers treated when in direct contact with the police?

  • Question 2 looks at specific experiences that sex workers have had; for example, incidences of specific violence and other forms of discrimination, examples of when police have treated sex workers fairly, and what part of that encounter made it fair

3. How does direct contact with the police affect sex workers’ access to justice?

  • Question 3 looks at what role the police have in enabling or obstructing sex workers’ access to justice, by influencing sex workers’ behaviour; for example, wider crime prevention and safety strategies that sex workers adopt.


Why this research?

  • Police are often the first point of contact when someone access the criminal justice system
  • Police can often be a barrier to sex workers accessing justice, when they are not direct perpetrators of harm
  • To strengthen our advocacy efforts, sex workers’ rights organisations need more data on how the police treat sex workers.



  • 240 interviews with sex workers by sex workers (20 peer interviews at national level using a Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) framework)
  • 11 countries, 12 sex workers rights organisations
    • We have funded 10 organisations, the majority of whom are sex worker-led
      • The following organisations have been funded by ESWA: ECP (the UK), Red Umbrella Sweden (Sweden), Red Umbrella Athens (Greece), Sex Workers’ Empowerment Network (Greece), NGNGO (Armenia), STRASS (France), SAVE (The Netherlands), STAR (North Macedonia), CATS (Spain), Sex Work Polska (Poland)
    • We have a total of 12 organisations in 10 countries who are involved in the project
      • With the inclusion of UTSOPI in Belgium and Argaman Alliance in Israel, the project will collect data from 11 countries across Europe and central Asia
  • The project will run over two years, finishing with a final research report that will be published in the winter of 2023. The final report will be translated into French, English, Spanish, Russian, and also into the language of each sub-granted organisations’ country.




Research Advisory Board

Our Research Advisory Board is made up of individuals with expertise in access to justice and policing. They will support the research project by providing their expert knowledge on access to justice, as well as to provide feedback on research resources and the final report.

Ioana Barbulescu - Networks Coordinator, Fair Trials

Ioana (she/her) is the Networks Coordinator at Fair Trials, a criminal justice reform org. She works primarily on coalition-building to collectively divest from criminalisation, policing and incarceration -  as a way of dismantling systems rooted in the oppression of marginalized communities. Her general vibe is queer Eastern European (meaning her coping mechanism of choice is dry humour)

PG Macioti - Researcher and activist

P.G. Macioti is a social researcher and activist whose research practice centres on participative qualitative methodologies. PG’s research focuses on sex work, migration, social change, and LGBTIQ+ people’s health and social wellbeing. PG has lived and researched in the UK, Germany, US, Australia and France. Her latest research project analysed the health and well-being of sex workers in Victoria in order informed the implementation of sex work decriminalisation in this Australian state.

Ojeaku Nwabuzo - Director (Policy, Advocacy and Network Development)

Ojeaku joined ENAR in 2014 and is responsible for ENAR’s programme and content areas, leading on strategy, development and management of campaigns, projects, and partnerships in support of advancing ENAR anti-racism and discrimination priorities. Previously, Ojeaku coordinated ENAR’s research and yearly Shadow Reports on racism in Europe, focusing on policing and the criminal legal system. She is also a PhD candidate at VUB, her doctoral research focuses on anti-racism advocacy and anti-discrimination policies in Europe. She previously worked at Runnymede, a race equality think tank in the UK, as a research and policy analyst where she led on various projects and developed various resources that captured individual and community histories on migration and belonging.


Capacity building for sex workers

A crucial part of this research project is about increasing the capacity of our sex working members. Through this project, sex workers will develop - or expand on their already existing - research skills, which they can then utilise for their own advocacy work in their organisations’ country. 

In June 2022, ESWA hosted a three-day research training workshop in Brussels. Two members of each funded organisation attended, the majority of whom were sex workers. The purpose of the training was twofold: to ensure that the organisations have the requisite skills to complete the project, and to build the capacity of our sex working members through research skills. The training covered key elements of how to conduct ethical participatory action research:

  • Ethics and risk assessment training
  • Getting a representative sample
  • Interview practice
  • Wellbeing of participants and researchers
  • What is access to justice?




Interested in learning more?

Contact ESWA’s Research Officer on [email protected] for more information about the project.