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The Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe

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This declaration was elaborated and endorsed by 120 sex workers and 80 allies from 30 countries at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration 15 - 17 October 2005, Brussels, Belgium

Vittorio Angoletto, Italian MEP endorses DeclarationWhy do we need a Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe?

Different approaches have been adopted across Europe responding to the sex industry and female, male and transgender sex workers – including migrant sex workers – ranging from the acceptance of sex work as labour and the introduction of labour rights for sex workers through to the criminalisation of a wide range of practices associated with sex work, which at times results in the criminalisation of the status of sex worker, sex workers partners or their clients.

Over the last years, legislative measures that restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of sex workers proliferate at local, national and international levels, claiming to be in the interests of combating organised crime and promoting public health. However, many of these measures are implemented against the policy and principles set out by advice of UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation which note that repressive legislation restricting the rights of sex workers in fact undermines public health policies by driving the sex industry underground, making practices central to safe sex evidence of crimes such as possession of condoms. In addition, such measures contradict the European Parliament’s Resolution on Violence Against Women1 that called for the decriminalisation of the exercise of the practice of prostitution, a guarantee that prostitutes enjoy the rights of other persons, and the protection of prostitutes’ independence, health and safety. Moreover, many measures are in violation of the obligation of States under international human rights law to respect, promote and protect the human rights of all persons within their territory, without discrimination, and including the right to privacy, to a family life, to legally leave and return to one’s country, to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and from arbitrary detention, and in favour of the freedom of expression, information, association and movement.

Consultation to the Declaration

The committee undertook a year long consultation with sex workers across Europe and international human rights, labour and migration experts, the results of which were collated and the evidence gathered was used to produce a draft declaration for sex workers and allies to consider at the conference.

The Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe identifies human, labour and migrants rights that sex workers should be entitled to under international law. It is a synthesis of all the rights that have been agreed in international treaties and covenants, to uphold for all citizens, together with proposals to ensure the protection of those rights for sex workers. In addition, the Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe will:

  • highlight current violations of the rights of sex workers in Europe which occur across health and social care, housing, employment, education, administrative law and criminal justice systems.
  • highlight actions required to ensure that the rights of sex workers are respected in Europe.

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