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African Sex Workers Alliance


The recognition of the adverse collateral effects of anti-trafficking efforts

 Requested changes (additions):

– Clause b): “Ensure that raids conducted by law enforcement authorities with a view to dismantling trafficking networks do not justify or result in criminal prosecution or other coercive measures, including gender-based violence, abuse and harassment, against any group of women, (INS particularly sex workers, including migrants who are most often subject to such coercive measures;)”

– Clause c): “Ensure that no group of women, is targeted for investigation or prosecution, discrimination, stigmatisation, or (DEL: suffers from the lack of rights and protections) (INS is subjected to other human rights violations, as part of anti-trafficking initiatives) or under the guise of combatting trafficking, including violations of their rights to (INS liberty), movement, assembly, health and safety, to dignity and livelihood. (INS This must include sex workers, who are at particular risk of being negatively affected by such measures. States should cease such targeting and ensure that anti-trafficking measures are not used to, or otherwise result in, harm to these groups of women, and ensure that effective measures are put in place to monitor and evaluate any negative human rights impacts of anti-trafficking measures);”

– Clause d): “Discontinue anti-trafficking measures that involve the apprehension, detention and involuntary rehabilitation of women, (INS in whatever for that might be) which are often experienced as antagonistic and traumatic. (INS Sex workers are particularly targeted for such measures and this is an abuse of their human rights as well as an abuse of State powers);

– Clause e): “Ensure that anti-trafficking efforts are not used as a means to deport migrant women with an irregular immigration status. (INS Anti-trafficking efforts are often inappropriately used by States as part of a wider anti-migrant, and specifically anti-sex work, narrative. States much put clear measures in place to address this.)”

  • Reason:We acknowledge and appreciate the Committee’s responsiveness to previous comments about the misuse by authorities of anti-trafficking legislation and their recognition of sex workers as targets for this misuse, however we ask for more specificity to ensure clarity, and to measure States’ compliance and implementation of the General Recommendation. It has been emphasized that the conflation of sex work and trafficking severely undermines the human rights of sex workers while failing to secure rights of people who are trafficked; by misdirecting resources into policing sex work, rather than identifying people who are coerced and providing them appropriate support. Sex worker groups recognise that sex trade and trafficking is illegal, and that no one should be forced into sex work. However, the rights and entitlements of consenting adults who enter into sex work on their own volition should be recognised and not confused with the rights and needs of people who are forced into sex work and/or are underage.

    When sex work is conflated with trafficking, governments superimpose their idea of rescue and rehabilitation and the results are disastrous. Despite the fact that sex worker empowerment and engagement may well be the missing link which can make anti-trafficking interventions more effective, the efforts of sex worker organisations have largely gone unrecognised or sex worker organisations are often villainised[1] particularly around non-consenting adults and minors. The rights and entitlements of consenting adults who enter into sex work should be recognized and not confused with the rights and needs of people who are forced into sex work and/ or are underage.

    The lack of differentiation and clarity around sex work, sexual exploitation, and trafficking has been of polarising concern to sex worker rights advocacy with the sex worker rights movement acknowledging the experiences and voices of sex workers, recognising consensual sex work as work, and advocating for decriminalisation of sex work. This conflation results in a grey-area that views sex work as inherently exploitative, harmful and as a form of violence against women. It therefore advocates for measures that will lead to the eradication of the sex industry.

    [1] Africa Sex worker Alliance. I expect to be abused and I have fear. Sex workers’ experiences of human rights violations and barriers to accessing healthcare in four African countries. April,2011. Also see, African Sex Worker Alliance (2019). “Every sex worker has got a story to tell about violence”: Violence against sex workers in Africa. Nairobi

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