DEATH OF NANCY: SEX WORKERS DEMAND RESPECTFUL ATTITUDE
The Association of Hungarian Sex Workers (SZEXE) on behalf of the Hungarian sex workers community condemns the victim-blaming articles and reports published in the media that followed the death of Nancy, a Hungarian sex worker who was murdered in a flat in Akácfa street in Budapest, Hungary. This kind of materials in the media focused on assumed client of Nancy instead of examining state regulation that coerces sex workers into isolation, exile and personal stigmatization, police violence, as well as discrimination and hatred of Hungarian society against sex workers.
Violence and exclusion of sex workers are usually driven by misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and hatred against Roma. The fight against those is the common task that has to be done together by the other social movements, broad strata of the society, the media and decision-makers. That is why the Association asks the media to give equal representation to the affected sex workers and use respectful language when referring to sex workers, among them Nancy.
Nancy was working in an apartment, in the isolated conditions that are similar to those of other fellow sex workers, isolated, in almost complete absence of police protection and social services.
There are approximately 15,000 sex workers in Hungary. All of them have various reasons to do sex work: A lot of them are single mothers who otherwise would not be able to provide the right conditions for their children. A lot of them choose sex work as they usually face discrimination based on their skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation etc. A lot of people do sex work due to flexible nature of this kind of work and high income. However, in spite of diverse backgrounds they are all the victims to police violence, the inertia of decision-makers, the penalties deriving from legal anomalies and social stereotypes.
The safety of sex workers operating in apartments is mostly threatened by the controversial regulation, according to which the only way for a self-employed entrepreneur sex worker to work legally is to work alone in the property owned by them. If there are more than one sex workers working together - which in turn would increase their security - they may face 3 years of imprisonment for promoting prostitution. Also, sex workers cannot list the costs of the real estate rentals among its deductible expenses unlike other entrepreneurs. This controversial situation has created such semi-illegal solutions in which sex workers have to work in hiding, being left alone because of the lack of assistance from the police or social services, or being exploited on different levels and being forced to tolerate ongoing intimidation, vulnerability and high risks on everyday basis.
The access to police protection and confiding in police are negatively affected by police specifically targeting and punishing them: 26.125 sex workers were fined in 2012, the fines imposed on them were more than 1 billion HUF (32,6 million EUR). It also happened several times that a single person got more than 10 million HUF (more than 32,6 thousand EUR) penalty. The Association of Hungarian Sex Workers is calling on decision makers and law enforcement bodies that instead of spending huge amounts of taxpayers’ money on persecution and prosecution of sex workers they allocate this money on tracing those persons who exploit sex workers, and treat them violently. SZEXE urges the state to give sex workers real legal protection, so that the cases of murders of sex workers similar to the one with Nancy do not happen in the future.