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SERBIA- JAZAS

For this year’s December 17th action, JAZAS organized presentations and a viewing of the film ‘Invisibles” by 17-year old Nikola Polic at the REX cultural center. The film was made during 2010 at the drop-in center and hotspots, and features several sex workers and outreach workers. It presents personal stories of sex workers: how they think of themselves, how others view them and what they have suffered through whilst working.

Stasa Plecas talked about the significance of this day, how it is commemorated all over the world, and overall, how sex workers are exposed to various kinds of violence.

Dr. Dragan Ilic presented data on violence against sex workers in Serbia, gathered during a 2010 research study.

Jelena Vidic presented data on stigma and discrimination from the project “Empowerment to Recognize and React”.

JAZAS had publicly spoken about December 17th as well as its programs at the 2009 Round Table Discussion. However, this was the first time that an event of this kind was organized, in which December 17th was the focal point. Around 80 people showed up at the cultural center, 15 of which were sex workers. The most significant aspect of the event was that sex workers got up during the discussion and publicly spoke about the violence they endure.

In preparation for this event, workshops were organized at the drop in center in which sex workers talked about the importance of such an event taking place in Belgrade and they thought about descriptive messages about themselves. These messages were later used in photographs taken for our December 17th poster. Some of the messages read: I AM A MOTHER, I AM A GOOD NEIGHBOUR, I AM A SISTER, RIGHTS NOT VIOLENCE, I AM HUMAN BEING, and many more.

Later in the evening, JAZAS’ mobile medical unit visited all Belgrade hotspots and handed out presents to sex workers (a make-up bag with lip gloss, wet wipes, hand creams, condoms and other knickknacks). Voluntary Counseling and Testing was also provided.

This December 17th campaign and the significance of it was talked about by Dr. Dragan Ilic on B92’s Radio and TV morning programs (one of the most widespread broadcasting networks in Serbia). Also, a press release was sent out to major media houses and networks.

Overall, we are very pleased with how this event turned out. More importantly, the success of this event was in effect the breaking of a barrier: it was public, it was advertised, it was well visited and it had all the most important components: denunciations of violence against sex workers, data to support that violence does occur and is widespread and most importantly sex worker participation and presence. Also, the question of decriminalization and responsibility was opened, as a key element in decreasing violence against sex workers, as well as stigma and discrimination.

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