Historical/political snapshot (Wikipedia): Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a country situated at the crossroads between Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans.
Human Rights 2015: an overview by Amnesty International
HIV/AIDS rates: According to UNAIDS the cumulative number of HIV-infected people reported till 31st December 2014 was 3128.
HIV prevalence among sex-workers: HIV seroprevalence among sampled sex workers in Belgrade was almost the same in 2013 compared with results obtained in 2012 (1.6% versus 2%) (UNAIDS)
Legal situation around sex work: Sex work is illegal in Serbia, although being a client of a prostitute was not a criminal offense utill 2016.
In 2016 the penalties for sex work were increased. If arrested, both clients and sex workers are punished with up to 60 days in prison or fines up to 150 000 RSD (approximately 1300 EUR).
Services for sex workers:
Sex workers' movement: There is a sex worker-led organization Sloboda Prava, where sex workers are decision makers and staff.
SWAN, within the Regional Platform EECA, has developed a video and community guide on the community’s engagement in Global Fund supported processes on the national level.
Члены СВАН отметили 1 декабря, всемирный день борьбы со СПИДом, проведением различных мероприятий.
On 1st of December, The World AIDS Day, SWAN members celebrated with multiple activities.
A regional training on the SWIT (Sex Worker Implementation Tool) took place in Budapest on 21-25 June 2016. Teams from 7 countries attended the training: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, Macedonia, Serbia. Among them were female, male and transgender sex workers.
Amendments to the public nuisance laws in Serbia, known as “Public Law and Order” laws, increased penalties for sex work related offences. Anti-sex work campaigners pushed the government to introduce amendments that would also punish the clients of sex workers. The new laws punishes everyone who disturbs ‘public order and peace’ including noisy neighbours, panhandling, burning pyrotechnic products, organising gambling, etc.
On December 17 SWAN members held different local actions to raise the awareness and commemorate International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
The Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) have organized a 3 days long Community Mobilization and Media training for sex workers that took place on December 5-8, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. There were 10 sex workers at the training, who came from the countries of SWAN region, majority of which do not have formal or informal groups of sex workers yet.
For the first time "Sloboda Prava" participated in the march "Zone free from hatred" that took place on June 27, 2015 in Belgrade on the International LGBTQ Pride Day.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day has been held annually every third Sunday in May since 1983. On May 17, 2015 around 1200 organizations in 115 countries gathered to commemorate those who died from AIDS and to raise awareness about HIV. The official theme of the campaign worldwide was ‘Supporting the future’ dedicated to calling on the communities around the world to unite and demand a sustainable response to AIDS.
JAZAS, ASTRA and Equal Rights from Serbia invite you at the Round Table discussion on Laws and Rights in Court Practices. During the discussion, the research results of the joint project Law Above All and Court Practices will be presented. The research results focuses on analysis of court practices and their repercussions on sex workers in Serbia.
By Sloboda Prava
we invite you to a special performance of Cabaret: Behind the Mirror on December 17th- the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a day to call attention to crimes committed against sex workers around the world.
Monday, December 17th, 20:30h at the Cultural Center REX.
Supported by Hartefact Fund.
By Radmila Vasiljkovic, NGO Equal Rights, Serbia (read article in Serbian here)
During preparatory day for Sex Workers Freedom Festival, July 21st in Kolkata, Aliya Rakhmetova (SWAN coordinator) held a meeting at 10 AM near the pool of Hyatt hotel. 8 representatives of SWAN: Inna Semina from Dignity initiative group from Tajikistan, Irina Maslova and Viktoria Afanasieva from Silver Rose, Russia, Dina Bakirova and Maha Tolegenova of Tais Plus in Kirgizstan, Biserka Lekić, Elena Santovac and myself from Equal Rights, Serbia were present at the meeting.
During the short meeting it was decided that I should take part in press conference which will be held in the next 10 minutes at the press-room (5th floor) of our hotel. That was the first time for me to participate in press conference ever.
Individuals and groups from the CEE/CA, as well as other regions,were invited to submit testimony about the impact of different laws and HIV. SWAN submitted a submission that tried to include experiences from all across the region. Many other SWAN groups individually submitted such as HOPS (Macedonia), Lega-Life (Ukraine) and HESED (Bulgaria).
In the end, Odyseus (Slovakia), SZEXE (Hungary), TAIS PLUS (Kyrgyzstan), Association for Assistance (Russia) and SWAN were accepted to present in front of the commissioners at a regional meeting in Moldova in May, 2011.
With the generous help of the Open Society Foundation, presenters from the various groups including Katerina Jiresova, Irina Maslova, Gulnara Kurmanova, Mariann Bodzsar, Stasa Plecas from Serbia who was representing SWAN and Aliya and Anna-Louise from the SWAN network met in Chisinau, Moldova to strategize.
The group decided that the strongest strategy was to brainstorm 4 key issues as they affected groups across the region and to present as a block. One person per issue and one person to summarize and spell out the recommended actions groups were calling on the Commission to endorse.
Read the statement in English
Read the statement in Russian
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.
July 18-23, Vienna, Austria – This year sex workers and allies from Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia had a chance to talk about barriers and issues that sex workers face in their countries, to show what groups and organizations have achieved in addressing the pandemics and violations in their region. The Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) was represented by 11 activists from Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia and Montenegro, a team of young and energetic volunteers from Odyseus, Slovakia and a performance group from Bliss without Risk, Czech Republic.
On October 8th, 2009, JAZAS, opened a new drop-in center for sex workers funded by the Global Fund called “Center for Support”. The center’s main activities are: the provision of legal advice by the law team; assistance by the social support team in obtaining documents necessary for getting ID, health insurance and social insurance; self-support activities for participants; and the development of promotional materials. HIV counseling and testing are also available at the center. Sex worker peer educators have been active in implementing all the activities and working with clients of the services. Their first hand experience has proved invaluable in promoting the center’s activities among sex workers. So far more than 300 services have been provided to more than 80 clients. The project’s goal is to reach 200 clients in its first year.
Sex workers’ organizations across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia used the opportunity of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers to advocate SW’s rights. Below is a summary of the activities carried out be the organizations.
The meeting brought together 32 participants from 16 countries with the aim to exchange experience, share problems and find solutions, renew and strengthen the partnership ties and get to know new network members better.
The Ohrid network meeting was preceded by an activists’ meeting. 18 sex worker activists turned the meeting room into an art workshop and a cafeteria to discuss issues and personal experience around sex work in their countries.
To mark December 17, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, the Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia is releasing its new report, Arrest the Violence: Human Rights Violations Against Sex Workers in 11 Countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report is based on interviews with more than 200 male, female and transgender sex workers between 2007 and 2009 and chillingly documents widespread violence and discrimination against them, particularly by state actors.
According to Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s Health and Human Rights Division:
Arrest the Violence is the first piece of research done under the leadership of sex workers to document human rights violations they face across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Sex workers throughout the region report that they face verbal and physical abuse, including beatings, kidnapping, and sexual violence, by police and private citizens. Sex workers also report that police confiscated condoms as “evidence” of sex work, and subjected them to mandatory HIV testing.
These are not isolated incidents. The physical, sexual, and verbal violations of sex workers’ rights are part of a pattern of abuse by police and in the community that is documented throughout the region.
It is my sincere hope that this report will serve as a catalyst to awaken the broader human rights community to the importance of documenting and denouncing human rights abuses against sex workers, and working with sex workers to end these abuses.
To access the report, please follow the links below.
Questions or comments may be directed to SWAN@TASZ.HU.
Coordinator Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN)