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Albania: Media campaign, round table and newsletter for sex workers

Sex workers in Albania are exposed to violence, are not protected by the law and do not have access to public health – this was the theme of this year’s December 17 campaign organized by Aksion Plus, SWAN member from Albania.  The campaign had three target audiences: general population, sex workers, and decision makers.

Media
Media coverage was mostly focused on the report from the 2007-2008 sex workers mapping project undertaken by Aksion Plus with support from UNFPA, whose data were released in the days leading to December 17. Result of the media campaign was in-depth coverage of sex work issues by several leading news outlets.


On December 18 three TV stations - Top Channel, Ora News and TV Klan – reported on the mapping project research data and general conditions for sex workers in Albania. Genci Mucollari, Director of Aksion Plus, was a guest in the live morning program Wake Up! on the Top Channel on December 19. Finally, on December 20 the leading Albanian weekly Mapo published a 1600-word reportage on sex work in this country.


Sex work in Albania is very discrete and hidden to the eyes of the public, reads Mapo article. Very young people become prostitutes because of the family problems and other harsh social conditions. They are subject to violence from their pimps, clients and police, have inadequate or no access to the health services.


The conditions, reports Mapo, are different then in 1930-40 when in Albania sex work was legal and regulated by the law. Nowadays the situation is much worse: sex workers are badly treated, they are denied their basic human rights, they don’t have any place to exercise their “profession” (they are located to the outskirt areas of the town, in abandoned buildings or wagons, parks, under bridges) and the authorities pretend that this phenomena does not exist.
There is sort of self-support and solidarity among sex workers and transgender sex workers. Aksion Plus is offering outreach services (condoms, clean needles, basic hygienic kits, and referrals to other specialized clinics).


Mapo then publishes some of the mapping project data: only 21 percent of sex workers report having pimps, the rest work independently; 31% are illiterate.
As human beings sex workers need a center where they could get appropriate services and participate in social events, concludes Mapo.


The integral article in Albanian is available here.


Round table
In the beginning of December the First Debate on Human Right took place in Tirana. Among participants were civil society organizations, social workers, representatives of the European Commission and the government.
Genci Mucollari from Aksion Plus co-facilitated the session The Rights of Sexual Minorities in Albania, with participation of the director of the Albanian Human Rights Group, a representative of the EC, media representatives and an official from the Ministry of Interior, who took an active part in the debate on the violence of police officers against sex workers and LGBT.


Says Genci Mucollari: “The reaction from the audience was very supportive. Some people supported the idea that police should establish a separate sector to protect the rights of sexual minorities and other vulnerable groups. We discussed social change and how to improve the access to services for these groups. Participants in the debate raised the issue of empowering sex workers and LGBT in order to become more active and speak up for their needs, problems and rights.”


Newsletter
In the mid-December Aksion Plus issued a leaflet entitled Why should I test and a newsletter on rights of sex workers.  Both publications were distributed with help of sex workers.


The newsletter front page features an article on December 17 and a review of the Declaration of Rights of Sex Workers in Europe. It has headlines of the articles featured in the newsletter: Drugs and prostitution; Needs of sex workers; Albanian sex workers in facts and figures.


Inside the newsletter: The articles on drugs and sex work and the higher risk of HIV and other STIs; on how to stay safe against HIV/AIDS; about the role of social workers and other care-givers. An article describes how because of stigma and discrimination against them sex workers have poor access to health care services.


Featured are three life stories of sex workers interviewed by Aksion Plus, among them one transgender.


The back page brings info about SWAN, its mission, members as well as about Aksion Plus and their contacts.


For more information:

Genci Mucullari, gencaxionp@albmail.com
More about Aksion Plus: www.aksionplus.net

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