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Rulling of the Czech Constitutional Court endangeres sex workers’ lives

“The sex workers move to where they feel comfortable and where the clients come. This is just hunting sex workers. Furthermore, it can also be used to harass any woman out late at night, waiting for the bus or whatever.”

Hana believes the measure comes at an odd time too because since Czech’s entry in the EU, there has actually already been a decrease in street prostitution.

“Before, big transport trucks had to queue in front of the border and the drivers would pass time with sex workers. Now they pass through the border quickly and are not using sex workers’ services.”
For Hana, the measure is really about scoring easy political points by stirring up fears around prostitution: “It is to get voters. They want to wave a big political flag that says: “Don’t worry, we are cleaning the streets of sex workers”.”

The measure originated in a proposal brought by the mayor of the city of Usti. The municipality drafted an ordinance to clear the streets of homeless people, beggars and drug-users. In the end, as an afterthought, sex workers were also tacked on as group to be banned from public space. The constitutional court found the measure to be unconstitutional and struck down the ban against any group of people’s right to be in public space … except for sex workers.

“What makes it so ridiculous and ironic, is that in Usti, there are no sex workers on the streets,” exclaims Hana, exasperated, “But nonetheless, now this has come into law for the whole country and now it is up to every mayor or city council to decide if they want to accept it or reject it and make a tolerance zone.”

Jana, a former sex worker who collaborates with Bliss Without Risk, sees sex workers responding in different ways. She believes some will be forced outside of the city centre to outlying areas that are more isolated. “It is more dangerous for them. There are no facilities like pubs, cafés and toilets outside of the city. There is lots of garbage lying around everywhere. Maybe girls with pimps won’t be in as much danger since a pimp is supposed to look after you…”

But Jana believes it will be just as dangerous outside of the city for all sex workers, “I know a girl killed in a parking lot whose pimp did nothing to protect her.” Making matters worse, Jana adds that: “There are not very many customers outside the city.”

These factors, for many sex workers, may tip the balance in favour of trying to stay in the city centre and escape the legal consequences. Jana knows all too well what that is like. They wanted to expel sex workers 500 metres beyond the border of the city where she worked. “As a result of trying to chase sex workers out of the city, they concentrated us in the very middle of the city because we found it easier to escape, hide in small corners, in houses and run away from the police.”

To better escape, Jana and other sex workers trained themselves to recognize the exact look and shape of the police headlights. “That way the second we see them, we know it’s the police and we disappear immediately in a house. Because, when they catch you, you spend 5 hours at police station and pay a fine. I once got caught and had to pay 5000 Krown to the police.” Faced with this situation, Jana mentions that other sex workers have chosen to work out of flats where they live with pimps and have customers come pick them up.

Once sex workers who stay in the city center manage to get a client, they still must be careful not to attract police attention while performing sexual services. According to Jana, sex workers who can afford to, pay for a hotel room or encourage the customer to drive them out of the city. Unfortunately, this presents many of the same dangers as for sex workers working outside of the city in the first place.