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Sex Work and Digital Technologies in CEECA

In the world of the 21st century, the influence of digital technologies on every facet of society is undeniable, and digitalization has become an integral part of human life. One domain where the impact of these technologies is particularly profound, yet often overlooked, is in the realm of sex work. In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region, the advent of digital technologies has marked a new era for sex workers, presenting both unprecedented opportunities and unforeseen challenges.

Digital technologies, ranging from the internet and mobile apps to online payment platforms, have irrevocably altered the dynamics of sex work across the CEECA region. These technological advancements have empowered sex workers to reach a broader clientele, manage their work more efficiently, enhance their financial security, and improve their safety through online communities and alert systems. However, this digital transformation has also exposed sex workers to new vulnerabilities, including digital surveillance, online harassment, and algorithmic bias.

This briefing paper was meticulously developed by SWAN between April and September 2023. The primary source of information presented in this briefing paper originates from SWAN member organisations. Members of SWAN were invited to respond to a survey, which included 49 questions and was available in English and Russian. In total, 47 participants took part in the survey. Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives of five SWAN member organisations: Ameliya (Kazakhstan), Legalife (Ukraine), Sex Work Polska (Poland), STAR-STAR (North Macedonia), and Tais Plus (Kyrgyzstan). The research findings were supplemented by desk-based research using available resources on sex work, feminism, digital technologies, cybersecurity, and data protection.

This briefing paper aims to provide a comprehensive regional assessment, delving into the intricate relationship between sex work and digital technology in CEECA countries. By shedding light on the various facets of the use of digital technology among sex workers and sex worker organizations, the paper seeks to offer a nuanced understanding of digital inequalities, safety concerns, and security issues in the context of sex work.

Data analysis and the writing of the briefing paper were conducted by a consultant and reviewed by the SWAN Secretariat.

The paper is available in English and Russian.

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