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Serbia-Macedonia-Albania: Cross-border December 17 media reporting

December 17 campaign sparked media interest in the situation sex workers experience in other countries in the region. Several Serbian media noted the red umbrella march and exhibition in Skopje and commented on forced STI testing action in November.  Macedonian media on their side reported about issues sex workers face in Albania.

One of the most notable cross-border reports was the one by the Serbian Beta News Service. It broadcasted on its Beta TV on December 21 a video reportage in which the reporter says that December 17 campaign in Macedonia was in the shadow of the numerous protests against forced STI testing of alleged sex workers.

In this 4-minute report the journalist used both terms “sex worker” and “prostitute”, and put Macedonian compulsory testing case in the European, international and human rights context, by mentioning several times European Declaration on Rights of Sex Workers, the red umbrella as the international symbol of rights of sex workers, and the SWAN network. 

The report started by describing the arrest of 33 sex workers and compulsory testing of 25 of them, showed the red umbrella rally on December 17 from the building of the Macedonian TV, several courts, through the center of the city and to the Gallery Tocka. 

Showed was the opening of the exhibition My Body, my Choice and interviewed Martin Karadafov who described sex workers being subject to violence by customers, police and pimps, and the activities SWAN undertakes to prevent them. 

Reporter then said that, although the Ministry of Health is supporting the Declaration on Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, the Draft Law Against Discrimination is still only a draft.

Interviewed is Natasa Boskova from the Drop-in Center ran by HOPS, SWAN member from Macedonia, who explained that the Law has been drafted already for three years but that there are many disagreements about it between the NGO and governmental sectors.  The adoption of the law is one of the steps necessary in Macedonian EU accession.

A part of press conference of the Minister of Internal Affairs Ms. Jankulovska (Macedonian Christian Democrats) is showed in which she said, “Legalization of prostitution is not on the agenda of European Christian Democrats, therefore not on ours either.”

The reporter then cited Macedonian regulations, by which street sex workers, who usually charge 6-8 Euros for sex services, can be fined 600-800 Euros for “distorting public order and pace”. The draft law on legalization of prostitution, on the contrary, prescribes health protection measures, industry regulations, etc.
The reporter finishes by saying that those who were detained and compulsory tested, and found to be Hepatitis C-positive can be put to 1-3 years in prison, while the European Declaration on Rights of Sex Workers says that sex worker and client mutually engage in exchange of services and are mutually responsible to make consensual agreement on use of means of protection.