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SWAN takes part in the presentation of the Gender Assessment by EWNA

On July 27th, SWAN took part in a virtual event to discuss how different countries in the CEECA Region handle challenges related to HIV services for women with HIV, sex workers, and women who use drugs, with SWAN’s focus on communicating the obstacles sex workers face in this area.

In 2022, the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA) conducted a study to check if national policies support fair and rights-based approaches to women’s health. This research helped women who lead community efforts to assess their countries’ responses to HIV and suggest improvements. The study included 15 countries in South-Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where tough laws, lack of gender-centred HIV support, and insufficient funding harm women, and allow gender-based violence, stigma, and inequality to persist.

SWAN gave a presentation “Sex Workers’ Rights Are Women’s Rights!” exploring how sex workers’ rights connect with broader women’s rights. Sex workers do all the things that women are traditionally told not to do – they go out at night, wear “sexy” clothes, talk openly about sex, have sex with multiple partners, they take control over their sexuality and bodies. And for doing that, our conservative male-led society tries to punish them and take back control in different ways: shaming, discrimination, penalization, criminalization, violence, silencing their voices, creating moral panic even among the woman in general, which weakens the solidarity and mutual support between women with different backgrounds and life situations. Advocating for sex workers’ rights strengthens women’s rights, giving them autonomy over their choices, finances, and bodies. 

Also discussed were the ways in which anti-sex work perspectives silence sex workers within the women’s rights movement, with an emphasis that the meaningful involvement of sex workers in discussions around their own lives and livelihoods is essential for women’s rights progress as a whole. Pointing out how even well-intentioned HIV programs sometimes create barriers, we also explained the significance of the Sex Worker Implementation Tool (SWIT) in addressing the everyday realities of sex workers, and promoting community-led responses to HIV. An additional focus was on sex worker engagement and leadership within the context of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It discusses partnerships with IWRAW-AP and the development of frameworks and guidelines related to sex workers’ rights and CEDAW. The presentation highlights the importance of training sex worker groups on the framework, creating alternative reports, and ensuring meaningful engagement in national action plans based on CEDAW recommendations. Lastly, the presentation underscores ongoing dialogues with the CEDAW committee to address stigmatizing terminology, legal frameworks impacting sex workers, and the implications of anti-trafficking responses. It explains the assessment’s significance for recognizing sex workers’ needs, fostering advocacy, facilitating intersectional analysis, and promoting collaboration among diverse women’s groups based on solidarity.

We would like to thank EWNA and everyone who presented and participated in the discussions! 

The full text report is available in English and Russian.

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