LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Time for the LGBTI movement to embrace sex workers’ rights!

sex work
LGBTI sex workers

4 steps you can take for greater inclusion

Luca Stevenson, ICRSE Coordinator

Being LGBTI and a sex worker often means facing many layers of discrimination. Excluded from society and its institutions, LGBTI sex workers face another, sometimes more cruel type of rejection: that of the LGBTI community itself.

In Europe, LGBTI sex workers are often banned from Pride or community event and our demands are often ignored by those who should be our closest allies. The vast majority of mainstream LGBTI organisations do not have a position on sex work.

To truthfully represent all members of the LGBTI community, the LGBTI movement needs to stop shying away from the issue of sex work and actively include LGBTI sex workers and our demands.

The first step for a more inclusive LGBTI movement is a clear and explicit position on decriminalisation on sex work - sex workers, clients and third parties. ICRSE and its members, 98 organisations in 31 countries in Europe and Central Asia are proud to be an active member of ILGA-Europe and to see the organisation publicly support sex workers’ rights. We hope that ILGA-Europe members will now look at the developing similar policies and actively take steps in including LGBTI sex workers.

Here are some steps you can follow for greater inclusion of LGBTI sex workers!

  1. Educate yourself! Read about sex work, human rights violations of sex workers and best legal frameworks. There are lots of resources out there such as ICRSE’s Intersection Paper on LGBT sex workers.
  2. Connect with your local / national sex worker organisations and ask them how can you support their work! You can find a list of sex workers’ organisation in Europe here. If there are no organisations in your country, reach out to LGBTI sex workers working online, in the streets or in clubs.
  3. Include sex workers in your programmes or activities! From research to community-building activities, from Pride events to outreach. Check out our ‘Seven Steps to make an LGBTI organisation more sex worker-inclusive.’
  4. Challenge those who oppose sex workers’ rights and deny our rights! The LGBTI (or at least the LBT) and sex workers’ rights movements are both part of the wider women’s rights movement - the oppression of women, LGBTI people and sex workers stem from the same patriarchal values.

Sadly, some in the women’s rights movement oppose trans and sexworkers’ rights. LGBTI activists need to vocally support both trans and sex workers’ and challenge exclusionary feminism wherever it takes place - from social media to EU institutions.

Allies speak out. Do you?