every sex Worker is a human rights defender When our governments are campaigning for our votes they say “vote for us and we will deliver
“. We have voted but our governments have not delivered. We try to raise our voices about human rights violations that we face on a daily basis, no one listens. Once we have voted they forget us. From our government we need law reform and the decriminalisation of sex work so that we have the spaces to access our rights. We demand rights and not rescue.
As 153 sex workers from 10 African countries: South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria. Today we demand our governments to honour their agreement that every citizen has human rights, and give us the rights that we are entitled to as human beings. Your citizens are speaking, you have a duty to listen and act.
Today is the first day of the African Sex Worker Conference, which will end on Thursday. Today was a milestone in our fight for our basic human rights. Sex workers from different African countries were able to come together and speak to each other. We saw our commonalities and differences that we face doing our work. Yes – sex work is work and it is time that every one started to recognise that sex work is work.
Many participants spoke about the serious situation in Zimbabwe commenting that neighbouring countries take advantage of Zimbabweans. We, as sex workers, in other countries join the call for an end to the suffering of Zimbabweans.
The purpose of this conference is to come together and give sex workers a platform to their experiences and voices in support of each other. The challenge that we face as 153 participants from different countries are almost similar. Many of us face violence and discrimination on a regular basis. Regardless of which country we are from many of us have experienced being raped, Verbally, emotional and physical abuse from police, clients and community members. There is unfair discrimination from service providers. Sex workers are not protected or defended by the law when they are exploited and abused. We demand that these violations stop immediately and decisive action is taken against perpetrators.
From this alliance we would like to see more work within and across organizations all over the continent. Put your stigma, discrimination and judgments aside. Let us work together to ensure that all Africans live equally and freely as human beings.
(This statement was delivered to the press by a delegation of female and male sex workers representing a cross section of African countries. It was an historic moment).
We, over 150 participants including sex workers and representatives from national and international Non-Governmental Organizations, Development Agencies, and activists from more than 11 countries, having met at the 1st African Sex Worker Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa from 3 – 5 February 2009, note:
There are different political, economic and legal realities in different countries and that these translate into unique experiences for sex workers, however there are common experiences and human rights violations that are shared by sex workers in Africa, including:
- Political instability and conflict which causes migration
- Persecution of sex workers using laws and poli- cies which criminalise sex work and aspects of sex work industry
- Violence and discrimination including police harassment and brutality and other forms of state-sponsored violence
- Denial of access to basic services including sexual and reproductive health, psycho-social, justice and legal services
- Exclusion from financial and other socio-economic institutions
- Exclusionary and discriminatory practices from civil society organizations and service providers Having considered reports that highlighted the rights violations in particular human crises in Zimbabwe, We acknowledge that some good work has already been done in Africa in advancing sex workers rights, and amplifying sex workers voices.
Make the following declaration:
We affirm that
- Human rights are universal, inalienable and in- divisible. Sex workers rights are human rights.
- Sex work is one of the multiple identities if the individual.
- Sex workers are subjected to a multiple forms of discrimination
- Sex workers are not a homogenous group, and posses diverse identities including sexual orientation, race, culture, gender, class, HIV and socio-economic status.
- There are many reasons why sex workers enter into in sex work.
- Adult sex work is a legitimate form of work.
as part of their mandate (including in their monitoring and reporting)
(b) All African States
- Decriminalize adult sex work
- Protect, respect and fulfill the rights of sex workers in line with international, regional and national human rights standards
- Multi-sectorial inter-ministerial response and engagement
(c) Civil Society
- To support in all programs and services
- Inclusive of sex workers within programs
- Collaboration and act as allies
- consider joining / affiliating to the Alliance
(d) International aid organizations / Donor Community
- provide resources
- No strings attached
- prioritise sex work and commit to percentage of funding allocation
(e) Private Sector
- Recognition of sex work as legitimate work
- management and ownership of brothels – abuse and exploitation
- We commit ourselves over the next 24 months to a framework for action that includes:
(a) decriminalization of adult sex work
(b) documenting, monitoring and reporting hu- man rights violations;
(c) recognition of sex work as work
(d) free, friendly universal access to healthcare
(e) building solidarity and mobilizing sex workers
(f) Building the Alliance ensuring participation, representation and leadership of sex workers at all levels within the Alliance
- 2. We demand,
(a) International, continental, bodies and instruments and programs
- STOP sensationalizing sex work, accurate unbiased reporting
- privacy of sex workers – name and photo- graphs
- educating and advocating
- publish good stories – balanced and fair reporting
(g) Sex workers
- respect each other, non-discrimination
- claim Alliance as a space
- voice and agency
- abuse and exploitation
- breaking the silence