More Than 16 Days: Sex Workers’ Stories

Day 15 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence: This article written by our friends at Take Back the Tech!, who invite you to take one action per day to end violence against women. Each daily action explores an issue of violence against women and its interconnection with communication rights, and approaches different communication platforms – online and off – in creative and tactical ways.

“That was when I started to be a sex worker. But my kids never die with hunger, because I was providing them with enough food, clothing, schooling […] Sex workers have the same rights as everyone else”

Listen to the story of Muchaneta, as she speaks about her journey, experience and claim for her fundamental human rights

“Sex workers have been saying for years: ‘Decriminalisation is the best form of regulation for sex workers” (1)

There are many stories from sex workers around the globe of horrific violations and humiliation not only from clients but from the police and authorities who should be upholding sex workers human rights. Migrant sex workers are often the most vulnerable to harassment and exploitation.

Because sex work is criminalised, sex workers are denied access to their fundamental human rights including critical services such as access to health care. Police abuse and harassment of sex workers is common, including rape by police officers. There frequently is no recourse to justice if sex workers report police abuse or sexual violations. Violence from the state occurs through policies and practice criminalising sex work and turning a blind eye to a range of human rights abuses.

Organisations such as the Dubar Mahila Samanwaya Committee in India, SWEAT in South Africa, the Red Umbrella Project in the United Kingdom with the “Protect, Don’t Prosecute” campaign, the Scarlet Alliance in Australia, and Stella in Canada are organising sex workers to speak, act and advocate for access to human rights and a stop to the abuse.

We demand that rights of sex worker – which include, among others, the right to privacy and the right to life, liberty and security – be recognised as human rights. We call to decriminalise sex work as a way of ensuring better access to rights. Decriminalisation means that police can’t arbitrarily regulate sex work, criminal laws will be removed and sex work would be regulated like any other business. Sex workers would have recourse through law and their human rights would be respected.


Sign the petition to decriminalize sex work, to be presented at the United Nations by the Connect your rights! initiative of the Association for Progressive Communications. Read the cases of violations of sex workers’ internet rights.

Read about the history of the Red Umbrella Campaign. Follow @RedUmbrellaProj on Twitter and help amplify the voices of people in the sex trades through media, storytelling, & advocacy.

  • no more violence towards sex workers from the state
  • stop police harassment of sex workers
  • sex work is work
  • decriminalise sex work
  • sex workers have rights like everyone else
  • protect migrant sex workers from exploitation & abuse

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a global campaign dedicated to ending gender-based violence. In participation with The Center for Women’s Global Leadership, The Women Worldwide Initiative is hosting a Blog Series entitled, More Than 16 Days, from the start of the Campaign on the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence on November 25th, to Human Rights Day on December 10th with contributions from one of our Board Members, founder of Everyday Ambassador, Stop Street Harassment, Take Back the Tech!, Young Professionals Amnesty International (NYC), writers for the International Political Forum and young women from Women LEAD, based in post-conflict Nepal.

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