In Sweden, sex workers are often viewed as ‘victims in denial’ by public health authorities. As a result, Swedish sexual health interventions have traditionally focused on women and utilised face-to-face interventions and exit strategies. Unmistakably, interventions targeting male and/or transgender sex workers that utilise harm reduction approaches or low threshold on-line interventions remain marginalised or non-existent. This stands in opposition to recent Swedish research on the sexual health of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people (TG). This research stresses the need for targeted community-based sexual health services. Recent Swedish research also highlights the success of innovative on-line approaches that help male sex workers and TG understand personal risk to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), their legal rights and how to access community-based health services. Responding to the research and not viewing sex workers as victims, this paper outlines the design of Sweden’s first bespoke online platform targeting male and transgender sex workers. We outline our unique approach and the steps we undertook to design the Röda Paraplyet webpage (http://www.rodaparaplyet.org) in collaboration with male sex workers and Rose Alliance, a leading sex worker organisation. We argue the voices of sex workers are essential to shifting the Swedish discourse around sex work from one of victimisation that limits sex workers access to Sweden’s extensive evidence-based health care to one that is empowering and increases the safety of sex work, explores how to negotiate condom use and educates sex workers about their rights. In conclusion we illustrate how a broad coalition between organised and non-organised sex workers, LGBTQ organisations, academics and the health care system is essential for creating a sustainable platform of multi-disciplinary knowledge to improve the sexual health and legal rights of sex workers in Sweden and globally.
Leyla Gülçüra and Pınar İlkkaracanb, ‘The “Natasha” experience: Migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in Turkey’, Women’s Studies International Forum, Volume 25, Issue 4, July–August 2002, Pages 411–421
Women have been migrating across the world in increasing numbers and the sex industry remains one option for work in host countries. While there is currently much controversy over whether sex work is “forced” versus “voluntary,” the underground nature of the sex industry, combined with prevalent restrictions on illegal/undocumented immigration in host countries, creates working and living conditions for women that facilitate health risks, violence, harassment, police bribery, detention, and arbitrary deportation.
In this paper, we focus on the case of migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in Turkey. Using a combination of sources including newspapers, participant observation, interviews with key informants and with migrant sex workers, we document the experiences and working conditions of women who travel periodically from their own countries to Istanbul to undertake sex work. We conclude that policy debates regarding sex work should focus not so much on whether women “choose” to enter this profession but should instead focus on the need to ameliorate migrant women’s living and working conditions by addressing restrictive and abusive immigration policies and by decriminalizing undocumented sex work.
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