Legal services for sex workers
Where governance is poor and the rule of law is weak, female, male and transgender sex workers are typically exposed to severe and pervasive human rights abuses. Abuses may consist of violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful confiscation of property, limits on freedom of movement, and discriminatory and corrupt treatment in both public and private domains.
Chronic abuse of this kind will impact negatively on any person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Responding to these matters has been a key focus of sex worker activism globally. Sex workers have been involved in many projects in order to reduce the occurrence of these harms. There range from local anti-violence initiatives and police training to international human rights advocacy.
However the impact of legal services for sex workers generally, the relationship between legal services and health status, and the place of legal services amongst other responses has not been rigorously examined.
PLRI plans to begin operations research on legal services for female, male and transgender sex workers with a project that has both global and national dimensions. At the global level the project will:
- Provide a review of sex work laws and literature about the legal issues that affect sex workers.
- Develop language and tools for standardising analysis of laws and legal issues that affect sex workers.
- Create a framework for documenting sex work laws and their impact.
At national level the project will:
- Provide education and information on legal issues to sex worker community.
- Build the capacity of local lawyers.
- Provide legal advice and support to individuals.
- Conduct strategic litigation.
- Feed information from the project into national advocacy on legal issues.
The project will begin in one country and hopefully expand to others in subsequent phases.
As part of the process of developing this project Cheryl Overs attended a meeting on legal services for populations vulnerable to HIV. It was organised by UNDP and the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) and held in Rome in May. Its objectives were:
- To identify different models for the provision of legal services and ways to monitor and evaluate their outcomes and impact, including on broader advocacy and law reform agendas.
- To review the experience in training and supporting lawyers, paralegals and others to provide legal services, and make recommendations regarding institutional capacity building, model training curricula, networking and other support.
- To review present and future opportunities to strengthen and expand legal services, including opportunities for resource mobilization from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and other donors, and in-kind and pro bono support from lawyers.
- To make recommendations for IDLO and other institutional stakeholders (national and international) for other action to strengthen and expand legal services.
A toolkit on HIV legal services will be developed by IDLO for launch at the Vienna AIDS Conference.