The 3rd of March was International Sex Worker Rights day, marked by sex worker rights activists and defenders across the world. Although sex workers have been campaigning for rights in Namibia for years, the movement is still very much “emerging” since, until the last 3 years or so, they have received very little support.
In Namibia, as in many other countries, sex workers have limited opportunities to be heard when they want to talk about human rights, and as a result, the discussions are often constrained by the need to relate them to issues like HIV (as I discussed here) or trafficking.
In this context it is heartening to see not only that news outlets in Namibia gave significant coverage to the events organised by local sex worker organisations (front page of The Namibian; articles in New Era and Republiklein), but that the coverage didn’t focus just on the HIV angle, and acknowledged the broader issues. Since the event took place, some of those involved have told me that the feedback from different decision-makers has been very positive, and they are optimistic that we are now seeing a step-change in how some of the media and decision-makers are approaching sex worker rights.
I’m particularly proud to have played a role in supporting some of the work that went into these events, with the support of UNFPA and UNAIDS: this review of the literature on sex work and HIV in Namibia:
This report of a series of local assessments done by sex workers to investigate human rights, health and HIV in five towns:
And this report of a national policy meeting, which aimed to get programmes and policy makers to pay more attention to the issues of human rights of sex workers:
The job isn’t done of course: it has barely started. But many of the partners in Namibia have committed to following up on this work, so things are looking positive.
For more of a discussion on the aims of the local assessments, click here.