This report is the result of a research carried out by JAZAS, Association Against AIDS, and ASTRA, Anti-Trafficking Action, with the support of the sex workers’ rights organization Sloboda Prava (Equal Rights). The research looks into the impact of the laws in Serbia that criminalize sex work on the protection of the human rights of both sex workers and trafficked persons. For the research use was made of the RighT Guide, a tool to assess the human rights impact of anti-trafficking laws and policies. It presents a step-by-step method to investigate and analyze the human rights effects of a law, policy or measure, link these to the human rights obligations of the government, and use the outcomes to more effectively advocate for rights-based and evidence-led policy reforms. The tool is built on a number of key principles:
• State accountability: States have undertaken binding human rights commitments by ratifying human rights treaties. Governments can be hold accountable for living up their human rights promises.
• Knowledge/evidence based action: the tool aims to go beyond ideological debates. It requires rigorous data-collection as a basis for analyzing and understanding the actual impact of laws and policies on the human rights of those affected by them.
• Participation: the tool requires the participation of groups affected by the policies concerned. This is a fundamental principle and an essential element in the process of collecting evidence and understanding the impact of a policy.
• Bridging movements and building alliances: in many countries anti-trafficking organizations, sex workers’ rights, migrants’ rights and human rights organizations do not work together.
The tool aims to facilitate bridging these divisions by presenting human rights as applying to all these different groups and movements in specific, yet universal, ways. In this case the focus was not on specific anti-trafficking laws and policies, but on the laws that criminalize sex workers and sex work. Yet, these have far reaching consequences for the protection of the human rights of both sex workers and trafficked persons, in particular their right to protection against violence, discrimination and arbitrary arrest and detention and the right to health, as well as on their access to justice. Although from the perspective of the universality of human rights, it may seem logical that antitrafficking and sex workers’ rights organizations work together, in practice this rarely happens.
One of the reasons is that anti-trafficking measures too often have been used to harm the human rights of sex workers. That makes this research, based on the joint efforts of JAZAS, ASTRA and Sloboda Prava, very special. I would like to praise them for their courageous initiative and sincerely hope that the research will help to bridge the gap between the two movements. Because in the end defending rights and combating violence and abuse are two sides of the same coin.
Marjan Wijers, Rights4Change