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SWAN congratulates CO “Legalife–Ukraine” with 10th anniversary of activism and shares with us their 2021 experience

4 Feb 2022 00:02:43

These days our organization CO “Legalife–Ukraine” celebrates 10 years of active advocacy campaigning for decriminalization of sex work in Ukraine. Due with this anniversary we asked our colleagues in decrim activism to share with us their 2021 experience in work and thoughts about current situation with decrim movement in the world.

Executive Director of the SWAN Staša Plećaš and SWAN executive manager Marija Tosheva kindly agreed to answer to our questions in exclusive interview.

The Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) is a sex worker-led regional network in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that advocates for the human rights of female, male and transgender sex workers. SWAN was founded in 2006 and was officially registered as the SWAN Foundation in January of 2012.

Marija Tosheva and Staša Plećaš (SWAN)

What advocacy achievement of your organization you consider the most important in the year of 2021 and why?

If we have to focus on one major achievement in 2021, it would be securing sustainability of the network and number of our members for the upcoming 2 to 3 years. Covid 19 pandemic has heavily influenced the social and political context globally, many donors reallocated funds or changed focus to adapt to the new situation, and many funders left or transitioned out from the region. We already have seen services and organizations being shut down or dissolving, so securing basic sustainability in this changing environment will provide some stability to members and the network to continue the ongoing work and processes, prevent losing human resources and investments in capacity building and advocacy from the previous years.

What is the main goal for advocacy for your organization in the year of 2022, regarding all the complications due with continuous pandemic restrictions?

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought into the forefront many challenges for the community of sex workers (loss of income, difficult access to services and support, movement restrictions and work restrictions) but what was most evident was increased vulnerability due to inability to access the social protection systems, which were activated by the governments as immediate response to the pandemic crisis. So already in 2022 we are putting strong focus on understanding social protection mechanisms in the region, documenting human rights abuses and creating evidence based data to advocate for better access to social protections in humanitarian crises for sex workers. We also continue to work on improving the access to health services by introducing monitoring and evaluation community led systems and community led budget advocacy in a few pilot countries. Of course, our main advocacy goal, which intersects all the actions and activities that we will implement, is meaningful involvement of sex workers in all the decision making processes on local, national and regional level. This refers to programing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, dialogues, consultations etc.

How important in your opinion are efforts for international cooperation in advocacy activities on effectiveness of advocacy for decriminalization of sex work on the local level?

Collaborations, networking and joint platforms are very important for successful advocacy on any level. Through international cooperation we share experiences, learn from other countries/groups, get access to data and evidence which help to shape arguments on local level, we mobilize support when needed. Also, the movements which oppose decriminalization in concrete country, are not only locally driven movements. They also bring influences and articulations which are regionally or globally led, so in order to prepare and defend our stance, we should also organize and cooperate beyond local borders.

What is your position about continuous attempts of the governments in different countries to implement various versions of the Nordic Model of the partial criminalization of sex work?

We oppose any model which harms sex workers and increases their vulnerability toward violence, safety and health. There is already enough evidence that Nordic Model of criminalization of clients is harmful model, there are enough community consultations held resulting in opposition of this model, so our position is very clear. We oppose any model which criminalize or push underground sex work, and we support full decriminalization of sex work as a model which so far has proven to protect the rights, safety and health of sex workers.

What would you like to wish the activists of CO “Legalife–Ukraine” and the activists of sex work decriminalization in Ukraine in general in the year 2022?

We wish to all of the amazing activists in the Legalife-Ukraine to stay wise, patient, strong, resilient and smart as you all have already proven to be in so many situations, and we wish you to see sex work fully decriminalized in Ukraine very soon. We stand with you all the way.

But above all, we wish you to stay safe and healthy in this challenging upcoming year 2022.

In Solidarity,

SWAN – Sex Workers Rights Advocacy Network in Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia