The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Sex Workers was established in 2003 to draw attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers. It is a day of remembrance for those who have been abused or murdered because of the conditions of their social marginalisation and the criminalization of their work.

The main demand of the Greek Association of People Living with HIV “Positive Voice” and Red Umbrella is the change of Law 2734/1999 on sex work, which is not realisting (not recognising, for example, that a large proportion of sex work now takes place online) and is considered incomplete and anachronistic. The current legal framework makes it extremely difficult to work legally in sex work, especially in Athens where the majority of brothels operate without licences, and leaves people providing sexual services unprotected, making them vulnerable to all forms of violence.

The mission of the Red Umbrella centers in Athens and Thessaloniki is to defend sex workers by fighting against the discrimination and exclusion they endure. Our centers have received dozens of complaints of abusive behaviour of multiple forms and have provided counselling, legal and psychosocial support services.

One of the forms of abuse often observed by sex workers is incidents of stealthing, which is defined as the non-consensual removal of a condom during sexual intercourse. In an effort to inform and raise awareness of this important issue, which leaves sex workers exposed, we have created a Facebook page.

As noted by the director of Red Umbrella Athens, Anna Kouroupou, on the occasion of the International Day: “Stigma and incomplete legislation have a large share of responsibility for the abuse and violation of fundamental human rights against sex workers. The memories of 2012 are still fresh. The stigmatisation and fragmentation of the lives of HIV-positive women have shown us how the will of the state reinforces illegality with such practices, increases stigma and favours traffickers and trafficking. 17 December is an occasion to remind her that their role is to protect sex workers through a legal framework of obligations and rights. Most importantly, our human rights. Law 2734/1999 must be revised according to the new standards of sex work, with the aim of defending workers and not only clients – as is the case now. Sex work is work and we demand the corresponding rights that every government owes us.”

During the event organised in June as part of the project “DANA: empowering sex workers”, which is implemented under the Active Citizens Fund project, implemented by Positive Voice, the revision of the sex work law was recognised as necessary by all representatives of the political parties involved. On the occasion of this global day, we invite you to watch the video of the workshop that will premiere on Saturday 17 December at 14.00 on the Positive Voice YouTube channel.

Defending sex workers – who are one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society – is a human rights issue and Positive Voice will continue to demand what is rightful and just.

The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 13.5 m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The program aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow.

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