Fighting for Sex Workers’ Equal Rights

For many decades, sex workers have been facing global abuse as well as discrimination. The majority lives and works outside the law due to the criminalization of sex work. That gives rise to countless problems in terms of human rights violations. Moreover, for sex workers, daily life can be incredibly challenging due to sexual exploitation as well as health and housing issues. 

So what is the world doing to combat these problems and protect sex workers? Has fighting for sex workers’ equal rights been effective? What are some examples of sex worker advocates and initiatives that have managed to make some progress? Find out in this article!

The Problems That Sex Workers Face

Firstly, sex workers are primarily those who work in prostitution. However, the term is much broader. It can often include all types of sex workers, including adult industry performers, webcam models, exotic dancers, phone operators, and others. 

Generally, a sex worker is anyone who offers sex-related services in exchange for money. When it comes to sex workers’ rights, it’s a complicated and sensitive subject that has been debated for years. The issues are often linked to women’s rights. However, male as well as non-binary workers also face many problems while providing their services. 

In 2001, prostitutes from across the globe took a stand for their rights. They organized a collective protest in Venice, Italy, with red umbrellas as their symbol. The umbrellas became the universal symbol of the sex workers’ rights movement. It was a pivotal event as it raised awareness of an important topic that was avoided globally for decades. However, nearly two decades after the march, sex workers’ liberties are still facing an uncertain future. It’s a subject that involves local and international law, human rights, the economy, ethics, and more. 

Risk Factors

Even in countries that have legalized prostitution and similar, the workers still face many problems. Across the board, they are marginalized and condemned. Discrimination can even prevent these workers from seeking legal help. All the while, they are always put at risk while on duty. Refused payments, as well as abuse by clients or employees, are significant issues.

Since the law doesn’t protect most of the workers, they are left to their own devices. The lack of safety can result in dangerous issues. Commonly, this includes physical violence (rape or beatings), human trafficking, and even underage prostitution. Those are just some issues that sex workers face daily. And countless other things can put sex workers in danger.

How Much Do Sex Workers Earn on Average?

The answer to this question depends on several variables. These include location, types of services, time, pre-expenses, gender, and more. Most often, the cost increases depending on the type of sex (i.e., anal, BDSM domination, luxury escorts, etc.). 

In places where this type of work is legal, for example, Nevada, the earnings are quite high. On average, elite prostitutes can make six-figure earnings in Nevada. That primarily applies to luxury escorting services that can bring in up to $10,000 on a daily basis.

However, for mid-range sexual services, the figures can be much lower. Across the United States, illegal workers could charge amounts of around $100 or $400 and more for an intimate encounter. If that is the case, those types of workers could average $50,000 to approximately $70,000 annually. Conversely, in the U.K., the average income is around $30,000 per year, while the majority earns much less. Some estimates claim that the annual figures are about $20,000. 

Key Facts

In terms of an annual total, people across the globe spend more than $180 billion on prostitution and sexual encounters. Plus, there are nearly 14 million prostitutes on the planet. Additionally, the biggest prostitution hotspots are China and India. Both contain over 1.3 billion workers. 

Overall, prostitution is cheapest in the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, India, Germany, as well as South Korea. In these countries, the rates range between $1 and $100 per session. The lower prices also cause a rise in discrimination and human rights violations. It also enables sex trafficking. Finally, the earnings will also vary depending on the type of service (prostitution, webcam sex, stripping, etc.).

Health Risk of Sex Workers

For day and night shifts, prostitutes will usually service around 10–20 clients. That causes various health concerns and means that sex workers always have to be on alert. It’s necessary to invest part of their average earnings into proper health care and regular checkups. However, even with regular testing, sex workers face constant health risks.

The Main Issues

Overall, the most common risks are STIs and HIV. While many female workers always use condoms during their encounters, their clients could refuse to use protection. That applies to unprotected penetration as well as oral sex. In extreme cases, some could become violent. Even with safe sex practices, thousands of workers are jeopardized. Many become victims of drug abuse as a way of coping during sex exchange. Quite often, they might even spend all their funds on drugs. 

In most cases, STIs can result in infertility or cervix cancer. In the case of herpes or chlamydia, the problems could intensify. Then, the workers could risk serious HIV infections. What’s more, younger women or underage prostitutes are at higher risk. Their underdeveloped genitals and bodies are more susceptible to damage. 

What’s more, sex workers are often victims of health concerns simply because they cannot find proper care. Services and information may not always be available due to prejudice. For instance, an escort could get treated badly at a public health clinic because of their work. Medical staff could outright refuse to help them. And to further complicate this problem, many illegal sex workers do not have the option of health care. Additionally, they tend to avoid police officers and help from the authorities.

Different Organizations That Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights

There are several local and international organizations that are focused on providing aid for sex workers. 

The NSWP, aka Global Network of Sex Work Projects, has been operating for over 30 years, and sex workers created it. In general, the NWSP conducts policies that support their rights. It also strives to help the workers’ communities. Overall, this organization is perhaps the most distinguished when it comes to spreading awareness globally. It is responsible for the recognition of sex workers’ liberties. 

Others like WHO, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and ILO have also attempted to enforce policies. Some are trying to protect the health and well-being of employees. Others are on a mission to decriminalize sex work. 

Fortunately, there are hundreds of initiatives by similar organizations worldwide. Nevertheless, this topic is still controversial. The workers still come across inhumane treatment, health problems, and discrimination every day. 

Final Thoughts

Sex workers’ rights are a severe and controversial issue. Hopefully, with time and effort, these workers will gain the rights and benefits that they deserve. If you are looking for a way to help in your local community or are a sex worker in need, simply look up “human rights organizations for sex workers near me” or similar terms online. You could find an initiative that may be able to help!