Caribbean sex workers urge end to discriminatory treatment in region

The Caribbean Sex Workers Coalition (CSWC), a regional collective of sex worker-led civil society organisations and sex worker advocates, is calling on Caribbean states to end discrimination against sex workers, recognise transgender people and create laws to protect them from stigma and discrimination.

This is according to the “Montego Bay Declaration” issued by the CSWC following the conclusion of its annual general meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica from August 28 to August 30.

The declaration calls for the respect and protection of both human and constitutional rights and the creation of legislation, policies and practices which protect these human rights.

“End all discriminatory legal, social and religious practices that target sex workers, their families, partners, colleagues, clients and anyone associated,” the declaration urges Caribbean states.

It also calls for the respect of sex workers’ right to freedom of movement and migration and for the provision of non-discriminatory health and social services as well as access to justice, including access to law enforcement officers and police services that are free of stigma and discrimination. To this end, it urged that the governments ensure the ministries of Health, the National AIDS Programmes, and other agencies recognise the different sub-populations of sex workers and design programmes that respond to their needs. They are also seeking to have them partner with and train health care workers to effectively provide services for sex workers, including unconventional health services, such as mobile clinics and to ensure that sex workers are not subjected to compulsory HIV testing by employers.

The declaration also demands recognition for transgender people and the creation of laws which protect them from stigma and discrimination, violence and hate crimes.  “Ensure transgender people can choose to have identity cards and other documentation which reflects their gender identity and expression,” it says.

Further, the declaration urged that trafficking in persons not be conflated with sex work.

The declaration recognises that sex work is work and must be recognised and treated as such en par with other professions where labour conditions are just. It says selling sex should not be a crime and that sex workers have the same human rights and duties as all other people, and these should be respected at all times.

“We value ourselves like everyone else in society, with equal rights and justice,” it says. “Our civil rights are being undermined, we are being victimised and living with abuse from the people who are supposed to help us; we have a right to equal opportunity to work, to healthcare, to education, and to food and shelter, and retirement benefits.”

The declaration also affirms respect to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and gender equality as human rights.

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