December 17 is observed annually by sex workers, human rights defenders, and supporters as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

As the first Trans LGBIQ and sex worker community-based organization in the region, the Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO calls today to come together, organize against stigma and discrimination, and voice the stories of sex workers who have been subjected to violence. The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers draws attention to hate crimes against sex workers around the world, as well as the need to end social stigma and discrimination. Regardless of these stereotypes and prejudices, sex work is work, and sex workers are part of every community. According to statistics, cisgender and transgender women who engage in sex work are the most frequently abused compared to cisgender male sex workers, and the level of violence is especially high against street sex workers.

As in many countries of the world, sex work is not legalized in the Republic of Armenia and is considered an administrative offense. The problems of sex workers are generally not raised in the media or presented from the point of view of power structures, sex workers face the dangers of poverty, violence, and even murder. Due to the illegality of sex work, sex workers often have to meet clients in isolated places where detection by the police is unlikely, but often this very isolation makes them more vulnerable to assault, robbery, and rape by clients.

Transgender women are the most frequently subjected to violence, which is related not only to factors related to sex work but also to transphobia, social stigma, high unemployment, and lack of education or career opportunities, which often forces them to engage in sex work.

Every year, Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO documents many cases of violence against sex workers, from which we single out several alarming examples that occurred in 2023:

  • On the night of March 13 of this year, more than ten masked persons with clubs in their hands attacked a trans sex worker on the street and severely beat her. In this case, the lawyer of the Right Side NGO is involved as a defender of the victim’s rights. At the moment, the police state that it is not possible to reveal the identity of the perpetrators, even though the trans woman stated that she managed to see the faces of some of the attackers, and there were also many cameras in the area, and by studying their videos, it is possible to identify the perpetrators of violence.
  • On June 11, the client and his friend beat up a trans sex worker and then stole her phones and money at knifepoint. On July 27 of this year, the police searched the apartment of the same trans woman on suspicion of drug possession and confiscated all the money kept in the house. The legal team of Right Side NGO has been involved in both cases, and at the moment, the trans woman’s involvement in illegal drug trafficking has been denied, the confiscated money has been returned to her, and the person who beat her has been arrested.
  • On August 20, Adriana, a transgender sex worker, was brutally killed and burned in her apartment. The legal teams of Right Side NGO and Pink Human Rights Defender NGO are involved in this case, the suspect has been arrested, and the preliminary investigation is underway.

These are just a few examples of reported cases. Still, in many more cases, victims remain silent because sex workers, especially Trans and LGBIQ sex workers, do not trust the Police as they are also regularly discriminated against and their cases are not handled properly. Therefore, human rights organizations are required to redouble their efforts and continue their work to ensure the equality of rights, mental and physical health, and well-being of sex workers.

December 17, 2023  Armenia, Yerevan

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