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Sex workers

Personnes se prostituant attendant pour être reçues par MdM

Sex workers

20 000

sex workers in France

90%

of sex workers on the streets are foreign nationals

6

The mortality rate among sex workers is six times higher than the national average.

Background

Sex workers are extremely vulnerable. They face social isolation and problems with housing, their administrative status and health insurance. Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the stigmatisation and discrimination they experience.

Harmful legislation

Since the introduction of the Domestic Security Act in 2003, working conditions for sex workers have deteriorated. In order to work they hide and frequent more secluded locations and are therefore more isolated and exposed to violence. If they are migrants, they are also subject to crackdowns against foreign nationals and face the same problems as any migrant living in France in relation to access to healthcare and health coverage. A bill to intensify the fight against prostitution is currently being debated.

Everyday violence

Our teams report rising intolerance towards people offering commercial sexual services, in particular from residents. The number of municipal anti-prostitution bylaws is increasing. By isolating themselves these individuals become more vulnerable and further removed from healthcare facilities and access to rights. The accounts from people experiencing violence are getting worse: sexual coercion without a condom, physical violence, rape, kidnapping and death threats, police violence and sometimes even murder. The victims rarely report these crimes, as they have no confidence in police protection...

What we do

Since 1999, Doctors of the World teams have organised regular rounds in areas known for prostitution in Paris and Nantes and offer consultations at their centres. Sex workers thus have access to the preventive equipment they need for their occupational activities and to individually tailored medical and social consultations. We also offer them screening for sexually transmitted diseases (such as AIDS and hepatitis).

The language barrier

As much information as possible is translated into a number of different languages so that all sex workers are aware of their rights and of the risks linked to sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis and can be directed towards health centres. The Lotus Bus, staffed by several volunteers who speak Chinese, has been working with Chinese women in Paris since 2004.

Involving peer workers

The approach, expertise and skills of these workers are drawn from the experience of sex work. Their involvement facilitates the development of a relationship of trust and thus a better level of care for the sex workers and messages which are better adapted to real life.

Intervention location

France

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