You Must Know About Me: Rights Not Violence for Sex Workers in Macedonia
In Macedonia, as throughout the world, sex workers are pushed to the margins of society by a combination of prejudice, discrimination, and violence. Yet, the fact that a person sells sexual services cannot be used as justification for the denial of their fundamental rights, to which all human beings are entitled.
You Must Know About Me is a first-hand account of sex workers experiences and aspirations off and on the streets. While dealing with harassment and violence from clients, pimps, and the police, sex workers strive to counter hostile public attitudes by speaking out and fighting for their rights. The video calls for zero tolerance of violence against sex workers and the coordinated response of institutions to the actual needs of sex workers. In late 2009, HOPS and WITNESS finalized You Must Know About Me: Rights Not Violence for Sex Workers in Macedonia. The video is part of a campaign that targets law enforcement officials to reduce violence committed by police officers against sex workers, and to increase adequate response by the police when violence is committed by a third party.
Since the video’s release, it has been shown in outreach and training sessions with diverse audiences including police authorities and police academy students, members of the judiciary, media, civil society, and the sex worker community. The video was widely distributed throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and screened at advocacy events in South Africa, Thailand, England and eight other countries.
As a result, HOPS reports that there has been:
- A decrease in incidents of police violence against sex workers as a consequence of increased monitoring by relevant police structures and NGOs
- An increase in the reporting of violence and the initiation of court cases by sex workers
- Increased discussion and mobilization to promote the rights of marginalized communities among the general public, including sex workers
- More respectful portrayal of sex workers in Macedonian media
Building on the successes of this partnership, WITNESS continued collaborating with HOPS and the Macedonian Harm Reduction Network’s member organizations on a video campaign to fight stigma and discrimination against a broad range of communities. As the first step, WITNESS traveled to Macedonia in late June 2010 to provide advocacy and post-production training to facilitate establishment of a Macedonian Video Advocacy Network Team. The team served as a focal point in developing and implementing video advocacy strategies aimed at challenging a newly adopted Macedonian Anti-Discrimination Law, galvanizing civil society and mobilizing affected communities to demand legal and policy amendments.