Report on the Human Rights Impact of criminalization of sex work in Serbia:

The overall goal of the project “Law Above all and Court Practices” is to contribute to policies and practices which respect the human rights of both victims of human trafficking and sex workers in Serbia. The conflation of human trafficking and sex work leads to the development and implementation of laws and policies which negatively affect sex workers. At the same time, the implementation of anti-prostitution policies is an obstacle to successfully combating human trafficking. The criminalization and penalization of sex work provides an excellent basis for human rights abuses of sex workers all over the world. Through the creation and implementation of restrictive laws on sex work, governments in effect create a legitimate framework to control and punish sex workers. In order to better understand the consequences of the existing laws relating to sex work, the project team carried out an analysis of the judicial practice in regard to the prosecution of sex work and human trafficking under the Law on Public Peace and Order and the Criminal Code. The emphasis was put on potential failures of the system to identify and recognize victims of trafficking, as well as on the (dis)respect for the human rights of sex workers and trafficked persons. The effects of the judicial practice are analyzed from the perspective of both trafficking victims and sex workers.

The research was carried out with the help of the RighT Guide, a tool to assess the impact of antitrafficking laws and policies on the human rights of trafficked persons, sex workers and other groups affected.

A detailed study was made of cases related to sex work which had been processed by the Magistrates Court in Belgrade, as well as by the first instance and appellate courts in Serbia. In addition, the research involved interviews with victims of human trafficking who had been forced to engage in sex work, as well as interviews with individuals who were voluntarily engaged in sex work. We also conducted interviews with the judges of the Magistrates Court in Belgrade in order to cover all viewpoints on the problem of the (non)fulfillment of sex workers’ human rights and the distinction between consensual and forced sex work.

One particular success of the project was the active participation of the sex work community in Belgrade in the research. The research also increased the level of awareness of sex workers about the possibilities to exercise their human rights, which are guaranteed by the international conventions that Serbia ratified.

The outcomes of the project form the basis for a concerted advocacy of various NGOs to distinct between the concepts of human trafficking and sex work in the media, the law and judicial practice.

You find the report on our page with RighT Guide Assessments.

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