Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Sex Industry Workers

This project is based on our findings from our project Developing Capacity for Change funded by Vancity Community Foundation in which we collaborated with 20 sex workers involved in on and off street sex work. We captured their experiences within existing off-street venues and found that in no circumstances were the workers themselves involved in management, operations or marketing.

Additionally, there was little if any orientation to the work or environment. This includes no support for acquisition of health and safety skills or de-escalation to minimize situational violence. Further, workers had experienced extortion and were subject to an arbitrary system of fines as well as violations of labor standards and human rights.

Sex workers have made the distinction between ‘sex work’ and other working conditions where labor is forced or extracted from workers.

Sex workers would like the opportunity to collectively manage their own work spaces and collaborate on all aspects of their business including price-setting, marketing and access to the benefits of employment i.e. group medical benefits, thus legitimizing sex work as work.

The prohibition of sex work as work keeps the industry underground; creates conditions of violence and extortion; causes survival sex, forced involvement and the exploitation of youth in addition to social isolation and predation.

This social isolation and lack of support for the acquisition of the skills necessary to work safely is seen as one of the greatest contributing factors of harm to sex workers in particular as they enter the trade and are at their most vulnerable.

Sex workers agreed that a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the trade could significantly affect the safety of ALL sex industry workers and provide vital information on a variety of issues.

Occupational health and safety guidelines will be developed among nine stakeholder groups: urban sex workers on and off street; rural sex workers on and off street, exotic dancers, porn / webcam, male hustlers, transgendered workers, and business owners.

Based on review of materials and guidelines, develop broad based sections for focus group inquiry based on list of 10 from coop that includes: Safe sex practices, confrontation management, hygiene, empowerment, legal rights and information, support groups and resources, code of conduct, wellness, work options, woks safe tips.

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