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Sex Workers in Turkey Organize

July 1, 2009

A cooperative effort by sex workers and activists in Turkey to unionize is making progress. The creation of a union would lead to an increase in the bargaining power of these workers in healthcare and safety issues. Prostitution is legal in most of Turkey, and registration is already optional, though only 126 of the estimated thousands of workers in Istanbul have done so.


Buse Kılıçkaya, an activist from Ankara-based Pembe Hayat, an LGBT organization, said in support of the measure,

“People should have the right to voluntarily chose to be a sex worker. One has to have sovereignty over his or her body.”

Despite the legality of prostitution in Turkey, life as a sex worker is still dangerous as it is across the world, and workers face potential discrimination and violence from customers and police. A union would allow a unified front to stand up to this discrimination, though it is far from a reality, as many sex workers are unable to support the measure publicly. According to Kılıçkaya, many of these individuals attempt to maintain anonymity in their work and so refuse to be identified in support of this cause.

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