18/07/2013 11:19 BST | Updated 16/09/2013 06:12 BST

Stabbed to Death by Stigma

On July the 19th protests will be held around the globe against the violent abuse and murder of sex workers. Targeting the Swedish and Turkish embassies, they're being held in memory of murdered sex workers, Petite Jasmine and Dora Ozer.

Swedish mother of two, Petite Jasmine was stabbed to death by her ex-husband during a custodial visit on the 11th of July. Having been deemed an unfit mother due to her choice of profession, Petite Jasmine had lost custody of their children to their father, in spite of his record of violence towards her.

Despite being the poster nation for sexual equality, Sweden's laws on sex work and attitudes towards it are woefully patriarchal. The purchase of sex is illegal and the prevailing view is that sex work is a form of self-harm and women who choose to work in the sex industry are victims without agency or reason. The call by sex workers for "rights not rescue" has consistently been ignored by authorities that would prefer to remove women from the sex industry, offering them no economic alternative, than address the issues for those working within it.

The resulting stigma pervades Swedish culture to the point that decisions such as that regarding the custody of Petite Jasmine's children are based upon it. Had Petite Jasmine left the sex industry to appease the social services, she might be safe with her children now. However, she chose to stay and her children are in foster care while their father awaits trial for her murder.

Dora Ozer was a Turkish transgender sex worker, murdered by a client on the 9th of July, the latest in a string of murders of transgender people in Turkey in the past five years.

Under Turkish law prostitution is legal if carried out in a regulated brothel and by registered sex workers, but many are being closed down by local governments keener to appeal to a moral majority than to consider the safety of those working in the sex industry. This forces sex workers out of the comparative safety of brothels and onto the streets.

The stigma faced by transgender people in Turkey is such that many can find work only in the sex industry. Here they are forced to work illegally due to regulations that state that only women can register as sex workers. This leaves them unable to work in brothels and, therefore, at greater risk of attack.

Dora Ozer chose to work in the sex industry, but she didn't choose the conditions under which she did so. As they were for Petite Jasmine and the hundreds of thousands of sex workers like them, those were determined by a state and society wilfully blind to her rights.

For details on the protests, go to