Sex workers in Turkey

The Topic of Sex Work: Still a Breaking Point

Source: Umut Güner, “Seks İşçiliği Meselesi, Hala Bir Kırılma Noktası,” (“The Topic of Sex Work: Still a Breaking Point,”), 15 January 2014, 

The People’s Democracy Party, Şişli Municipal Council pre-candidate Şevval Kılıç evaluated the topic of sex workers’ demands in regards to their profession, health and security problems, and the importance of creating employment opportunities for the trans community.


What kind of problems are sex workers experiencing in Turkey? In other words, can you please describe the concept of “Sex workers’ civil rights issues”?

Even though sex work looks like it is regulated in our legal system, the majority of sex workers fall outside the registered sex work industry and this subgroup is left open to illicitness and exploitation. The law, instead of protecting sex workers from exploitation and mistreatment, criminalizes them. As a result, discrimination against sex workers is being fostered. I think the only way that sex workers can benefit from democratic rights is if sex work is considered as a legitimate form of employment. The increasing trend in religious conservatism is another threat, because sex outside of marriage is considered adultery according to [Islamic] religion, and this especially angers the conservatives. Although they cannot call this adultery as easily, they oppose sex work as it is against morals or they consider all sex workers as victims. This negative image that is formed around sex work blocks both the recognition of sex work as a form of employment and the process of seeking civil rights. Even amongst many leftist, feminist, rights and labor groups, the topic of sex work is still a breaking point.


December 17, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers: “You Cannot Kill Me for Being a Sex Worker”

Source: Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, “17 Aralık Seks İşçilerine Yönelik Şiddetle Mücadele Günü: “Seks İşçisiyim Diye Beni Öldüremezsin”,” (“December 17, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers: “You Cannot Kill Me for Being a Sex Worker”,”) Başka Haber

Today is December 17, the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Female, male, and trans sex workers are trying to continue their lives amidst violence in Turkey and across the world. Labeling, othering, social exclusion, discrimination, violence, and murder are the daily experiences for sex workers. Sex workers are imprisoned in the cycles of threats, sexual assault, extortion, physical assaults, and murder. Society does not oppose this situation and officials do not take preventative measures. Sex workers are left to die.

On the streets, sex workers are exposed to ill-treatment and torture by the police. They are pushed further into the streets and the center of violence through arbitrary fines. Police send gangs to attack sex workers.

Sex workers’ houses are raided and sealed. While being pushed out to work on the streets, sex workers experience all types of violence from customers, police, and gangs.

“Prostitution raids” are conducted daily, sex workers are revealed to the media, and forced into mandatory HIV testing. They are also lynched through lawsuits filed against them.

Every year, many sex workers are killed by their customers, gangs or their partners. The perpetrators are either not caught or if they are, their penalties are reduced due to various excuses or they are released. In this way, the State permits the killing of sex workers.

Brothels are closed and, with the closures, the workplaces of sex workers are taken away from them.  Therefore, sex workers are forced to work on the streets in extremely unsafe and risky places without any protection. They become the victims of economic violence,  by being pushed into insecurity and poverty.

Laws and policies that turn sex workers into criminals portray sex workers as “dishonorable,” “immoral,” “low,” and “against social values.” With this, social hatred towards sex workers multiplies.

Written and visual media deem sex work to be negative and present biased news based on information fed to them by the police. In this way, they victimize sex workers once more.

Sex workers from the elderly, HIV+, homeless, poor, disabled, and other vulnerable groups are not only subjected to all these rights violations but they also experience violence due to their special circumstances.

As long as violence against sex workers is not prevented, violence and hate crimes towards women will not cease. As long as the multitude of violence against sex workers does not end, the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases will continue to increase. As long as the government ignores the violence against sex workers, murders will not end and social peace will not be established.

The government must halt the closure of brothels; stop arbitrary fines using the Law of Misdemeanors; thoroughly investigate the ill-treatment and torture of sex workers by the police and punish the perpetrators; end penalty reductions for the perpetrators of murder and carry out effective investigations; cease “prostitution raids” against sex workers, which turn into a practice of lynching through the claim of ending prostitution; recognize sex work as a profession and eradicate all humiliating and discriminatory treatment against sex workers.

The physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence against sex workers must end. The rights of sex workers are human rights.

Regulations Leave Sex Workers Unprotected against HIV

Source: “Yasalar Seks İşçilerini HIV’e Karşı Korumasız Bırakıyor,” (“Regulations Leave Sex Workers Unprotected against HIV,”) Bianet, 02 December 2013,

On December 1st World AIDS Day, the Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association pointed out that sex workers are one of the important vulnerable groups that must be reached regarding HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The association has called on the government to form inexpensive, accessible and inclusive services which are suitable for the special needs of sex workers for protection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.


UN, Give Us Condoms!

Source: Meltem Özgenç, “BM bize prevervatif dağıt,” (“UN, Give Us Condoms!”) Hürriyet, 30 November 2013,

After the Ministry of Health terminated the distribution of free condoms, Turkey’s sex workers applied to the United Nations: Our Ministry does not give condoms, you should.

Prior to World AIDS Day on 1 December, some sex workers and non-governmental organizations applied to the United Nations with an interesting request. Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association submitted the application. Association president Buse Kılıçkaya stated that Turkey received a 3.9 million USD grant in 2006 from the Global Fund and distributed some of this money among relevant associations. Kılıçkaya says, “During that time we also received a lot of condoms. These were distributed to associations. At that time, many sex workers under the risk of contracting HIV felt more at ease.