Sex workers must be heard to regulate their activities

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The participation of sex workers in the creation of laws that defend the activity in Portugal was defended today to Lusa, in Porto, by the spokesperson of the March 8 Network, Catarina Barbosa.

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Feminist Strike and the International Women’s Day March, the activist explained one of the main points of the meeting, which brought together around 200 people at Praça dos Poveiros and then moved on to Praça D. João I.

“We want all the policies towards them to be made with them and not [by] men who are in the government and even women in the same government who have never been in their situation. There are many different stories among sex workers, some are there by choice and some are not. We want them to have the right to leave if they want to and to stay if they want to. But with policies that are made in the community. We want the Parliament to hear them, without judgment, without all the insults that we usually hear,” said Catarina Barbosa.

Among the demands heard today were an end to precarious work, equal pay for equal work, across-the-board wage increases in line with inflation, and a freeze on fuel, basic goods and housing prices.

More LGBT+ training for health professionals, an end to suspended sentences and impunity for aggressors and greater use of deportation and detention measures, the existence of support offices to report harassment in educational institutions and workplaces, and the value of public schools that guarantee quality education and are committed to the political agendas of equality, sustainability and human rights, in short, “true and effective emancipation,” he argued.

The activist recognized progress when “looking at history as a whole,” but recalled “setbacks and things that seem to be moving forward in reality don’t, like the issue of abortion, which was legalized in Portugal a few years ago and there are still public clinics that deny women abortions,” pointing the finger at “health centers and hospitals that say this is not the place for abortion.

Woman with tied hands on brick wall background

“We have achieved rights, but there are growing political forces that question our rights, as well as those of LGBT+ people, we have to fight every day to gain our rights and not lose the ones we already have,” he said.

Sociologist João Teixeira Lopes, who was present at the concentration, gave Lusa a summary of the situation of women in Portugal, classifying it as “the result of a positive evolution, but still slow, insufficient and unfinished”.

“If we look at Portuguese society today, we will see that more doors are open to women, but that the wage gap is still large, that the burden of domestic work is still enormous, and that caring for children and the elderly is still almost exclusively a woman’s job, which is very much to the disadvantage of women,” the university professor pointed out.

In this context, João Teixeira Lopes continued, “there is a resurgence of machismo and hatred of women”, something that “we thought had been overcome forever, and that is a warning […] because there is a regression in violence against women, in hatred, in an extremism that unfortunately is flourishing.

“We cannot fail to identify and criticize all the discourses of exclusion, of hatred, of domination, and we know that in a society that is still patriarchal and sexist, some men have a role that deserves to be questioned, challenged and criticized,” she continued.

When asked if almost half a century of democracy in Portugal was not enough to give women equality in society, João Teixeira Lopes replied: “Democracy has played its role, but Portugal has this characteristic: we have made changes, some even very fast, we have integrated women into the labour market and education much faster than some countries, but our modernity is not complete, it needs to be constantly modernized, more dense, more inclusive and more complete.

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