On the 8th of April two members of Zagreb Pride attended the conference ‘Models of regulation of prostitution and practices’ organised by the Ivo Pilar Institute for Social Sciences and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Citizenship and Migration, to get some insight into this topic, and with the hope of gathering some useful information for our research.
Sex work has so far not been properly addressed in the Croatian public. Its representation in the media has only been sensationalistic and moralising, with very little consideration for the real problems and needs of the sex workers.
The first part of the conference was dedicated to the discussion about the best model of legal regulation of sex work, and two models were taken into consideration: the Swedish – which criminalizes the client, and the New Zealand model – which decriminalised sex work in order to protect the workers’ human rights. In Croatia, this area is regulated by three acts – Misdemeanors against Public Peace and Order, the Criminal code, and the Misdemeanor Act. The Misdemeanors against Public Peace and Order criminalizes all the persons involved, while the Criminal code and the Misdemeanor Act criminalize helping, solicitation and the organisation of the activity. In 2012, Misdemeanor against Public Peace and Order Bill criminalised the clients, but did not decriminalise the sex workers. Opinions about which new model of regulation should be applied in Croatia were opposing, but all participants agreed that the sex workers should be decriminalised in order to build a more efficient support system for them.
In the second part of the conference, participants strived to raise awareness about the risks, victimization and discrimination in the legal system that sex work includes, as well as the practical and ethical problems of providing support for the sex workers. The present researchers, a sex worker and law experts all appealed for more research about the needs of the workers and their active inclusion in research as well as changing of the regulation, and the media representation of sex work.
During the discussion with the audience, the question of gay men and transwomen sex workers was raised. The resarchers reported that they know about the existence of LGBT sex workers in Zagreb, but do not have an outreach. Since this group of workers experiences double discrimination, it is very hard to establish a trust-based relationship with them – they explained. Consequently, as we presupposed, the task of finding respondents for our research will be very challenging.