The NSWP was established as an informal alliance in 1990 by a group of sex worker rights activists working within sex work projects around the world. Over the years, NSWP has conducted activities in partnership with other organisations, and the principle of the participation of sex workers in policy and programme development has been accepted at many levels. Despite lacking resources and recognition, the NSWP has influenced policy and built leadership among sex workers and facilitated the development of regional and national networks of sex workers and sex work projects. Significantly, NSWP participation in the global response to HIV/AIDS was largely responsible for the term 'sex worker' replacing 'prostitute'. More than mere political correctness, this shift in language had the important effect of moving global understandings of sex work toward a labour framework which signposts solutions to many of the problems faced by sex workers. It also questions the stigma of sex work and represents greater recognition of sex workers as rights bearers, with the capacity to make a difference. As a result of NSWP advocacy, female, male and transgender sex workers have presented the case for protection of their human rights at international forums such as international and regional conferences on AIDS, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995, UNGASS, the UNAIDS Programme Co-ordinating Board and the Global Fund consultations. The NSWP successfully lobbied for wording of the UN convention against trafficking in persons (the Palermo Protocol) to ensure that trafficking is defined as including force or coercion. NSWP, along with its regional networks, was also successful in urging UNAIDS to reconsider its 2007 policy guidelines on HIV and sex work.
In addition, the NSWP, through its member organisations, published Making Sex Work Safe and a regular journal (Research for Sex Work); maintains global and regional listservs; and manages a website containing some of the most influential and important work on HIV and sex work. The NSWP’s work has been widely acknowledged and NSWP regional networks and members have received various awards.
Following an organisational review completed in 2007, which recommended the NSWP formalise its membership structure, becoming a network of organisations (rather than individuals) and establishing a secretariat in the global north, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) registered as a not-for-profit private company limited by guarantee, with its registered office in Scotland, in October 2008.
The Global Network of Sex Work Projects exists to uphold the voice of sex workers globally and connect regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male and transgender sex workers. It advocates for rights based health and social services, freedom from abuse and discrimination, and self determination for sex workers.
NSWP members are united by common core beliefs and values and are committed to:
- Acceptance of sex work as work
- Opposition to all forms of criminalisation of sex work (including sex workers, clients, management and others related to sex workers)
- Support for self-organisation and self-determination of sex workers
NSWP is led by sex workers; member organisations are therefore expected to be sex worker-led and to ensure the meaningful participation of sex workers in every level of their organisation. Regions are expected to ensure the voices of female, male and transgender sex workers are heard within their region as well as giving voice to sex workers living with HIV and those using drugs.
Additionally all members must be committed to challenging stigma and discrimination, to defending human rights, to challenging policies and practices that negatively affect the lives and health of sex workers, and to promoting rights based services and policies.
The NSWP aims are to:
- provide practical information and opportunities for information sharing among organisations and projects which provide services to men, women, and transsexuals who work in the sex industry.
- raise awareness of the health and welfare needs of sex workers.
- advocate at regional and global level for policies and action, which further the human rights of sex workers. These rights include the right to health and a safe working environment free from abuse, violence, and discrimination.
- develop and maintain links between service providers, sex worker organisations and relevant international institutions and agencies.
- facilitate opportunities for the voices of sex workers to be heard in relevant international forums.
The NSWP conducts a mix of pro-active and re-active policy advocacy to support human rights and evidence based approaches to female, male and transgendered sex workers and strengthening sex worker communities. The work is arranged around:
a) Communications and advocacy. Information relevant to sex workers human rights and health is not sufficiently accessible, particularly for those who do not read English. The NSWP summarises, translates and distributes relevant information to it members and beyond. This is particularly important for places where there are no organised sex workers groups or rights based sex work programmes. Five languages have currently been prioritised - Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. NSWP advocacy is supported by policy analysis, research and consultation with members.
b) Building Capacity and Solidarity - Training and skills building for and among sex worker organisations and leaders is achieved by developing and providing tools, training, space and support on issues such as human rights, health interventions, law and policy, ethics and technologies.