The second Bangladesh National Conference on Sex Worker Rights was held on Sunday at Blue Moon restaurant in the capital's Khilgaon.
Centred around the theme "Collective Action for Sex Workers' Rights", the conference served as a platform to unite Bangladeshi sex workers and allies to a common vision and strategy for collective actions to end violence against sex workers (VASW) and to protect their labour rights in Bangladesh.
For the two-day long conference, participants built a shared understanding of the state of sex worker rights in Bangladesh, build strategies to challenge legal repression, stigma, discrimination and violence against sex workers and their families, and create organising strategies to develop a sex worker union in Bangladesh.
Sex workers from across Bangladesh, representatives from sex worker-led organisations and regional sex worker rights organisations, along with key academics and activists joined the conference.
The HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre (HARC) organised the first Bangladesh National Conference on Sex Worker Human Rights and Community Empowerment in 2017. The inaugural conference served as a vehicle to educate Bangladeshi sex workers of their human rights and empower the community to develop strategies for the protection against violence.
The conference succeeded in building a cohort of community experts on the human rights of sex workers in empowering community leaders to demand meaningful involvement of sex workers in all sex worker programmes in Bangladesh, and empowering sex worker activists to leverage their voices at the national, regional and global level.
In 2019, in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW), the HARC participated in Safety first, a program designed to reduce VASW through legal education, community empowerment, and skills development.
Building upon these pivotal moments that have grown the movement for sex worker rights in Bangladesh, the HARC hosts Bangladesh's second nation-wide conference to end VASW and organise collective actions to protect and promote sex workers' labour rights.
The goal of this conference is to build a collective understanding of the current state of sex worker rights in Bangladesh and create a platform for sex workers to develop strategic advocacy priorities for the upcoming years. Through panel discussions and facilitated dialogue, conference participants develop strategies to combat VASW and create a strategic plan to unionise sex workers in Bangladesh.
110 sex workers have participated in the 2020 Bangladesh National Conference. The participants came from organisations led by sex-workers in Dhaka and across Bangladesh. Mainly, hotel, residence and street-based sex workers attend the conference. The APNSW provide technical support for this conference. Habib Rahman, the APNSW program manager, serves as the main facilitator and resource person.