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In this article, we will explore in detail what exactly the new law entails, which allows sex workers to work based on official employment contracts. We’ll examine the rights and protections this step provides for sex workers and the obligations it places on employers.

We will also discuss how the law protects the safety of sex workers and helps them to work in fair and respectful conditions. Additionally, the article will address the further steps and challenges that sex workers and their supporters face with the implementation of the new regulations.

Before we dive into this exciting new legislation, let’s summarize the topics.

What happened in a brief?

Recently, on the morning of May 3, 2024, the Belgian Parliament made a crucial decision: they passed a new law regulating the employment rights of sex workers. The vote ended with 93 in favor, 33 abstentions, and zero against.

This decision is the result of two years of intense lobbying done jointly with organizations like Violett and Espace P. The new law marks the beginning of a new era in the legal recognition of sex work in Belgium.

Sex workers can now sign employment contracts, securing rights like pensions, health insurance, and maternity leave.

The law also protects the workplace and imposes strict requirements on employers.

This law’s essence holds crucial details that merit a deeper examination.

The new Belgian law enables sex workers to sign official employment contracts, a significant change for them. Until now, many worked as freelancers, which created uncertain situations, especially regarding insurance and benefits.

By signing an employment contract, sex workers now gain access to social security rights previously available only to other employees. This includes pensions, ensuring they have a regular income in their older age.

If they become unemployed, they can receive unemployment benefits while looking for a new job. Health insurance means they don’t have to worry about the costs of medical treatment if they get sick.

This legal change not only makes their work safer but also stabilizes other areas of their lives. It helps them live with dignity and peace, whether they face workplace issues, health problems, or life circumstances.

Workplace protection for sex workers in Belgium

Workplace protection and employer obligations

The new law not only strengthens the rights of sex workers but also imposes strict requirements on employers to ensure safe and fair working conditions.

First, employers must ensure that the workplace is safe for all sex workers. Each room must have an emergency button, and employers must provide mobile emergency devices for offsite services.

Additionally, employers must undergo a recognition process to verify their compliance with the rules set by the law. Authorities introduced this process to ensure that only businesses meeting certain safety and ethical criteria can operate.

Employers must also meet certain criminal background conditions. For example, they should not have previous convictions for sexual crimes, human trafficking, voyeurism, or other serious offenses.

Employers must assign a reference person to ensure sex workers’ rights and safety. Unions and support groups can inspect workplaces anytime.

Right and protection for sex workers

Rights and protection for sex workers

The new law pays special attention to strengthening the rights and protection of sex workers.

The new law extends the protection of sex workers by ensuring five fundamental freedoms:

First, sex workers enjoy five basic rights: they have the right to refuse a client, to refuse a certain sexual activity, to interrupt the activity at any time, and to decide how to perform it. Additionally, if they feel their safety is at risk, they have the right to refuse to work behind a window or to advertise.

Secondly, the law allows sex workers to terminate their employment contract at any time without having to pay compensation or serve a notice period. This means they can leave their job immediately following their decision. Moreover, if they voluntarily leave, they still retain their right to unemployment benefits, which ensures their financial security while they find new work. These rules together strengthen the independence and protection of sex workers in the workplace.

Additionally, under the new law, if a sex worker exercises the right to refuse more than ten times within six months, the sex worker or the employer can request the intervention of a government mediation service.

This regulation provides additional protection for sex workers, offering help if work conditions or employer expectations become unreasonable. The mediation service aims to clarify conflicts and mediate between parties, further strengthening the rights and safety of sex workers. This provision ensures that sex workers can exercise their rights not only formally but also in practice, without fear that workplace conflicts might lead to job loss or discriminatory treatment.

Identification and anonimity in the new law

Identification and anonymity

The new law also focuses on ensuring that the names and jobs of sex workers are not easily made public. Many sex workers worry that if details of their work become public, it could cause them problems when looking for other jobs or in everyday life.

The law allows sex workers to use vague contracts common in hospitality, thus blending their work with other hospitality roles.

This practice helps maintain the anonymity of sex workers, protecting them from social prejudice and possible discrimination. Thus, sex workers can feel safer and have more control over their careers and future opportunities.

Future challenges and measures

The new law has brought significant changes to the lives of sex workers, but lawmakers still face many challenges. The fundamental goal of the law is indeed to strengthen the rights of sex workers, such as ensuring workplace safety and social security benefits. However, the changes will not be smoothly implemented everywhere.

One area of concern is the development of local regulations. Cities can impose stricter safety and hygiene ordinances. Consequently, this could restrict sex work, undermining the law’s benefits.

Furthermore, decisions are pending on managing unregistered or undocumented sex workers.

Lawmakers must maintain a continuous dialogue with sex workers, experts, social oversight bodies, and local governments. This ongoing communication can help ensure that the laws work effectively in practice and truly support the rights of sex workers.

Conclusion

The new law represents a significant step forward in the protection of the rights of sex workers, as it ensures their workplace safety and social rights, such as pensions and health insurance. However, the successful implementation of the law requires further support and joint efforts from lawmakers, sex workers, and support organizations.

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