Hands Off!: reducing violence against sex workers

Hands Off!: reducing violence against sex workers


Hands Off aims to use police sensitization, rapid response methods and sex worker protection and resonse systems as intervention strategies. Also data gathering and litigation will be deployed to support sex workers who experienced violence. The programme has a strong capacity building component focusing on sex workers and sex worker-led organizations in the region. Research is carried out to obtain more evidence base on violence and sex work. Also lobby and advocacy activities will be carried out for law reform and policies and practices involving sex workers.

Program details

Time frame
30 November 2014 - 30 July 2019
€ 4,407,436
Active in
Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe


The programme aims to reduce violence against sex workers through (sustainable) prevention, care and support. The specific objectives include: 1) sex workers at individual level and community level are empowered and supported 2) (Potential) allies are strenghtened to respond to violence against sex workers 3) An enabling and supportive environment is created for sex workers' rights and 4) Capacity and knowledge to promote sex workers'rights are created at regional level.

Community groups



Sex workers face high levels of violence, stigma, discrimination and other human rights violations. Due to their position in society, sex workers are vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional violence from clients, police, the community and their intimate partners. This ranges from beatings, robbery and rape too being arrested for carrying condoms and being arbitrarily detained or bribed.

Violence is one of the most important factors affecting the vulnerability of sex workers to HIV/AIDS. Violence often causes inconsistent condoms use and stops sex workers from accessing necessary (legal) support and health care. It puts them in situations that make them considerably more vulnerable to HIV/Aids. Modelling estimates show that a reduction of almost 25% in HIV infections among sex workers may be achieved when physical or sexual violence is reduced.

People engaged in sex work in Southern Africa face high levels of violence, physical and sexual abuse. Sex work is presenty criminalized in all countries. Bylaws on public disorder, loitering and soliciting are used to prosecute sex workers. Sex workers who operate is settings where prostitution is criminalized face increased risk of violence and lack of acces to health care and the justice system. It leaves them vulnerable to abuse and increases their change of HIV infection. The region has the highest levels of HIV prevalence globally.


< 200,000 new HIV infections globally
Contributed within this program
Everyone living with HIV worldwide receives treatment
Contributed within this program

Projects within this programme

Hands Off! Sex Work South Africa SWEAT

Sex workers who operate in settings where sex work is criminalised face increase...

Hands Off! Sex Work Southern Africa African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA)

Sex workers who operate in settings where sex work is criminalised face increase...

Hands Off!: reducing violence against sex workers

This programme is part of Hands Off!: reducing violence against sex workers

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