Since 2007, Tactical Technology Collective has worked with advocacy groups to highlight and improve the rights of sex workers and eliminate mistreatment.  Serious and systematic violence against sex workers is widespread throughout the world, perpetrated by police, the government and criminal gangs as well as clients.  Most sex workers are marginalised, criminalised and living in poverty which allows this mistreament to continue without fear of repercussion for the perpetrators.

Documenting evidence of violence and abuse is an important step in combating injustice and Tactical Tech have been working with groups in South and South East Asia to see how digital technology is being used to document and broadcast information about the mistreatment of sex workers. Read more about Tactical Tech’s project here.

Among the participants of Tactical Tech’s Info Activism camp in Bangalore 2009 was Aliya Rakhmetova, Project Coordinator at SWAN (Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network). SWAN is a Hungarian based transnational network of CSO’s supporting sex workers, fighting to change policy and end discrimination in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  Aliya also attended Tactical Tech workshops focused on supporting sex worker movement building and organised two screenings of 10 Tactics.  You can read the report of the screening as part of Witness’ Video Advocacy Institute here.

Aliya says, “Most sex workers are women, but all sex workers (female, male, transgender) are vulnerable to violence. Human rights abuses start from the police, to health administrators and institutions, to journalists.”Sharing information and encouraging conversation around these issues is a key focus of SWAN’s work and Aliya wants to make better use of technology to enhance and improve this discourse.   Aliya worked on the Russian translation of 10 Tactics and feels it is important that resources are available in a choice of languages because working across multi-lingual communities can be a barrier to communication and training.Aliya also liked the idea of video advocacy; she read Tactical Tech’sVisualising Information for Advocacy’ guide and used part of NGO-in-a-box for her first foray into video editing.  The results can soon be seen on Swan’s website.

Aliya said, “ is a really strong way of persuading people or getting a message across to those who don’t know much about the topic or see it only from one angle. There’s an opportunity for sex workers to actually represent themselves and have a voice when they’re not allowed to be somewhere physically. Also there is big potential to collect video evidence of police abuse. We are already thinking of making a series of short advocacy videos [to support this].”

10 Tactics also encouraged Aliya to address the issue of security, “We’re going to have an internal discussion about what it takes to encourage the community to use more secure ways of exchanging information as opposed to just the simplest ways.”  Aliya says that among the target group, use of technology is improving, “Five years ago, not many people in the former Soviet Union had cell phones. Now almost everybody does; even an old one. So there is a big potential to use mobile phones for human rights activism. What is needed is for more awareness of what the resources are, and training so people can use them to the maximum.”

Earlier this year, three SWAN members (from Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Russia) prepared short advocacy videos about sex workers' issues in their countries and those videos were screened at the International AIDS conference at the Human Rights Networking Zone in July 2010. They will be available soon on SWAN website.