This powerful research is proof that with the right support sex workers can conduct their own research and policy advocacy on topics that reflect their priorities. Se also Empowers video, Last Rescue in Siam.
‘Soon after we decided to do our research on anti trafficking in Thailand Empower was introduced to a human rights impact assessment tool that was developed in 2010 by the Netherlands human rights institution, Aim for Human Rights and the European anti-trafficking network La Strada International. The tool – The RighT Guide – provided us with an internationally recognized instrument to help us measure the human rights impact of anti-trafficking policy and practice.
Initially we imagined a small team of three or four women would make up the research team, undertaking interviews etc. working under the project name RATS-W. We thought the team would be comprised of two sex worker leaders, a legal advisor and someone with experience in research and documentation. However when we introduced the research idea at a project design and planning meeting of 90 sex workers held in Empower Nontaburi, it quickly became apparent that many more sex workers wanted to be directly involved. By the end of the research 206 Thai and migrant sex workers had become part of the RATS-W project; leading the research consultations, interviewing, giving expert testimony, investigating and undertaking the analysis and preliminary documentation. The 206 sex workers who worked on the project can be divided into 170 research partners; 36 research leaders coordinated by a research working team of four…. Our research partners in each centre had a wide range of relevant experiences. This included women who had been ‘rescued’ by mistake and detained for up to two years; women arrested and deported as a result of anti-trafficking raids; women who were currently in situations that fit the legal definition of human trafficking, if not the spirit; women who had been reluctant witnesses in trafficking court cases and women who really had been trafficked in the past…. A total of 30 women working in the sex industry were apprehended in these raids and faced the usual array of abuses and miscarriages of justice. Our research team and sex worker leaders from the areas involved documented the lived experience and impact on human rights of those who were involved in the raids and rescue. This process also included advocating for the rights of those apprehended as well as maintaining contact with the anti-trafficking NGO involved along with police, shelter staff and court officials. Empower also recorded the impact on families and supported them in their efforts to contact the women. The findings and evidence collected during this process have become a core part of our research.”