NSWP is saddened and angry at the news of the tragic death of Dora Özer in Turkey on the 9th of July. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
On Tuesday 9th July 2013, Dora, a transgender sex worker in Turkey was brutally murdered. Dora was stabbed by a person posing as a client in Kusadase, Aydin, which has left friends, activists and fellow workers saddened and angry. In the last five years, 31 murders of trans sex workers have been reported, with the murder of Dora bringing this number to 32. However this number is likely to be much higher since we know that much of the violence perpetuated against sex workers goes under-reported, due to the reluctance of sex workers to report violence in contexts where they are criminalised and face extreme stigma.
Stigma and discrimination against trans women in Turkey plays out in numerous ways, including the exclusion of trans from education and employment sectors. Many trans women begin sex work as a direct cause of this stigma and discrimination and resulting exclusion from other employment options, and for others, this stigma is fuelled through involvement in sex work. Harassment by police is commonplace, with trans sex workers often complaining of abuse at the hands of police and other authorities. Turkey’s record on human rights remains dubious, however what is clear is that particular minorities are being targeted for acts of violence by those knowing that this can be carried out with little repercussion – carried out with impunity. The laws around sex work in Turkey have created a two-tiered system of criminalisation, in which registered sex workers can work from brothels (although these are being increasingly shut down to satisfy public discontent) and unregistered sex workers must work in high-risk environments that leaves them particularly vulnerable to violence. Under this system, sex workers are distanced from law protection authorities and also from health services. Offered little protection from the law, trans sex workers in Turkey are seen as less worthy of human rights and these are regularly breached – often at the hands of authorities themselves. For trans sex workers in particular, the levels of violence perpetuated against them have soared in recent years.
The tragic death of Dora is symbolic of the multiple layers of violence and stigma that trans sex workers face.
Transphobia and whorephobia work together in putting trans sex workers at increased risk of violence, lacking mechanisms to secure justice and leaving perpetrators often able to commit this violence with state endorsed impunity. The regular violations of the rights of sex workers in Turkey must be addressed, recognising that stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the state leads to violence and in this awful case, led to murder. In the week that Dora was murdered, another sex worker in Sweden was murdered at the hands of her ex-husband. There two horrendous acts of violence have spurred new levels of rage amongst fellow sex workers and other activists, who have now organised over 15 protests in over 10 cities this Friday 19th July to stand together and demand justice for the murders of Dora and Jasmine. These protests will also demand that governments recognise the stigma and discrimination attached to and perpetuated by the legal frameworks/systems enacted in Turkey and Sweden and the resulting lack of protection for sex workers from violence.
NSWP on 18th July 2013