Over lunch in Vienna last week, a colleague told me that “Here, sex work is half legal.” He went on to explain, that though “the world’s oldest profession” is tolerated in their city, sex workers there have many obligations but still no rights.

It is mandatory that sex workers in Vienna register with the government, pay taxes on their earnings and be subject to weekly medical examinations; yet they are discriminated against by the authorities, have no unions to ensure their physical safety or guarantee payment from their clients and their required examinations make them only eligible for free HIV testing – they can be tested for other STIs only at a steep personal expense. It has become a saying that, in Vienna, “Sex workers have lust for their rights.”

There are currently over 2,000 registered sex workers in Vienna, and only 3 doctors in the city that will see them for their weekly appointments. That is nearly 700 patients per doctor each week – 100 patients per day if those doctors do not take a single day off.

Of the 2,000 legally registered sex workers, only 17 are male – and one of these men is not actually a sex worker. He is a staff member at the Sex Worker Forum and registered with the government out of solidarity with the population he serves. The Sex Worker Forum is a Vienna-based website that contains more than 77,000 articles, information, discussions, links, tips and resources on sex work, for professional sex workers.

I am back in New York now, thinking of all of you in Vienna. I hope that this International Sex Worker Rights Day has found you closer to the rights you so “lust after” and deserve.

Check back soon for the new-and-improved Safer Sexy Tidbits section of the blog, as well as news from my first contributions as a guest blogger to Sex and Sensibilities, a Filipina site that offers a balance of sex and responsible choice for women worldwide 🙂

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