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Leitner Clinic Conducts Sex Workers’ Rights Trainings in Kenya

New York, NY (September 9, 2013) – Students and faculty from the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic spent this past summer developing and conducting sex workers’ rights trainings in Kenya.

Clinic students Rebecca Marlin and Scarlett Camargo conducted these trainings in Nairobi and Mombasa under the supervision of Clinic Director Prof. Chi Mgbako and in collaboration with the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA), a Kenyan advocacy organization that seeks to end human rights abuses against male, female and transgender sex workers. The two students also produced a unique training manual that provides sex workers’ rights organizations with tools to educate sex workers on their legal standing in the community and to assist sex workers with their own advocacy. The training manual (available here) gives an overview of how international human rights law and the Kenyan Constitution provide a framework for sex workers’ rights and provides empowerment exercises designed to engage sex workers. The Leitner Clinic also conducted a “training of the trainers” so that the workshops will continue into the future, carried out by Kenyan sex workers themselves.

Sex workers often suffer from a variety of human rights abuses due to the criminalization of sex work. Breaking away from the stereotypical belief that all sex workers are “prostituted,” and therefore in need of being saved, KESWA and the Leitner Clinic believe in empowerment through rights education and advocacy.

“I chose to devote my summer to working for KESWA and conducting these trainings because of my passion for human rights and the belief that no individual should be deprived of the right to make their own choices about their labor and sexual health,” Camargo said. “The experience of training the sex worker community directly on their human rights through lectures, exercises, and role-playing, and to witness this community advocate for themselves in real-life situations, was inspirational.”

Both students were able to advocate for a cause they care deeply about and gain valuable first-hand experience in human rights law.

“The sex workers we trained had varying levels of education, but all were knowledgeable, engaged, forthcoming about their own experiences, and ready to carry on the trainings after we left,” Marlin said. “As a law student interested in human rights advocacy, the trainings were my first experience putting human rights into action, and I am looking forward to staying in touch with the leaders of KESWA and hearing more about how the human rights training program develops and affects the lives of sex workers in Kenya.”

The Leitner Clinic/KESWA training manual, entitled, “Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: A Training Manual” is available here: http://www.leitnercenter.org/files/Publications/KESWA One-day Training.pdf


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Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
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Tracy Higgins
Professor of Law
Co-Director, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
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