LEFÖ has been working with migrant sex workers* in Austria since the beginning of the 1990s and demands legal protection and social recognition of sex workers*. This requires the decriminalisation of sex workers*, their involvement in the process of public discussion and the legalisation of sex work through equal treatment with other workers* under labour legislation. Since 1995, LEFÖ has been a partner of the European research and intervention network TAMPEP (formerly: European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers, www.tampep.eu) and developed the concept of cultural mediation together with other organisations. Cultural mediation is an important approach to mediating support work in health prevention, empowerment and the strengthening of sex workers*.
We speak of sex work in order to convey an accepting and supportive approach towards sexual service providers* (mostly women*, but also trans people and men*).
We also speak of sex work to focus on the work that is being carried out and the corresponding demands for comprehensive labour and social rights for sex workers*. We also speak of sex work to highlight the heterogeneity of workplaces and ways of working in the sex industry.
Cultural mediation in health promotion and violence prevention as well as in counselling and support work with and for sex workers*
Cultural mediators* are not translators*. They are mediators* who know the legal and social situation in both the country of origin and the country of destination of migrant sex workers*.
Cultural mediators* have a broad professional knowledge of legal, social and health issues and deal with stigmatisation and discrimination in the context of sex work. They reflect on the common migration experience and support the interests of sex workers*. We counsell, inform, accompany, network and raise awareness. Since the early 1990s, LEFÖ has helped develop this concept of culture and migration as an innovative method in the field of sex work and migration and has expanded it into a comprehensive working methodology to reach and support one of the most marginalised groups of migrant women*. The embedding of cultural mediation in a migrant women’s* self-organisation corresponds to a low-threshold access and promotes the self-organisation and empowerment of women* and communities.