FAQ

On this page you will find frequently asked questions. We will regularly add to and update this list. If you have not yet found an answer, please contact our team.

About UTSOPI

UTSOPI defends the rights of sex workers in Belgium. We do this first and foremost through our political work, by weighing in on any decision that will affect the lives and working conditions of sex workers.

In addition, UTSOPI wishes to adjust the prevailing image of sex workers: away from stereotypes, away from clichés. Laws aimed at ending discrimination against sex workers will count for little if sex workers continue to be looked down upon. This must change. We do this by working with journalists, scriptwriters, writers, directors. We provide training in schools, at the police, the PCSW and other services that often come into contact with sex workers.

Finally, we want to bring sex workers together in a safe place. Monthly events go on in different places around the country where sex workers can get to know each other, talk freely and learn from each other.

You can contact:

  • Daan (Dutch, English, French): daan@utsopi.be, 0472 25 64 26.
  • Marianne (English, French), marianne@utsopi.be, 0470 38 21 56.

We often receive requests for a testimony from a sex worker. This is usually not possible because there are too many disadvantages to media visibility for the person concerned. Few sex workers are willing to tell their stories openly. Most prefer to remain anonymous to protect themselves and their close ones.

If you wish to volunteer at UTSOPI as a non-sex worker, it is possible. In particular, we are always looking for people who can translate and have experience in graphic design. If you wish to volunteer at events, that is also possible. Just send us an e-mail with a short presentation of yourself and your qualities to info@utsopi.be.

It is also possible to do an internship at UTSOPI. Every semester we open two internships. For internships, as for recruitment, priority is always given to candidates with experience in or with sex work. Please note that our organisation does not employ social assistants. If it is a requirement of your educational institution that you are supervised by a social assistant, this is not possible with us.

Applications for an internship must be made no later than six months before the start of the internship.

We currently have no vacancies.

As a young organisation with no certainty of future funding, we unfortunately have to constantly fight for our survival. Without donations, we would not be able to survive. Your generosity is very important to us.

At the same time, we are constantly looking for motivated volunteers, especially for graphic design and translations. Finally, we count on sex workers to join UTSOPI and play an active role in our organisation, be it politically, creatively or organisationally.

We propose two different forms of membership: you can become a supporting member or an active member. When you become a member, it goes without saying that you support the mission and vision of the organisation.

All members:

  • Join the mailing list and receive news, organization updates and invitations to manifestations, informal meetings, workshops and task forces.

Active members:

  • Are expected to take an active role in organizing events.
  • Can be asked to represent the organization occasionally at events.
  • Can be referred to by UTSOPI at the request of journalists, writers and film makers.
  • Are expected, if possible, to take an active role in responding to legal or administrative questions from other sex workers.
  • Can be asked to read and check organization documents before publication.
  • Are expected to be present at the General Assembly of the organization, where the annual report anAd the financial report are voted and where the new Board is elected. Active members have voting rights in our organization.
  • Can be candidates for the Board.
  • Can propose activities and get organizational, financial or other support in carrying them out.

Through this form you can let us know you want to become a member.

Our organisation is often approached by journalists, students, artists and organisations seeking expertise for their (preliminary) research. It is very important to us that sex work is approached with the right sensitivity and nuance.

Staff at UTSOPI can often already answer some of the questions or, if necessary, refer them to people with extensive knowledge about the history, development and current state of sex work in Belgium.

To avoid unnecessarily burdening the time and energy of our community, we always ask for a clear set of questions before we further respond to requests to engage with sex workers. What research questions are involved? What is the duration of the collaboration? In what way will interviews be anonymised? Will compensation be provided?

If you have answers to these questions, please send an email to info@utsopi.be

First aid for sexual violence

Yes, in Belgium, people without legal residence, i.e. illegally in the country, can also get help as victims of sexual violence. The Sexual Assault Centres are specialised institutions that offer first aid to victims of sexual violence in an anonymous and confidential environment. Regardless of a person's residence status, they can receive all care and counselling free of charge.

If you report it, it means that you wish the perpetrator to be prosecuted. Reporting to the police cannot be done anonymously. The police will need personal information to launch an investigation and take action. We recommend that you contact Sexual Assault Centres (SAC) for guidance and advice on reporting and the possible consequences.

You can also file a report. This means informing the police about the situation. It is possible to report sexual violence anonymously.

When you go to the Sexual Assault Centres (SAC) information about your victimisation is not automatically shared with other services. The SAC database is not accessible to the Immigration Department or the CPAS. The information is also not kept in your medical record. What you share with the SAC remains confidential, unless you give explicit permission to share certain information with other agencies.

Yes, in some cases a police investigation can be started without the explicit consent of the victim. In serious crimes, including sexual violence, the police can autonomously decide to launch an investigation. However, the victim can still choose to remain involved in the process and how. We recommend contacting Care Centres after Sexual Violence to get advice on options and guidance during all steps of the process.

In Belgium, you are entitled to a safe and legal abortion, regardless of your residence status or affiliation with a mutual health organisation. You can go to a recognised abortion centre for this. If you have been in Belgium for more than three months without valid residence papers, you can apply to a CPAS for an "Urgent Medical Assistance" card. This will allow you to visit an  abortion clinic and pay 4 euros for your consultation and a possible intervention.

If you do not have mutual insurance or a medical card, you will pay 550 euros: 221 euros for the first consultation and 329 euros on the day of treatment.

About decriminalisation

The words decriminalisation and legalisation are often confused with each other. However, the distinction is very important.

With legalisation, you can only engage in sex work under strict conditions. In the Netherlands, for example, sex work is only possible when you do it in a licensed workplace. Who gets such a permit or how many permits are issued, is determined completely arbitrarily by each municipal government. In Germany, you can only engage in sex work when you, as a sex worker, have applied for a permit from the government. During the application, you must be guided by a social worker. You have to renew your registration every two years.

We call this criminalisation through the back door. Many sex workers in the Netherlands cannot find a licensed workplace and do the work at home, for example, which is illegal and can lead to eviction. In Germany, many sex workers do not want the state to know about their activity. This information could surface later and be used against them. Working without a licence is illegal. And those who are in the country undocumented are not eligible for a licence anyway.

Those who engage in illegal activity think twice before seeking medical attention. Abuse, sexual assault or rape are difficultly or, in many cases, not reported to the police at all. Part of the industry tries to make itself invisible and disappears underground, beyond the reach of police or medical and social services. Thus, legalisation threatens sex workers' basic rights: the right to protection and the right to health.

Decriminalisation follows a different logic: to engage in sex work, one does not have to meet special conditions. Sex work is seen by the state as a profession. Not because it is a job like any other, but because sex workers should be able to be protected from the risks of the job, just as, for example, construction workers receive specific protection because of the risks on a construction site.

This protection takes the form of labour rights for sex workers. Sex workers also get access to social security: rights to annual vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, unemployment benefits and pension.

It is not easy to tell policies apart. Decriminalisation and legalisation are often confused and used interchangeably. The infamous Nordic Model, which seeks to eliminate sex work by criminalizing the client, is seen as one and the same model while every country that applies the model, applies it in a different way.

Swedish researcher and ally Petra Östergren therefore proposes a new classification. She talks about three forms of policies:

  • Repressive: the goal is to eliminate the industry, through criminal law and other repressive measures. This includes the Nordic Model, of which versions have been implemented in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Canada. In each of the countries mentioned, research has shown that the model stigmatises sex workers and exposes them to violence. Prohibitionism, the complete criminalization of sex workers, clients and third parties as it exists in the U.S. (except for some counties in Nevada), is also to be placed into this category.

  • Restrictive: the goal is to curb the industry extensively through strict and arbitrary regulations. You can only engage in sex work if you meet a whole number of conditions, which still criminalizes many sex workers. The Netherlands and Germany are examples of the restrictive approach.

  • Integrative: the goal is to integrate the sector and its workers into society. Protection is offered to sex workers in the same way it is offered to other sectors, namely through labour rights and access to social security. New Zealand was the pioneer, followed by the Australian states of New South Wales, Northern Territory and Victoria. Belgium is now following in their footsteps.


Read Petra Östergren's paper here (EN).

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