Discrimination and transphobia at an intersection : does the discrimination against trans women lead them into sex work?

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Paternot, Dries
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Trans individuals have gained more attention in the last years, and states have taken up the responsibility to tighten the protection of trans rights. Despite the steps being taken, trans women still face structural barriers in their lives due to bias, stigma and discrimination. The aim of this thesis is to find a connection between the discrimination against trans women and the high rate of trans women engaged in the sex work industry. The principle of non-discrimination is well protected in international and regional human rights instruments. This principle aims at guaranteeing an equal and fair prospect of opportunities available in society for all individuals. Despite its universal protection, the principle of nondiscrimination is far from realized. Several states still uphold laws criminalizing trans women, and the possibility to access sex reassignment treatment and legal change of gender is often susceptible to restrictions. Trans women also face social discrimination in numerous aspects of their life. Oftentimes, trans women are met with transphobic attitudes in education, employment and healthcare. They are subject to housing discrimination and risk being rejected by their family. Social discrimination adds to their already marginalized position in society. As a result, trans women may find themselves in precarious economic situations and risk homelessness. Many trans women are left with no other option than to turn to sex work to survive and to be able to finance sex reassignment treatment. Trans sex workers are among the most marginalized population, having to face both transphobia and whorephobia, leading to high rates of HIV infections and violence. This situation is exacerbated by the (partial) criminalization of sex work in most parts in the world. Although trans women often find support and a sense of community while doing sex work, and it may serve as a way to express their gender identity, the large number of trans sex workers is essentially rooted in the discrimination they face. Unable to find and keep employment, they turn to the sex work industry to survive and to live their lives in their preferred gender.
Second semester University: New University of Lisbon
transgender, transexual, gender discrimination, prostitution, discrimination in employment, discrimination in education