Sex work in Republic of Macedonia

​Definition of sex work

Sex work is defined as the unforced sale of sexual services for money or goods between consenting adults. Sex work includes street prostitution, escort service, telephone sex service, pornography, exotic dancing and others. A sex worker can be male, female, or transgender.

(SWAN funding principles

The terms 'sex work' and 'sex worker' have been coined by sex workers themselves to redefine commercial sex, not as the social or psychological characteristic of a class of women, but as an income-generating activity or form of employment for women and men. As such it can be considered along with other forms of economic activity. An employment or labor perspective is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for making sex work a part of the mainstream debate on human, women's, and workers' rights at local, national and international level. 

(“Redefining Prostitution as Sex Work on the International Agenda”, Jo Bindman, Anti – slavery International, 1997 ).

National legal regulation of sex work

Laws plays a crucial role in shaping sex workers choices, addressing social stigma and discrimination against sex workers and their families, mitigating violence and exploitation in sex work, or transforming working conditions in the sex industry. In the Republic of Macedonia, individual prostitution is illegal, it represents an administrative offense. The performance of sex work, i.e. “resorting to prostitution” is a violation against the public order (art. 27 from the Law on public order violation in R. M), while some other activities regarding sex work (procuring, encouragement, earning by facilitating the provision of sexual services) are treated and penalized as criminal offences (Art. 191 from the Criminal Law of R.M. 1996).

In reality: “MOI makes not difference between prostitution and exploitation of prostitution, so that it undertakes measures for “eliminating prostitution”, instead of “eliminating prostitution exploitation” and consequently, undertakes drastic police measures against the victims of this exploitation, instead of the exploiters”.

The size of population

Since 1991, Macedonia have experienced complex political, economic and social changes that resulted in significant rise in the number of people involved in sex work, largely stemming from difficult economic situation and lack of employment. Although there are no relevant and systematic researches for the extent of sex work in Macedonia, on the basis of expert and public media statements, there are 3000 to 4000 people engaged in sex work in the country, including those forced to perform sexual services, i.e. those that can be identified as trafficking victims (link). 

According to the bio - behavioral study on HIV/AIDS trough Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) and estimation of the size of population of sex workers in Macedonia that was conducted in 2010, the sex work population in Macedonia varies between 2 200 and 3 500 people.  The study was organized by the Institute for Public Health in cooperation with HOPS, and financially supported by Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

But the limitations within the realization of the study where the majority of the participants were from the Roma community sharing similar characteristic and lack of access to other sub groups of sex workers, provide the space for discussion that this number can not apply to the whole sex workers population in Macedonia, and that the real number is actually bigger.

Needs and problems 

Sex workers remain among the most marginalized members of society. Policymakers and authorities view them as nuisances to be ignored or immoral lawbreakers rather than as individuals who can and should be protected from violence and receive social and economic assistance and support. At the same time, the surging HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region places sex workers at increasingly greater risk of infection not only from HIV, but also from other potentially debilitating conditions related to sex work.

(Sex Work, HIV/AIDS, and Human Rights in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, July 2005; )

PPP – Needs and Problems of Sex Workers in Skopje, Macedonia (HOPS).

National respond to sex work 

Although there is some information that sex industry exists in Macedonia, growing and expanding in the last 15 years: “The state has still not built a clear normative system with exactly defined measurements and organs which would cover the prevention and following of prostitution and all of its collateral phenomena. Thus, at the moment, we are in a situation in which the problem with prostitution is dealt with by the organs of the Ministry of Interior, as a problem of disturbing the public order, tightly connected with criminal activities, and by centers for social work which are concerned with prostitution only in specific situations encompassing social issues. In line with this differentiation, both organs have different definitions and approaches towards this social phenomenon, do not follow it systematically, and have neither records nor any other data regarding it. The health aspect of prostitution is even less cared for”.