Sunday, June 10, 2007



Transgenderism is a widely unknown reality in Portugal. [1]

There are no statistics concerning the Portuguese Transgender population, and investigation in this field is limited by the difficulties in accessing individuals that lack support from the law and are stigmatised by society in general and specially from our Government institutions. There are many false beliefs attributed to transgenderism, like for example that all transgender people (including Transexuals) are sex workers or have some other type of night life activity (like strippers or drag show performers). In fact, the most visible part of the transgender community, either national or emigrated from Brazil or from ancient Portuguese African Colonies like Angola, São Tomé e Principe or Mozambique has a professional activity related with one of these two (or both) areas, although some other Trans people have in the last years contribute for changing the mainstream idea about the transgender community due to the visibility and recognition in their professions like Human rights activists, Models, Medicine Doctors, Lawyers, Journalists and even big brother winners.

The Portuguese Transgender Community – An Unknown Reality [2]

In a study conducted in 1998 with a sample of approximately 50 transgender individuals, some important issues were identified; a significant majority of the sample came from rural parts of the country (45%).
From this sample 28% had changed from their birthplace because of their gender identity.
39% are originally from the city and 16% are foreigners.
This sample showed us also that 56% ware sex workers and 44% hade other activities.
Some started to work as early as age 11. This gives us important information regarding the social adjustment problems that these individuals have to face, added to the fact that most of them do not benefit from any kind of social security (70%) even knowing that the access to health care in Portugal is free.
92,9% of the sex workers work in the street.
50% hade already several Sexual Transmitted Disease
72% made their HIV test against 28% that never made any HIV test.
And when we asked about the results of the HIV test, , 46,4% among the sex workers answer that they are HIV+,
35% were HIV- negative and 17,9% didn’t now or didn’t answer.
From the sample of Trans people that had other activities, 45% hare HIVnegative and 54,5% didn’t new or didn’t answer.
Its very interesting to compare those last results between sex workers and those o have other activities, and our personal perspective is that those answers are due to a bigger discrimination for HIV+ people among the society in general that among the sex workers, After all sex workers think that they have nothing to louse.
A significant percentage abused alcohol, tranquillisers or heroin on a regular basis (70%).
When the person’s interviewed about what day had for most important in their lives we get a clear picture about the situation of transgender people in Portugal
Health 44%
Family 22%
Money 14%
HIV 8%
And finally, 2% Lodging and 0% for drugs and hormones treatments.

“Gisberta” [3]

Gisberta, a homeless Brazilian transsexual immigrant, HIV positive, with drug problems, sex-worker, was found dead on the 22nd of February inside a pit 10 metres deep, in an unfinished building in Porto, Portugal.
A group of 13 boys, between the ages of 10 and 16 years old, confessed the crime most of who came from a child protection institution belonging to the Catholic Church, although financed by the state.
The Portuguese TG-community was shocked, not only by this event, but far more by the reactions of the state, the press – who ignored it or addressed her by her male name, the church - who tried to excuse the boys, and the queer community which showed, no solidarity at all, with the exception of only one Portuguese LGBT group called Pink Panthers.
Thanks to the support of The Portuguese Pink Pathers and the European TG Network, relevant information and press material was published in several languages immediately and submitted Europe wide, to call for protest to the Portuguese authorities demanding:

A fundamental reform of the “minor protection” system in Portugal
A social policy of assistance for marginalized groups - including immigrants, persons with HIV, homeless persons, drug users and sex workers - instead of a politics of exclusion.
The explicit inclusion of “gender identity” in anti discrimination legislation and protection in hate crimes that are motivated by transphobia to penal legislation.
Initiatives to promote awareness for the situation of transgendered persons and to work against transphobic and homophobic attitudes in school, on the work place, in police forces and in the general population.
Full gender recognition including the right to free choice of first names and a “gender recognition” law similar to the British “Gender Recognition Act of 2004” or the recently approved Spanish LAW 3/2007 from 15 Mars, that regulates and rectifies the mention of the sex from the persons
Less patronising medical treatment of transsexuals, including free access to medical treatment and free choice of medical practitioners, financial support for surgery and treatments abroad to promote correct medical formation for this area in the Portuguese health system.

The image of transsexuality and is connection to the HIV virus [4]

The idea of our campaign was to demystify transgenderism and to show that a (small) group of trans persons do not live by prostitution alone, but can and does have numerous professional activities while having to deal with the ever present and problematic HIV situation.
Despite the inexistence of publicity campaigns for the prevention of HIV and other STDs for the Transgender Comunity, the inherent particulars concerning the conditions and surroundings in which this community lives, should be taken into consideration. It is possible to have prevention and publicity campaigns that depict a better image concerning transgender persons (including transsexuals) from the "social integrated" concept.
The objective was to contribute towards a totally different social image from that which is currently being projected mainly through the media, which has only limited its self to explore and show the fragile lives of this people, thereby contributing very little towards, human dignity, social integration, psychological stability or sensitivity to the particularities of this community and serve as an "observation window" for future media or publicity campaigns aimed at, prevention and developing the field concerning more concrete, focal and specific situations and issues that may invariably arise in the future.

Transsexuals and the Risks Of Anti-Retroviral Drugs [5]

Interactions between antiretroviral drugs (ARV) and estrogen-progestogen combinations, which are substrates of cytochrome P450 CYP3A4, are presently well-known and are possibly associated with a risk of over or under dosage of hormonal levels, depending on the occurrence of enzyme inhibition or induction. On the other hand, there are few data on these kinds of interactions with the variety of hormonal treatments prescribed to transsexuals who are HIV positive, whether they take estrogens, anti-androgens or androgens. And yet the issue deserves to be raised insofar as this population often presents with multiple pathologies associated with multidirectional drug interferences. In addition to the risks associated with alterations in hormone levels, one must add the glucide and lipid metabolic disturbances that combine with those induced by ARV drugs, the risk of thromboembolism, as well as hepatic toxicity. All these risks are further increased by the frequent practice of self-medication, which involves unsuited products and doses.

The Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe 2005, Brussels, Belgium [6]

The declaration was elaborated and endorsed by 200 sex workers and allies from 30 countries at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration 15 - 17 October 2005, Brussels, Belgium

What is the Declaration?

The Declaration is not intended to be a legal document and its existence does not establish a legal framework that protects the rights of sex workers in Europe. The Declaration merely identifies human, labour and migrants rights that sex workers should be entitled to under international law and points out the states obligation to ensure;
that it does not violate rights,
that others do not violate rights
that all structures of the state are organized to ensure that diverse persons can enjoy and exercise their rights
The Declaration is a synthesis of all the rights that have been agreed in international treaties and covenants, to uphold for all citizens, together with specific proposals to states for steps and policies that would ensure the protection of those rights for sex workers.
The Declaration is not a demand for special rights to be given to sex workers, but is based on the principle that selling sexual services is not ground for sex workers to be denied the fundamental rights to which all human beings are entitled under international law.

Use of the Declaration

Information is a powerful force. By stating existing rights, the Declaration is intended, firstly, to act as a tool for empowering sex workers to stand up for their rights with authority and justice on their side.
Secondly, the Declaration aims to act as a benchmark by which we can judge what has been achieved, what progress we are making and where to direct our future efforts. It provides a basis for organizations and groups to lobby for universally accepted rights to be upheld and to act as advocates with sex workers in particular cases where their rights might be in dispute. Thirdly, it offers guidance to organizations and institutions seeking to achieve equitable, non-discriminatory policy and practice.
Finally, it stands as a foundation from which to view the future. By providing guidelines it allows us to judge whether proposed legislation respects or diminishes the rights of sex workers. It also gives us a long-term aim – that of winning public recognition that respect for the human rights of all is integral to a healthy society.

Why do we need a Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe?

Different approaches have been adopted across Europe responding to the sex industry and female, male and transgender sex workers – including migrant sex workers – ranging from the acceptance of sex work as labour and the introduction of labour rights for sex workers through to the criminalisation of a wide range of practices associated with sex work, which at times results in the criminalisation of the status of sex worker, sex workers partners or their clients.
Over the last years, legislative measures that restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of sex workers proliferate at local, national and international levels, claiming to be in the interests of combating organized crime and promoting public health. However, many of these measures are implemented against the policy and principles set out by advice of UNAIDS and the World Health Organization which note that repressive legislation restricting the rights of sex workers in fact undermines public health policies by driving the sex industry underground, making practices central to safe sex evidence of crimes such as possession of condoms. In addition, such measures contradict the European Parliament’s Resolution on Violence Against Women that called for the decriminalization of the exercise of the practice of prostitution, a guarantee that prostitutes enjoy the rights of other citizens, and the protection of prostitutes independence, health and safety.
Moreover, many measures are in violation of the obligation of States under international human rights law to respect, promote and protect the human rights of all persons within their territory, without discrimination, and including the right to privacy, to a family life, to legally leave and return to one’s country, to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and from arbitrary detention, and in favor of the freedom of expression, information, association and movement.
Despite the fact that evidence shows that migrant workers in all sectors face increasing levels of abuse and exploitation with impunity European responses to increasing international migration have focused on restrictive legislation with little attention paid to protecting migrant’s rights and freedoms. To date Bosnia and Turkey are the only European countries to have ratified the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which came into force 1 July 2003.
Sex work projects and sex worker’s organizations in Europe have substantial recorded and anecdotal evidence that discriminatory legislation and behavior, which cannot be justified on the grounds of protecting public health or combating organized crime, restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of sex workers, at local, national and international levels. These practices occur across health and social care, housing, employment, education, administrative law and criminal justice systems. Not all countries are listed, however there is not one country within Europe – including those with regulated sex industries – where sex workers have not reported discrimination and violations of their human rights.

Social Interventions in Prostitution and Trafficking [7]

Street Units – mobile teams of professional operators and volunteers with intercultural mediation support with:

Information and health prevention
Accost, listening and needs analysis
Accompaniment to health services and educational training for the territory services fruition
Information and assistance for legal, psychological and housing problems
Relationship help
Proposal of and/or answering the demand of coming out of prostitution and thus of violence and exploitation releasing
Local communities making aware interventions and conflicts negotiation
Territory services mapping, contacting and making aware
Observation and monitoring of the phenomenon’s dynamic
Production of informative materials, even in the girl’s or boys mother tongues
Drop in Center – further filters between the street, the services and the ways out

Information and advise about health, social and legal problems
Accompaniment to health services and educational training for the territory services fruition
Counselling and relationship help
Proposal of/and answering the demand of coming out of prostitution and thus of violence and exploitation releasing

Shelter and Fostering Autonomy – In residential microstructures: flight houses and emergency care shelters; second care shelters, families (straight LGBT whatever)

Co-elaboration of individualized autonomy projects
Shelter and protection
Board and lodging
Health service
Psychological assistance
Relationship support
Support for possible crime reporting
Legal assistance and legalisation
Educational and training activities
Language literacy
Creating/producing workshops
Vocational guidance
Starting-off social and occupational insertion

Vocational guidance, training, social and occupational insertion

Vocational guidance
Basic training
Vocational training
Training with enterprises
Employment, support and accompaniment actions
Cooperation with training bodies and enterprises

Networking with several organizations of the different local contexts

Families, voluntary Associations, Social Cooperatives, NGO’s, Religious bodies, Moral bodies, Local Authorities at National, Regional, Provincial and Municipal level, Equal Opportunities Commissions, Local Health Units, Prefectures, Police Head-quarters, Law Enforcement Agencies, Enterprises, Trade Unions….


1 - Jó Bernardo, “Portugese Transgender Community” 1997
2 - “The Portuguese Transgender Community – Un Unknown Reality” 1998 -
3 -“Gisberta”, 2006 -
4 – “The image of transsexuality and is connection to the HIV virus” Jó Bernardo, 2004, XV International AIDS Conference Bangkok, Thailand
5 – “Transsexuals and the Risks Of Anti-Retroviral Drugs”, 2006, Dr. Nicolas Hacher, Service d'endocrinologie, Clinique Internationale du parc Monceau, Paris, France
6 - The Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe 2005, Brussels, Belgium
7 - “Social Interventions in Prostitution and Trafficking” Associazione “On the Road”

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