Hope for women at the night cafe
Reden International has become an important advocate for sex-workers in Copenhagen.
The Night Café in Istedgade – which is the Red Light district in Copenhagen – had more than 6,300 visitors in 2015, despite being open only two or three nights a week from midnight till 5 am. On average 65 women visited the café in 2015 each night; at busier times there were more than 100.
The Night Café is not a regular café. It was opened by Reden International to give female sex-workers a place to come for coffee, warmth, information, medical care and support. While the café is supported by the state, it tends to be on an irregular basis. Oak support has enabled the café to stay open between two and three nights a week, from Thursday to Saturday.
For the last couple of years Reden International has intensified its work on the streets at night to reach women, in particular from Eastern Europe and Nigeria. Often these women work for criminals and are not aware of their rights. Nigerian sex-workers are often in Denmark illegally so they have particularly limited access to the public healthcare system and other services, in comparison with European women.
Staff from Reden International have been able to reach the women through the Night Café and provide them with advice, including on how to access healthcare.
One of Reden International’s staff members speaks Romanian, one of the languages of these hard-to-reach groups of women, and has managed to win their trust. Having this direct contact is quite unusual – either there is no common language, or else sex-workers are prevented from speaking to streetworkers by their pimps, usually an older woman who “owns” them. The café has made it easier for staff to speak more freely with the women, telling them about their rights and the services available to them.
In addition, this has meant that Reden International's Night Café has become a genuine centre of information on the reality for sex-workers in Copenhagen. This knowledge is used to inform legislation put in place to support and protect these groups of women, for whom Reden International has become an important advocate.
Next year the Night Café intends to open more often, and it will hire an additional street-worker to reach out to Nigerian women in their mother tongue.
Reden International runs a Night Café in Copenhagen where female sex-workers can come for information, medical care and support.
© Tanja Kovacic / Reden International
Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report
Year of publication: 2016