International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17 is the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. This encompasses persons engaged in all kinds of paid sexual activity, including cam girls, pole dancers, masseuses, dominatrixes, film actors, and paid sexual practitioners.

December 17 was selected after the Green River Murders in 2003, when Gary Ridgeway was convicted of 49 murders, specifically targeting sex workers because they were easy targets who would not be reported missing. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ridgway)  After that, Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), and adult film veteran Annie Sprinkle organized a “speak-out” in San Francisco, and called for vigils in citing throughout the country. Since then this movement has spread throughout the world and keeps growing.

Sex workers are subjected to myriad forms of abuse, by police, courts, and clients, as well as family members and partners; Trans-women of color have been particular targets of abuse and murder. They are being used as scapegoats for other people’s moralizing crusades, to “punish” or “protect” them. The recently passed laws known as FOSTA-SESTA was supposed to protect women and girls from sex-trafficking, but they confused it with consensual paid sex work, thus forcing sex workers to go back out on the street and take their chances with random men they find, instead of having a web site to vet them to see if they could be dangerous. These laws, which are allegedly to help sex workers, do not provide any alternatives for income or employment-for women doing sex work, this is the way to work their way through college, feed their children, and pay their rents. (https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/anti-sex-trafficking-advocates-say-new-law-cripples-efforts-to-save-victims-629081/)

The movement to decriminalize sex work in growing; in 2015, Amnesty International released a statement that “sex workers’ rights are human rights,” and called for the decriminalization of ALL consensual adult sex acts. (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/sex-workers-rights-are-human-rights/) Julia Salazar, a member of the New York State Senate, introduced a bill that would decriminalize consensual sex work in that state-could Pennsylvania be far behind? (https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/in-the-news/julia-salazar/decriminalize-sex-work-new-york)

One great potential ally to sex workers is the LGBTQ community, whose members are also familiar with problems of family rejection, lack of legal protection and health care and institutional abuse. Homeless LGBTQ youth, having been thrown out of their families’ homes, have often turned to sex work for either money of a place to stay for the night. Young gay men and lesbians are ten times as likely to be in juvenile custody for prostitution.

To find out what you can do to support sex workers, please look up the following websites: www.december17.org and https://swopusa.org/ .