Today, people are gathering in 36 cities across the globe to protest against violence against sex workers.
Following the murders of [Turkish sex worker] Dora Özer and [Swedish sex worker] Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation, violence and murders. In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in 36 cities from four continents who agreed to organise demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places. JOIN US on Friday the 19th at 3pm local time and stand in solidarity with sex workers and their loved ones around the world! Justice for Dora! Justice for Jasmine! Justice for all sex workers who are victims of violence!A press release from the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe provides additional context here.
You can follow social media of the protests under the hashtag #StigmaKills.
Sex work is not something about which I write often, because it's not one of my areas of expertise (guest posts always welcome!), but, when I have written about it, it is around the intersection of sex work and violence. Judges who rule that sex workers can't be raped. Law enforcement who are indifferent to the murders of sex workers. Sex workers, who are disproportionately women and marginalized men, are targeted for violence by predators who know that their cultures don't value their lives.
Which begins with the stigma against sex work, and the people who do it.
Stigma means that sex workers are vulnerable to violence. (And privilege means the most vulnerable sex workers are also the most vulnerable to violence. Sex workers from marginalized populations are less likely to be employed in legal sex work, are less likely to be safe on the job, are less likely to have independent control over the work that they do, and are more likely to face arrest and prosecution.)
Stigma means that male clients are less likely to be arrested than sex workers.
Stigma means that sex workers who are abused by clients, or law enforcement, or anyone, are more likely to be victim-blamed than they are supported by their communities and the agencies ostensibly tasked with protecting citizenry.
Stigma means that the rape and murder of sex workers and the institutional apathy to that violence is met with a sighing, "What did you expect?"
I cannot say this more plainly: Sex work is valid work. No caveats. No qualifications.
All the arguments that demonize sex work are so much noise, broadcast in service to abusers whose accountability-free exploitation of sex workers is dependent on a culture that shames and silences and stigmatizes sex workers.
I am not persuaded by religious protestations, nor am I persuaded by hand-wringing concerns about whether sex workers practice their work safely, inevitably emanating from people who don't give a shit about the safe professional practices of the privileged white male thieves and scoundrels inhabiting the majority of CEO chairs. (Or, even if they do, don't use it in pursuit of an argument to criminalize their work irrespective of how it is practiced.) I am able to care passionately and insistently about busting exploitative sex traffickers, and simultaneously support sex workers—and their agency, and their absolute right to it. I will never be convinced that criminalizing sex work does anything but make sex workers less safe.
I will not stigmatize sex workers or the work that they do. Stigma kills.
[Commenting Guidelines: In case it isn't already abundantly evident, stigmatization of sex workers is not welcome in this space. Comments that fail to recognize that stigma kills will be deleted.]