Today was international day to end violence against sex workers. Sex workers exist in every culture and in every nation. Sex workers, male, female and trans work in a diverse industry and in many different environments. Sex workers represent every socio and economic and academic strata within society. The media and governments present sex workers as stereotypes but the truth is there is no stereotype of who a sex worker is or any shared reasoning for why anyone becomes a sex worker. Every story within sex work is unique just as every client has a unique reason for why they use the services of sex workers.
Once, long ago, sex workers were respected within societies that rejoiced in pleasure but now sex work has become an easy target for moralists, often posing as feminists and for lazy governments eager to prove they care, especially about women. Their eagerness to show how much they care however has resulted in discriminatory laws that harm sex workers. The truth is that every sex worker who is beaten, raped, murdered is the direct result of governments who claim they have created laws that will protect the vulnerable, protect women, and protect sex workers. These laws more often than not represent an ideological and aggressive understanding of sex work rather than reflect the realities of sex workers lives and experiences. They are laws that infantalise women as incapable of autonomous thought and behaviour and which perpetuate myths and untruths about sex work.
Sadly existing injustice toward sex workers is to be made worse if proposals to criminalise clients presently being presented to the governments of Ireland and Scotland become law. Sex workers and the public must now unite to tell government in clear terms that state violence toward sex workers in the form of laws that deny sex workers their basic human rights will no longer be tolerated. Sex workers are mothers, daughters, sons and brothers; they are human beings, workers, citizens who require the full protection of the law. Politicians must listen.
Dr Brooke Magnanti, formerly known as Belle de Jour, wrote this article about the 17th of December campaign, which appeared today in the Telegraph.
You can access the full article with links “HERE”
The event calls attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. (Don’t worry; you don’t have to get me a card. Cards Galore isn’t stocking any for this yet.)
It was created by legendary sex goddess Annie Sprinkle in memorial for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington.
The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers encourages people from around the world to come together and organise against discrimination and remember victims of violence.
In particular I would like to remember Michaela Hague, a woman in Sheffield who was brutally murdered in 2001.
At the time I was a student there, not yet a sex worker, living in student accommodation in an area of the city that had once been well-known as a red light district. During that time the city began a crackdown on kerb crawling and street prostitution that drove sex workers out from the well-trafficked, well-lit and policed city centre to the industrial fringes of the city.
Scotland’s proposed sex bill ‘won’t protect sex workers’ 10 Dec 2012
Plan to criminalise buying sex from prostitutes rejected 20 Apr 2010
It’s no surprise students are turning to the sex trade 14 Dec 2012
It was in this time that Michaela was attacked. Stabbed multiple times, her killer got away unobserved. She died far from where anybody could have been alerted to her distress in time to save her life.
I became aware of the crime because I was working in the city’s mortuary the next day (as my doctorate was with the Forensic Pathology department). I saw a woman who in her life had been not just liked, but loved. A daughter, a mother, a friend. Michaela’s murder had a profound effect on me: it seemed clear to me that her death was the result of a policy that cares more for the appearance of propriety than for the welfare of sex workers.
Michaela’s murderer has never been found.
Sex workers talk about what we want, in terms of rights and treatment. We want a say in the policies that directly affect us – almost none of the legislation currently grinding its way through the UK and Ireland has consulted sex workers in any meaningful sense. We want acknowledgement that widespread attitudes against sex work make things more dangerous for the people involved. Some nod towards the reality that not all sex workers are the same wouldn’t go amiss. And we want people to realise that behind the highly publicised and politicised images are people, not just prostitutes.
Throughout this week sex worker organisations and their allies will be holding vigils to raise awareness, not just of crimes against us, but of the laws that aid these crimes. Laws that criminalise sex work thus preventing sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws makes violence against us acceptable. Thankfully I never experienced any attempts of violence against me while I was a sex worker but I am all too aware of the scale of the problem.
Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalisation and violence committed against our communities.
Like I said, it’s a pretty new holiday, so you don’t have to get me a card or anything. But a donation to a local sex work outreach programme surely wouldn’t go amiss.