About 20 people gathered together on Sunday to mark the passage of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Organized by COYOTE RI (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), the day was a touching remembrance of sex workers, many trans women of color, murdered this year. It was also a time to advocate for policies that would protect sex workers and recognize their autonomy.
It was understood by those gathered, whether they be social scientists, sex workers, social justice advocates or allies, that the criminalization of sex work contributes to violence against sex workers, and the stigma society attaches to sex work closes doors to those who would seek medical or other forms of assistance.
There are many important takeaways from this event. Sex worker rights are worker rights. Sex worker rights are human rights. Sex workers deserve to be respected, and should be free to live lives free of stigma. Sex workers do not need to be rescued, they need to be free to make their own best choices for themselves.
I can not do justice to all the issues in this short piece, but Bella Robinson, the executive director of COYOTE RI, is available to speak to groups interested in learning more about sex worker rights and the issues surrounding sex work. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
COYOTE RI intern Juliana Brown presented the results of a survey of sex workers that took responses from 1500 sex workers across the country. One result of the survey was that people who engage in sex work find that the biggest barrier to leaving is the low wages they will be paid for other jobs.
Susan Roar opened the event with an explanation of the origin of this day, which goes back to 2003 and the terrible crimes of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who may have killed as many as 90 women, mostly prostitutes.
Near the end there was a video retrospective featuring pictures (when available) of all the sex workers known to be murdered this year. Many of the victims are trans women of color.
Many of those who attended gave testimonials about why they support sex worker rights. These are short, accessible videos and can be shared.
Here are all the videos from the day:
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