International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Originally created by Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA and first observed in 2003, this day includes memorials, vigils, and activism — and symbolizes a powerful cry for an end to violence and discrimination against sex workers.

The importance of this day cannot be overstated. Simply raising awareness about violence against sex workers is critical. In a sobering piece on The Huffington Post, human rights professor Chi Mgbako writes:

The event will likely pass with barely a whisper of media notice, and many women’s rights groups will ignore or remain blithely unaware of the occasion. It is an uncomfortable global truth that we do not regard violence committed against non-trafficked sex workers as violence against women.

Our staunch moral judgment of women who by choice or circumstance participate in the sex industry — buttressed by laws that criminalize, stigmatize, and condemn many of them to unsafe working conditions without police protection — results in the shatteringly silent incidents of rapes, assaults, and murders of sex workers. This unforgiving moral judgment is unfair.

. . . Many sex workers reject this moralized dismissal of their personhood. Several years ago I had the good fortune of collaborating on a human rights project with empowered sex workers in India. I still remember one sari-clad, doe-eyed sex worker defiantly noting, “In the past we thought that sex work was not a good thing and anything bad that happened to us we just accepted it and cried. But we learned that we deserve to be treated not as good or bad but as women.”

Today, events are happening all around the world to remember the lives of sex workers who have been victims of hate crimes. Sex worker rights activist Audacia Ray has been tweeting about the NYC vigil. Her past speeches at International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers events can be found here.

The Sex Worker Outreach Coalition has organized an event tonight, from 7-10 p.m. at the Red and Black Cafe in SE Portland.

We invite you to an evening of remembrance and healing. We will have community speakers, an open mic, and screening of the film A Safer Sex Trade. We will also make origami cranes to remember victims. Please bring new/used tents, sleeping bags and flashlights for Our Mother’s House.