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March 3 – International Sex Workers Rights Day

March 3rd, 2009

Dr Petra

Today is International Sex Workers Rights day, and a number of blogs and a few media outlets have covered the event, with excellent discussions about sex worker issues (particularly in South Asia).

Sadly there hasn’t been all that much coverage. Predictibly there have been some grumbles in the blogosphere about the lack of attention paid to the day by feminist bloggers and by sex bloggers.

Given the difficult relationship some areas of feminism have with sex work it’s probably more understandable that anti-prostitution feminists in particular wouldn’t mark the occasion. However, it is somewhat disappointing that many sex writers – particularly those involved in sex work – haven’t really given the event much of a mention. Punter blogs and forums have also been curiously quiet on the topic too.

I would have liked to hear more from African countries about sex worker rights issues, as well as more from lesbian, gay and trans sex worker organisations. The day seems mostly to focus on sex workers in terms of prostitutes, but it would be nice to hear also from those who are involved in other areas of sex work (particularly porn, erotic dance and sex line operators).

I’m not really sure why this is (a lack of advance notice/publicity perhaps?). No doubt the debate these complaints about the lack of coverage are generating may give us some answers later this week.

In the meantime here are some excellent blogs talking about the event, sex worker rights and related issues (many of which also include useful links and resources for sex workers). As you may expect, many of these blogs are for sites suitable for over 18s so please check before you read them if you are under 18.

Renegade Evolution will be discussing the event at numerous sites (linked via blog) and links to numerous useful organisations

Sex and the Public Square are hosting numerous discussions on their forum about Sex Work, Trafficking and Human Rights

carries a brief history of the day

Bound, Not Gagged has an update on an Indian Sex Worker Rights Group

HeJin summarises the day and links to some great sites giving the South Asia perspective on sex work/human rights

Listicles has some fabulous photos of sex worker slogans

Annie Sprinkle has some excellent advice on how to cure sex worker burnout.

For anyone wondering why there is any need to have a day focusing on sex workers rights, here are a few reasons:

* Sex workers are frequently at risk from laws that put their health and safety in jeopardy.
* Accumulated fines can keep workers stuck in situations where they need to work to pay off their fines.
* Police in many countries do not treat sex workers with respect – and there have been cases of violence and sexual abuse of sex workers by law enforcement officers.
* Where sex workers are raped or abused, some countries fail to uphold their rights to prosecute perpetrators, and do not offer them adequate psychological or medical support.
* Many cannot access adequate healthcare, or find when they reach services that practitioners are judgemental and offer substandard care.
* Trans sex workers often face the double jeopardy of abuse for being a sex worker and transgendered, and are frequently neglected in or excluded from outreach or educational programmes for straight or gay sex workers.
* The stigma associated with sex work can (and does) lead to sex workers losing their homes, families and children.
* Obviously there are many ways to be a sex worker, but those who are the most vulnerable (particularly child prostitutes) often do not have adequate opportunities or support systems to allow them to exit when they want.
* Certain anti-prostitution organisations, politicians and right wing media mislead the public about sex work and trafficking, usually basing their arguments on biased or unethical ‘research’ that is really just rhetoric.
* Charities believing they ought to ‘save’ sex workers have been known to ‘rescue’ people from sex work without their prior knowledge or consent.
* Many countries use their anti-prostitution policies as a front for their anti-immigration activities, so sex workers who are ‘saved’ from brothels are not given care, support or counselling, but are imprisoned or deported.
* Efforts to clamp down on prostitution (either those who sell sex or those who purchase it) means those who wish to sell sex are denied that opportunity, while those who wish to exit are often kept within sex work because of harsh laws that don’t offer escape but drive sex work underground.
* Sex workers are often treated like children, so those who say they want to work are not believed.
* The public’s hatred of prostitutes makes it virtually impossible to talk in a sensible way about rights and wellbeing.

You don’t have to be a sex worker or see sex workers to give your support today. You just need to see sex workers as something other than second class citizens.

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