“Everyone deserves the right to be safe at work.” International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Alisha Ostberg criminilization, harm reduction, human rights, international, sex work, stigma

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW). This day is a day that joins sex workers, allies, and advocates around the world in recognizing violence committed against sex workers globally. This day demands attention to the violation of sex workers human rights.

In Canada, it is important to recognize the different forms of violence sex workers face. The British Columbia Coalition for Experiential Communities (BCCEC, 2011) reported those involved in sex work define violence as “activities ranging from public humiliation and social exclusion to more extreme incidents of beatings, [assault], and the abduction, and murder of their associates (p. 6)“. However, media often portrays violence as exploitation by pimps, rather than focusing on the reality that sex workers experience violence at the hands of their clients, institutions, and the general public (Benoit, Jansson, Smith, & Flagg, 2018).

When discussing violence against sex workers, the conversation focuses on physical acts of aggression, without including the layers of dehumanization and disrespect that societal opinions and stigma generate. This creates violence in the everyday environments where sex workers live and work (Benoit et al, 2018).

At Shift, we understand how both stigma and legislation contribute to this violence. We recognize the direct connection between criminalization and violence in the sex industry (Platt, et al, 2018). We see the impacts and realities of violence in our communities and we stand with sex workers and demand change. Everyone deserves the right to be safe at work.

Today sex workers stand together – boldly raising their red umbrellas as a declaration of resistance and resiliency. We stand in solidarity with them against the human rights abuses and inhumane working conditions that sex workers face around the world. We remember those we have lost to violent acts and renew our stance on working towards decriminalization and safe working conditions for all sex workers. Shift stands in unity with the community, empowering sex workers and allies to continue to work together to end the disproportionate levels of violence experienced by sex workers.

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To learn more about the Shift program, click here: https://hivcl.org/shift/

To support HIV Community Link and the Shift program in our efforts to support sex workers of all backgrounds, donate here: https://hivcl.org/support-us/donate-online/

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References:

BCCEC. (2011). Violence and collaborative safety planning with sex workers. Retrieved from https://bccec.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/collaborative_safety_planning_tool_sex_workers_dec2011rb5b15d-2.pdf

Benoit, C., Jansson, S., Smith, M., & Flagg, J. (2018). Prostitution stigma and its effect on the working conditions, personal lives, and health of sex workers. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(4-5), 457-471.

Platt, L., Grenfell, P., Meiksin, R., Elmes, J., Sherman, S.G., Sanders, T., . . . Crago, A. (2018). Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies. PLoS Medicine, 15(12), E1002680.