International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Sunday, December 17, 2017
CN: Details and statistics of incidents of violence against sex workers, transphobic violence, and violence against migrants.
On December 17th, Sisters Uncut joins in solidarity with sex workers around the world in remembering the sex workers who have lost their lives this year. IDEVASW began in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington who murdered at least 71 women, most of whom were sex workers. It has been the date of protests and vigils by sex worker groups throughout the world ever since.
A 2014 study found that 77% of UK street based sex workers and 17% of indoor workers had suffered violent attacks. Many of the sex workers who are most at risk face oppression and hatred not just because they are sex workers but also because they are people of colour, migrants, drug users, economically marginalised, or LGBT. We especially commemorate the trans and gender non-conforming sex workers who suffer the violence of transphobia alongside the stigma of sex work. Of the 2,609 trans and gender-diverse people who were reported killed between January 2008 and September 2017 worldwide, 62 percent of those whose profession was known were sex workers.
We demand urgent change to UK laws to decriminalise sex work, end the “hostile environment” for migrants and reverse the austerity, benefits cuts and poverty wages which push more people into selling sex to survive. Sex workers in the UK are subject to police raids, sudden evictions, anti-social behaviour orders, fines for soliciting or “loitering”, prison sentences, and, if they are migrants, detention and deportation. Our immigration system makes it more likely that migrants will do sex work, and then punishes them for doing so. Despite claims by police forces that the raids are to rescue victims of human trafficking, those who are coerced into sex work by others are still being frequently charged with immigration offenses, detained and deported.
When police raid sex work premises in the UK, they routinely take cash, jewellery and other possessions. These raids are traumatic for sex workers, and for migrant workers they can mean being held in abusive detention centres such as Yarls Wood and deported to their country of origin with no regard for their safety or human rights. When a Brazilian sex worker was robbed at knifepoint in Enfield earlier this year, police threatened her with arrest and deportation when she reported the crime.
This year Romina Kalachi, an Italian migrant woman, was murdered in a flat in Kilburn, North London. Hers will be one of over 140 names read out today of sex workers around the world who have died violent deaths in 2017. Working alone, as Romina was, makes sex workers especially vulnerable – but under current UK law, working with others from the same premises is classed a brothel and is illegal. There have been numerous police raids, arrests and deportations of sex workers this year for “brothel-keeping” if they are found working from a premises with others, and it is overwhelmingly migrant sex workers that are being targeted by these raids. Perpetrators of violent crimes against sex workers such as robbery, rape, murder, and hate crime attacks use the fact that sex workers are often scared to call the police to their advantage.
Sisters Uncut calls for well-resourced, holistic and non-judgmental services for people who are selling sex, including support with leaving sex work if that is what the individual wants. Sex workers accessing services don’t need “saviours”, and they certainly don’t need to be scared that charities, healthcare projects and social services will pass on information about them to the police or immigration enforcement.
We know that the Nordic Model is not the answer and have previously explained why we oppose it. We’ve also written about how criminalisation and stigma create additional barriers to help for sex workers who are experiencing domestic violence.
Tomorrow, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) will create a memorial at midday outside the Houses of Parliament to the sex workers who have lost their lives through violence. Sisters Uncut will be there. Please join in solidarity if you can.
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Memorial
Monday 18 December at 12:00–14:00
Meeting outside Parliament (New Palace Yard)
Allies very welcome