Today, December 17, marks the fifteenth International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. On this day each year, Woodhull Freedom Foundation encourages everyone to pause and remember those sex workers who have been lost to violence in 2018. Around the globe, communities are coming together to light candles, read the list of names, and sit in sorrow and resilience together.
As people fighting for sexual freedom, sex workers are an important part of our communities and even families. People who trade sex have often been at the forefront of many of our movements – for LGBTQ liberation, for racial justice, and for economic justice. Sex work has allowed people who face mountainous barriers to survive.
Sex workers face myriad forms of violence while they work to secure their survival. Because of criminalization and stigma, people who trade sex face higher rates of interpersonal violence from partners, peers, managers, and clients. The United States has the most stringent forms of criminalization in the Global North, outlawing every aspect of trading sex from buying and selling to sharing resources and harm reduction information. When a population is criminalized, they become a target for victimization.
Criminalization and stigma also mean sex workers face institutional violence at every level. From the trauma of policing and the emotional weight of a criminalized identity to the violence of arrest and incarceration to denial of basic services and resources from schools, hospitals, and housing – sex workers are often forced to navigate complex dynamics in the fight for survival.
On this day, it’s important for organizations to recognize the incredible role that sex workers play in our communities and lives. There are many events taking place across the country. Join one if you’re able, please, and share information on social media. (http://www.december17.org/2018-event-locations/) Today is an invitation for everyone to take time to think about what it means to be a co-conspirator to sex workers.
Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Board of Directors