December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a day which started in 2003 as a memorial and vigil to the Sex workers killed in Seattle Washington and then evolved to an international day to call attention to the hate crimes committed against sex workers throughout the world.
Some of this violence is related to stigmatization and the immediate association many do between sex-workers and AIDS. Women in SANGRAM, an NGO in India, are working for that association to be a positive one, where sex workers are known for their work in preventing HIV/ AIDS and raising awareness.
The International Woman's Health Coalition recently visited SANGRAM to do media training and documentation and this is the short documentary film they made. You can also see some of the pictures they took during the documentation process here. As producer @AudaciaRay mentioned on Twitter:
The US sex worker movement has a lot to learn from Indian activists. Watch my video to see how they're collectivizing…
In the video, the women of SANGRAM explain how education regarding their human rights has made them take action to ensure that they receive proper medical care, that they are treated equally by law enforcement and government officials, that they protect themselves and so they can educate others regarding the risks of STDs and unprotected sex. From the description:
Based in a rural community in India's Maharashtra State, SANGRAM works to ensure equal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support: Over 6,000 women in rural India have participated in HIV testing as a result of these efforts. Drawing on 15 years of work to empower marginalized communities to claim their rights, SANGRAM is becoming an increasingly strong advocate nationally, and globally for health policies and programs that are responsive to the real-life needs of local communities.
In Australia, Juicy Jessie Abraham who works in a “legal” setting in the Northern Territories makes a vlog entry calling to abolish registration of sex workers. She wishes for stigmatization against sex workers to stop, and she believes registration is a way to identify sex workers and possibly use it to discriminate against them, among other issues.
From Grit TV, a short video explains what is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and its history, as well as the importance of the red umbrella symbolizing resistance to discrimination against sex workers :
There are other organizations for whom sex work itself is equivalent to violence. They wish to combat legalization and decriminalization by eradicating sex work and criminalizing the purchase of sexual services. For example, that is the position that Honour Consulting in Canada holds. Founded by former sex worker Trisha Baptie who also was a founding member for EVE- formerly Exploited Voices now Educating, they have posted a song called Would you Wait where they put out their perspective. In Ms. Baptie's words:
We need to call prostitution what it really is, which is violence against women.
Calling it violence against women, and an attack on women's equality, allows us to name the injustice that we have to fight against.
Supporting the criminalization of the demand of prostitution, which is referred to as the Swedish model of law, or as of late, the Nordic model of law, which calls for an end of the commodification of women's bodies, is pro women and pro equality.
In a contrasting perspective from Macedonia, Witness.org and the Hops organization in Skopje, have produced the following 18 minute documentary about sex work titled You Must Know About Me: Rights Not Violence for Sex Workers in Macedonia. In it, sex workers speak out firsthand about what it is like to live in an environment where they are targeted, their human rights are overlooked and they are abused by the figures of authority who should be protecting them, and where they wish to be recognized as workers, with the same rights as any other consenting adult in employment, where the problem with sex work is not the work itself, but the stigmatization, insecurity and violence they face because of persecution and discrimination.
From the video description:
You Must Know About Me is a first-hand account of sex workers experiences and aspirations off and on the streets. While dealing with harassment and violence from clients, pimps, and the police, sex workers strive to counter hostile public attitudes by speaking out and fighting for their rights. The video calls for zero tolerance of violence against sex workers and the coordinated response of institutions to the actual needs of sex workers.
Do you know of any other activities or initiatives to end violence against sex workers? Please let us know!