International Sex Workers’ Day is held annually to mark the 1975 occupation of Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, by around 100 sex workers, protesting their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. Sex workers continue to mark the day every year with events and actions calling for fulfilment of their rights. Each year NSWP focuses on the theme of access to justice on 2nd June.
Sex worker groups around the world held a huge diversity of events and actions to mark International Sex Workers’ Day 2022.
The African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) ran a 14 day countdown to International Sex Workers' Day on their website and social media platforms. They used each post to highlight the injustice faced by sex workers in Africa and recommend calls to action to mitigate the injustice.
In Namibia, the Namibian sex workers’ rights movement are commemorating International Sex Workers’ Day for the first time this year. Four sex worker-led organisations are collaborating on their event, with sex workers speaking on the theme of Access to Justice. The four organisations are Harmony for All Movement, Voice of Hope Trust, Namibian Sex Workers Alliance; and Equal Rights for All Movement.
In Lesotho, KAPAL are running a fun walk.
Asia and the Pacific
Sex worker-led organisations in India such as All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) and National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) celebrated a Supreme Court ruling which recognised sex work as a ‘profession’ and ruled that sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law.
NNSW also shared a graphic on social media which called for an implementation of the Supreme Court’s recommendations.
The European Sex Workers Rights Alliance (ESWA) ran a campaign around the theme of LGBTQIA+ solidarity, as June is also pride month. They shared videos and pictures from prominent members of the LGBTQIA+ community expressing their support for the decriminalisation of sex work and explaining the importance of mutual solidarity. Their content was shared under the hashtag: #LGBTQIfordecrim.
TAMPEP, a migrant sex worker-led network, used 2nd June to continue its campaign for the rights of migrant sex workers in Europe. TAMPEP Network members organised different actions to call attention to the date and TAMPEP shared these on their Facebook page, on Instagram and on their website.
Participate, disseminate and endorse TAMPEP’s petition for the rights of migrant sex workers in Europe on their website.
In the United Kingdom, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) created graphics showing quotes from their Access to Justice Webinar that was held in 2020. The full webinar can be viewed on their YouTube channel.
In Greece, Red Umbrella Athens team hosted an event called "Dana: Empowering Sex workers", where they discussed the decriminalisation of sex work and the urgent need to update the law.
On their Facebook event invite, Red Umbrella Athens explained more.
“The current legal framework makes it extremely difficult to work legally in sex work, especially in Athens, and leaves people providing sexual services unprotected. In 2017, this legal revision was recognised as necessary by all representatives of the political parties that participated in the workshop (SY.RIZ.A, ND, KIN.AL, AN.EL, Potami) and in May 2020, the current government of the New Democracy established a Project Team for the revision (Ministry of Citizen Protection) by a decree. The relevant conclusion reinforces the argument that the time has come to proceed with the corresponding actions.”
In North Macedonia, STAR - The First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans joined in partnership with HOPS (Healthy options project Skopje) and TransFormA (an Initiative for protection and promotion of transgender people’s rights in North Macedonia) to organise an online event featuring a promotion of a short video “Why Skopje deserves the Red Light Districts back” and podcast “Breakfast with MISS STRAWBERRY (MDMF)” which features an interview with a sex worker who has been working on the streets in Skopje for more than 40 years. The video and podcast have been shared within their online campaign on Facebook. You can read more about the campaign on the STAR website.
In Russia, the Russian Sex Workers' Forum currently has very limited capacity to widely celebrate International Sex Workers' Day due to increased censorship, with the blocking of most media outlets that write about social problems. Therefore, this year the Forum did not hold a large event for 2nd June. Instead, Forum participants proposed to hold a new photo flash mob with the slogan "Секс-работа - не повод для отказа в правосудии / Sex work is not a reason to deny justice." They have invited sex workers to take pictures with the texts of the Laws and Codes to show that we also know the laws and demand equal access to justice. Those who do not have the texts of the law can take ordinary photos and write on them the flash mob slogan or another similar meaning.
In addition, the Forum's lawyers and a sex worker who wants to be a designer are creating special postcards that will contain the main barriers that prevent sex workers from accessing justice and methods for overcoming these barriers.
In Ecuador, Asociacion Goover held a march in the historic centre of Quito. The march took place on the 2nd June at 10 de Agosto Avenue N11-409, and 170402 outside the Central Bank of Ecuador at 10:30 am. This action was carried out by different associations of sex workers at national and local levels to claim their rights and to eradicate the abolitionist policies that the state institutions want to establish.
In El Salvador, Organizacion de Trabajadoras del Sexo de El Salvador produced a flyer that was circulated in the main streets of San Salvador directed to the general population about the current situation of women sex workers in El Salvador. The organisation also ran an information table to hand out promotional materials to sex workers.
Organizacion de Trabajadoras del Sexo de El Salvador also released a statement to make others aware of the situation in El Salvador, where arbitrary detentions have increased. An extract can be read below.
"The criminalisation of sex work in the current context as a political strategy has consequences that go beyond the supposed fight against trafficking networks, producing a punitive paroxysm that manifests itself in the growing invasion of criminal law in the everyday sphere, the hardening of public policies that repress women who carry out sex work.
During this period under the current regime, there has been an increase in arbitrary arrests, abuses and harassment of many sex workers who work in public spaces, streets, parks and avenues without being told why.
Many of them have left their children and families abandoned without knowing their fate, and the public authorities are similarly not favouring or attending to cases of women sex workers, as their guarantees and right to defence have been suspended, and the whole situation is addressed in a way that is unequal to the needs of the women who have been unjustly captured.
Throughout this whole process, the demands of those who participate in any case are intentionally ignored in an unequal negotiation with institutions that so far show no interest and/or an affirmative response to various forms of violence to which female sex workers are exposed as it is not considered a substantial public problem."
North America and the Caribbean
In Canada, SWAP - Sex Workers' Action Program Hamilton held a Grand Opening at 771 Barton St. E, from 7 - 9:30 PM. They had options to attend in-person, or stream the event and attend online from the comfort of your own home. As part of the event SWAP Hamilton screened the 1975 film about the occupation of St. Nizier church in France by sex workers, which is what the June 2nd International Sex Workers' Day aims to commemorate. They also had guest Carol Leigh, who coined the term "sex work" in the 70s, join in with a discussion and read an excerpt from her book.
In the United States, HIPS ran a Sex Worker KikiParty & Townhall Takeover at Freedom Plaza. The afternoon saw dancing, storytelling, talks from guest speakers and the chance to strut down their street-based catwalk. Alongside the entertainment, HIPS served bagged lunches, drinks, and plenty of music.