NSWP members mark International Sex Workers' Day on 2nd June 2023

International Sex Workers’ Day is held annually to mark the 1975 occupation of Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France. The church was occupied by around 100 sex workers, all protesting their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. Sex workers continue to mark the day every year with events and actions calling for the fulfilment of their rights. Each year NSWP focuses on the theme of access to justice on 2nd June.

This is how NSWP member organisations marked International Sex Workers’ Day 2023 across five regions.


In Egypt, Cairo 52 Legal Research Institute launched the first observatory report to track and document arrests and prosecution of sex workers and third parties in Egypt. The report covers the period between Jan 2021 to Dec 2022 and outlines and analyses arrest patterns, locations, methods, charges, and sex. The report is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region, and it will be turned into an annual event to close the gap in sex work arrest data, which is often not collected and managed by NGOs in the region. The report is part of Cairo 52’s efforts to bring sex work issues into mainstream human rights narratives in Egypt and the region.

Read the report on Cairo 52’s website.

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In Uganda, the Uganda Network for Sex Work -Led Organisations (UNESO) released a press statement in commemoration of the day.

“The day has come at the moment when the sex worker rights movement in Uganda is experiencing a tough situation where the legislation system is/has imposed hash laws that further criminalize sex workers in their diversities.

The punitive laws further violate the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution. Article 29(2), and the Universal Declaration of Human rights Art,22,23&25, and the international instruments like International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, The International Covenant on Civil and political Rights which the state made commitments to fulfil.

The criminalization nature of sex worker in Uganda is regulates and encumbers sex workers’ access to justice where they are denied justice both as victims of crime and when charged with crimes. In most cases the law enforcement officers often dismiss and give less attention to reported cases from sex workers on crimes against them. Their testimonies are of less value than those of their perpetrators. The failure to grant all forms of justice to sex workers has given perpetrators more power to continue violating sex workers since no action will be cautioned to them.

Many sex workers face intersecting forms of criminalization and discrimination that impact on their access to justice on grounds gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, HIV status, country of origin and/or migration status. Fear of being arrested or charged is a major barrier to sex workers’ reporting crimes against them to the police.

As the Uganda Network of sex worker led organizations in Uganda, we recommend,

1. Parliament of Uganda should, through its relevant committees, that is, the Committees on Human Rights and Health, among others, engage sex worker-led organisations and members of the sex worker community, in a bid to understand sex workers needs and the human rights violations that they face because of the criminalization of sex work.

2. The Government of Uganda to repeal all the laws that criminalize sex work and put in place laws seek to protect sex workers Rights and promote equal access to justice for sex workers.

3. Uganda Police Force to strengthen existing mechanisms to address human rights violations committed by officers from the (UPF). This can be done through better facilitating the Police

Professional Standards Unit (PPSU) with the requisite resources to make them more responsive to the complaints of misconduct and human rights violations by police officers.

4. Sex worker led organizations should improve documentation of cases of human rights violations against sex workers, based on their engagement in sex work, and use the documented evidence to inform advocacy that is geared towards the realization of rights of sex workers.

5. Sex worker led organizations should invest in human rights trainings for sex workers to empower them to demand for justice and to train more community paralegals to provide basic legal support to their fellow sex workers in the community”

In Morocco, Platform Layalat planned a series of podcast testimonials featuring transgender sex workers talking about their experiences with discrimination, violence, or lack of access to justice in commemoration of International Sex Worker's Day. The organisation also launching their new website on 6th June, which can be visited here. They encourage everyone to follow them for updates and resources for transgender women sex workers.

In South Africa, SWEAT and Sisonke joined the Asijiki Coalition calling on the decriminalisation of sex work to commemorate International Sex Workers' Day. 

In Kenya, Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) released a statement standing in solidarity with sex workers around the world.

“BHESP acknowledges the unique challenges faced by sex workers, including criminalization, stigma, violence, and discrimination. We firmly believe that criminalization of sex work exacerbates these challenges, pushing sex workers into vulnerable situations and impeding their access to justice. It is essential to ensure that existing laws and policies promote access to justice for sex workers and address the structural barriers that hinder sex workers ability to legal redress.

In recognition of this day, BHESP calls upon communities, allies, governments, policymakers, funders and stakeholders to prioritize:

  1. Decriminalization of sex work and recognize “Sex Work as Work”.
  2. Meaningful participation of sex workers in developing and enforcing laws that protect sex workers from violence, exploitation, and trafficking.
  3. Funding and support for sex workers movements and organizations to provide free or low-cost legal assistance, support, and advice to ensure sex workers access to justice is not hindered by financial constraints.

On this Sex Workers Rights Day, let us recommit ourselves to the pursuit of justice, equality, and human rights for all.”

Read the full statement on BHESP’s website.

Asia and the Pacific

In Australia, Scarlet Alliance put out a statement focusing on the criminalisation of migrant sex workers and ran an online event hosted by the Scarlet Alliance Asian Migrant Sex Worker Advisory Group (AMSWAG).

In their statement, they stated:

“Instead of banning migrant sex work, sex worker leaders are calling for: 

  • the provision of safe, non-discriminatory and accessible migration channels for all workers
  • access to industrial and workplace rights and protections through mechanisms such as Fair Work and jurisdictional tribunals
  • increased funding for multilingual migrant sex worker peer education and advocacy programs nationally and locally.”

Read the full statement here.


In Lithuania, a new organisation who are closely collaborating with NSWP member organisation Demetra, hosted a picnic in Vilnius – the very first time this day is marked in Lithuania by sex workers in such a way! The picnic was partially private where the organisation also raised funds for their fines fund and spread the message about sex worker rights. 

In Germany, a demonstration on June 3rd was organised in Berlin by SWAG and some other organisations, including NSWP member Hydra e.V., Berlin, FAU Section Sex Work, BSWC, and Interventionistische Linke. They came together on International Sex Workers’ Rights Day to remind the world that sex workers are the canaries in the coal mine. “Ever since we can remember, sex workers have served as a sentinel species for society. We are the vanguard. We call up from below when conditions are dangerous to signal hazards to the rest. Today, we have become a testing ground for increased state regulations, government control, and deadly, whorephobic stigma. We are being exposed to unliveable conditions and expected to survive. We will not bear it any longer…

So, speaking from our own experiences as sex workers, we have four demands that will permanently reduce the institutional harm we currently experience, ensure the livelihood of sex workers, and create liveable futures for us and our communities and families: 

  1. We demand the end of the mandatory registration system for sex workers in Germany. 
  2. We demand that the Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen's evaluation of the ProstituertenSchutzGesetz includes meaningful input from a cross section of sex worker voices from across our wide spectrum of experiences in both the research phase and in the interpretation of the results. We demand inclusion in the government's development of policy recommendations and law reform after the results are in. 
  3. We demand that the Berliner Sparkasse and the other private financial institutions stop implementing policies that discriminate against sex workers because of their job.
  4. We demand that the Schöneberg police take attacks on sex workers seriously and respond quickly and with full attention. We demand that the police and the municipal government of Schöneberg in particular--and Berlin in general--come forward with a plan to prevent violence against street-based workers. We will not be treated as disposable.

Read the full statement on the Sex Worker Action Group – Berlin website

In Madrid, Spain Organización de Trabajadoras Sexuales OTRAS organised the event titled "Ask a Whore" where they invited people to chat with sex workers.

A flyer for the event, in Spanish.

TAMPEP, a European migrant sex worker-led network, collated a selection of events across Europe from their member organisations and shared these on their social media channels. Tampep stated that: “We are proud of the ability of sex workers' organisations and allies to give visibility to this international moment particularly at a time when stigma and criminalisation are detrimental to our rights.”

In Austria, SXA-Info hosted a photo exhibit by Tim Oehler at their in Graz, Austria. The exhibition was called “Sex-Workers. Das ganz normale Leben” (Sex-Workers. The quite normal life).

The description of the event reads, “Along the lines of "Don't judge a life you haven't lived yourself", sex workers give insights into their everyday lives. In very personal texts, they describe their view of sex work. Their portraits, their voices and their thoughts depict facets of a diverse and often stigmatised life that is not just black or white.”

The exhibition gave sex workers a voice – through pictures and texts – both written and oral. The latter via a listening station. In addition, SXA-Info held an event with speeches, a few welcoming words via video from the artist, a little buffet and of course time for questions and discussions relating to sex work.

In Sweden, Red Umbrella Sweden ran an "ask a sex worker" Q&A with their members on their social media accounts. Questions were forwarded to Red Umbrella Sweden members who have volunteered time and knowledge to help people better understand sex workers. You can read the questions and the answers that Red Umbrella Sweden member provided on their Twitter account.

An image with the text that reads, "What are the dangers of SW in daily life?" An answer reads, "I fear the authorities and the stigma most"

STAR-The First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans chose 2nd June to commence their “Sex Workers Month” campaign, where they are organising public events in three cities in North Macedonia

  • “Living Library with Sex Workers” in Strumica on June 9th 2023 (Friday) in the European House – Strumica;
  • “Living Library with Sex Workers” in Gostivar on June 16th 2023 (Friday), in the Civic Resource Center Gostivar, and 
  • “Living Library with Sex Workers” in Skopje on June 23rd (Friday), in the European House – Skopje. 

STAR explained more about the events: “The purpose behind the ‘Living Library with Sex Workers’ events is to sensitize the broader public regarding sex workers rights, organized according to the ‘living library’ concept, which enables interaction among people as a tool to overcome the prejudices and stereotypes in a safe public space. At the events, visitors from the general population will have the opportunity to hear out sex workers’ personal stories and ask questions about their experiences.”

Latin America

In Peru, Movimiento de Trabajadoras Sexuales del Peru and Miluska Vida y Dignidad A.C. coordinated joint actions in different regions, including a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice, demanding access to justice. From there, they marched to the Department Of Criminal Investigation on España Avenue to demand the formation of a specialised commission to deactivate the mafias. Their organisations  also sent letters with their demands to the authorities with their demands making them see that “on OUR DAY, NOTHING TO CELEBRATE, A LOT TO FIGHT FOR.”

Miluska Vida y Dignidad A.C also added that, “Our situation is unbearable, we can no longer live like this, terrified by the mafias of quota collection, extortion, trafficking and assassination, that is why this Friday, International Day of sex workers, we are going to spend it in mourning, we have nothing to celebrate because to date we have not achieved our Rights...

We demand that the government:

  • Form a specialised Commission to deactivate the mafias that are killing us,
  • We want Access to Justice
  • Intervention from International Bodies, because this government is indolent, the police are not enough and they continue to kill us.

*It is imperative that sex work is recognised NOW!”

Elsewhere in Peru, Rosas Mujeres De Lucha - Peru held a discussion on the problems and experiences of sex workers, with the presence of the lawyer Tammy Quintanilla, former advisor to the office of the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, Gabriela Mariño from the Asociación Civil Ángel Azul, Miguel Saurin from the Asociación Civil Cambio y Acción and Leída Portal from our organisation Rosas Mujeres de Lucha - Perú. 

Rosas Mujeres De Lucha – Peru also extended a request for people from around the world to take action against rising levels of violence against sex workers in the country. 

“Unfortunately there is a great silence from the state and they say nothing, the police only investigate when there is media pressure from the media, so far this year we are going to reach 30 cis and trans women who were murdered, some of them were recorded.

We take this opportunity to call on organisations from all over the world to send a letter to the CONSUL of Peru, expressing their concern about the deaths of sex workers, that the investigation processes continue, that the police dismantle the organised gangs and that it be put on the agenda of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.”

A flyer for the event, featuring speaker names and pictures

Also in Peru, Asociacion TS Tumbes Por Nosotras para Nosotras held a discussion titled ‘Advances and challenges of sex work in the region of Tumbes’. Their organisation is located on the border with Ecuador, the entrance to Peru. In recent years our Peruvian and migrant communities have suffered increasing violence from the justice operators. They are advocating with the congressmen of the region of Tumbes for a law that recognises sex work as a labour right. Regarding the law, Asociacion TS Tumbes Por Nosotras para Nosotras said: “We are aware that in the current political context in which we find ourselves, the law will not be possible, but we will continue to advocate, it is the only way to eradicate all the organised mafias of extortionists and quota collectors. #SexWorkIsWork denying it is violence.”

In Ecuador, Colectivo Flor de Azalea spent three months organising various events in coordination with State institutions and the University, as well as with organisations that have been fighting against ordinances that violate the right to work, to move freely in the street, to live a life free of violence, to public space.

Activities included the following: Discussion with Academia, march of the Red Umbrellas and a meeting with the Women's Secretariat on the theme of Advocacy. They also have a travelling exhibition in various cities from the 2nd of June until the 28th of June.

In Colombia, Corporación Calle 7 Colombia made a photographic exhibition of sex workers and distributed bags of food to the sex workers who attended the exhibition. They did this to make sex work visible, to make visible the work that they carry out as activists, and the networks that are woven through the years demanding the fight for sex worker rights, because sex work is work and sex workers deserve a space in society, like any other worker.

In El Salvador, La Organización de Trabajadoras del Sexo de El Salvador held a discussion on the impacts of the regime of exception and the arbitrary detentions against sex workers. This action is part of a campaign to stop the detentions of sex workers and transgender people who are facing difficult conditions and mistreatment by the police and military.

For the  month of June, they have also scheduled to hand out flyers to the general population with their demands. Thhis will take place in the streets, parks and avenues where sex workers work. To close the month, La Organización de Trabajadoras del Sexo de El Salvador will be holding a discussion with key actors about the arbitrary detentions against fellow trans sex workers.

In Mexico, Centro De Apoyo A Las Identidades Trans A.C., Agenda Nacional Política Trans de México, Mujer Libertad A.C. and APROASE worked together and managed to get the Federal Government, through INMUJERES, to take a position in favour of recognising 2 June as International Sex Workers' Day.

Read the pronouncement here.

North America and the Caribbean

In the United States, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance partnered with Moral High Ground Productions to produce "Storming the Sanctuary" in celebration of the original action that inspired International Sex Workers’ Day in 1975. New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance explain more about the audio production: “N'Jaila Rhee and PJ Starr introduce a line of up of some of the greatest talent ever assembled on International Whores Day in New Jersey including Jenna Torres, Jae/Jay, Erika, Zee Xaymaca and Ephraim Adamz who contributes the musical backbone of our podcast with "All Whores Aboard." We also celebrate Carol Leigh with her song, Bad Laws.

Additional thanks to BPPP and the BSWC for supporting so many of the artists involved in this venture and to the Tucson Sex Worker Arts Festival for recordings of Carol Leigh.”

You can listen to the production here.

In Canada, Safe Harbour Outreach Project (S.H.O.P) ran a community care day with mental health counselling, good food, games, and a video series provided by their friends and allies at SWAP Hamilton.

As well as this, SHOP released a new media guide titled Sex Work: A Journalistic Guide to the Fundamentals of Your Sources. Produced in partnership with The St. John’s Status of Women Council (SJSWC), the guidance is for media on ethical reporting on sex work. This guide is the first of its kind locally and has been directly informed by current and former sex workers in and around St. John’s through community-based research and consultation. 

You can read the guide here

Elsewhere in Canada, sex workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition organised a protest at the Manitoba Law Courts to demand that the Trudeau government remove the harmful & stigmatising laws around sex work, the Protection of Communities & Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) and harmful immigration laws which target migrant and immigrant sex workers. This event was put on in conjunction with the Sex Work Autonomous Committee (SWAC) in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal).

Explaining more, Winnipeg Action Coalition said: “PCEPA criminalizes our clients, where & how we can work, & those who assist us in our work. Immigration laws and anti-trafficking efforts cause great harm and deport those who are immigrants & migrants who are working in sex work. These laws target sex workers and seek to eradicate our work!”