Sex Worker Pride began in 2019 and is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement. Sex Worker Pride extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community.
NSWP members celebrated Sex Worker Pride 2022 on 14 September with in-person events, digital events, and sharing achievements across social media and online networks.
African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) shared their support for the day online with an image that celebrated sex workers’ diversity as our pride.
The Uganda Network for Sex Worker-Led Organizations (UNESO) is the national umbrella organisation that brings together all sex worker-led organisations and groups in Uganda in their diversities. To celebrate the day, UNESO shared a list of achievements and reasons to be proud.
"UNESO was founded in 2015 and has since then attracted membership from sex worker led organisations in their diversity including female sex workers, male sex workers, LBQT sex workers and refugee sex workers from across all the regions of Uganda. From last year the network has increased its membership from 34 to 55 sex worker –led organizations and small groups. The increase in membership has contributed to UNESO’s goal and has created a uniformed voice for sex workers while advocating for the human rights of sex workers.
UNESO was able to develop the Sexual and Reproductive Health and rights Training Manual for sex workers which is the first of its kind in Uganda. The Manual was developed by sex worker leaders who jointly shared their inputs to have an all-inclusive tool. The tool was developed to be used by sex worker organizations, civil society organizations and other key relevant stakeholders who wish to work with and for promoting Sexual Reproductive Health and rights of sex workers through conducting capacity building trainings on SRHR for sex Workers. https://unesouganda.org/sexual-reproductive-health-and-rights-training-manual-for-sex-workers/
To bridge the existing information and data gap about sex worker’s existence and issues affecting them, UNESO has been able to provide evidence based information and knowledge through research and documentations.
- Video based documentary on the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights experiences of sex workers for SRHR evidenced advocacy
- We carried out a Baseline study on Sex Workers Who Use and Inject Drugs (SWUID).
- Sex workers Human Rights Violations report.
- Baseline assessment on SRHR issues that affect sex workers in all their diversity that
- Mapping out of friendly health facilities
The network has played an essential part in influencing change in the mindsets of stakeholders in different regions and policy environment that criminalizes sex worker. UNESO has been able to engage different stakeholders through advocacy dialogue meeting on health and human rights protection and promotion for sex workers. These and other engagements aim to discuss and make strategic collaborations on the promotion of health and human rights for sex workers in Uganda.
For example, UNESO has been able to take lead in engaging parliamentarians to advocate for amendments of some laws and policies like the Sexual Offence Bill that criminalize sex work and workers in their diversities.
Asia and the Pacific
The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) is a sex worker-led network whose members include national sex worker-led networks, sex worker-led organisations and community-based sex work projects representing female, male and transgender sex workers.
APNSW shared their appreciation for the sex worker community and leaders for the efforts to improve access to health care services, reduce violence against sex workers, claim human rights and eliminate stigma and discrimination. They also shared images of sex worker rights leaders from Asia Pacific.
National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW), India, also shared a message celebrating the day online and asked for stories of sex worker pride to be shared with them.
In Ukraine, Legalife-Ukraine shared a statement acknowledging the difficult year for Ukrainian sex workers and also reflected on their ongoing work in the area. An extract of the statement is below and you can read the full statement on their website.
“This year brought unexpected and often tragic changes to our lives, to the lives of sex workers in Ukraine, and ultimately, our activities changed as well. But, even after the invasion of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the organization was able to quickly assess the current needs of sex workers, review priorities and, accordingly, determine the main areas of activity and tasks for wartime. So today we have something to share with the whole sex worker community, with our friends and partners.
During the war, almost 800 sex workers received financial assistance and support from the regional offices of Legalife-Ukraine. The story of each/each of them is a story filled with despair, pain, fear and danger. These stories, on the one hand, are all different, just as all people are different, but, on the other hand, they are very similar, because they are united by a common grief - the WAR in UKRAINE and a common hope for VICTORY and the long-awaited PEACE.
During June-August 2022 SPs from 12 regions of Ukraine and their children received humanitarian aid in the form of:
450 sets of "Food products"
450 sets of "Hygiene products"
450 sets of "Clothes, shoes, blankets"
240 sets of "Baby food and hygiene products (diapers)"
450 sets of "Medicines and medical products"
More than 200 SPs received a couple of legal aid and escort/transportation services to receive social, medical and legal assistance.
150 JVs received qualified help from psychologists and lawyers through our Hotline for JVs and in the organization's online chats.
We have done it, we are doing it, and we will continue to do it in the future, because we know that this is essential support for people, it is what our key communities need to survive in difficult times and wait for a joint victory.”
New Generation Humanitarian NGO, Armenia, took the opportunity of Sex Worker Pride to highlight an important statement.
“NGNGO has to regretfully note that today even the most basic, universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of a whole nation are under a serious threat as a result of Azerbaijani aggression escalated against the sovereign Republic of Armenia since September 13, 2022, targeting not only military but also civil infrastructures. The situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border continues to remain extremely tense.
Currently, Armenia and our organization desperately needs the support of all its international partners to voice about the Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and draw the attention of the international community to this serious challenge to the human rights, peace, and security in our region.”
You can read more on NGNGO’s website.
In France, STRASS (Syndicat du TRAvail Sexuel) and the Collectif Archives LGBTQI+ announced Sex workers speak out: oral archives by and for sex workers.
In a statement announcing the project, they said:
“Our communities can produce their own archives, in a living way, in their own interest, without waiting for the goodwill of researchers, students, or other overhanging external "experts".
It is a question of reappropriating the representations of ourselves, and no longer being simply objects of discourse. Enough with the only sources of police, judicial or medical information to talk about ourselves. We can do better on our own.
Within the LGBTQI+ communities, sex workers continue to be criminalised, pathologised, and have their voice and expertise confiscated. It therefore seemed politically interesting to start with this first inter-associative partnership which can serve as an example for other projects, with structured organisations or informal collectives ready to take on the production of their archives.
STRASS has chosen a video format in order to fight against stigmatisation by creating "raw" archives that can then be used for other projects, whether artistic, documentary or other. A total of fifteen videos will be posted, with the first ones already accessible on the STRASS YouTube channel from today. (https://www.youtube.com/c/STRASSSyndicatdutravailsexuel)”
TAMPEP, the European Network for the Promotion of Rights and Health among Migrant Sex Workers, shared their pride in the results of their ongoing campaign MIGRANT SEX WORKERS CALL FOR RIGHTS.
They said: “The voices of 675 persons and organizations were loud and clear. We reached European politicians who responded to our appeal and Declaration.
Join our campaign! The Declaration can be sign under: www.tampep.eu
The video we produced can be seen under: www.youtube.com/channel/UCVaZCogrKL9sXZ8JpQBIRMA”
In North Macedonia, STAR – The First Sex Collective of Sex Workers in the Balkans published a list of their achievements and efforts that made them particularly proud. An extract is below but you can read the full article on their website.
“Despite the great challenges we faced in 2021, which was undoubtedly marked by the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, we managed to stay consistent of what we do, to advocate for sex workers’ rights within the healthcare, social welfare and legal system in the country, and to lobby for an appropriate model for regulation of sex work in the Republic of North Macedonia. The decriminalization of sex work as the best legal solution to regulate sex work and protect sex workers’ human rights has been our primary focus of work – a process we continue to work on in 2022.
In order to improve the legal framework and create better living and working conditions for sex workers in the country, we have remained focused on good cooperation with national governmental and international institutions, coalitions and associations. In May 2021 we organized “POP-UP DINNER” where for the first time in history of our country, on the same dinner table institutional representatives (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Ministry of Justice and Ombudsman) were seated together with sex workers and activists to discuss active and meaningful inclusion and involvement of all stake holders in the process of amending laws to decriminalize sex work in North Macedonia.”
Sex Workers Forum Russia released a statement on the situation in Russia, where people who are fighting for their rights cannot speak openly about it. Moreover, they cannot show their achievements.
“The Sex Workers Forum works daily to combat violence against sex workers, reduce stigma, decriminalize sex work, and ensure that sex workers have full access to healthcare and justice. But we cannot speak openly about this and show our work widely, because this can be recognized as propaganda for prostitution and punished.
In addition, the Forum constantly runs the risk of being included in the register of foreign agents. Therefore, today in Russia we cannot draw the attention of the authorities to the achievements of the Forum as an organization that unites sex workers. We cannot hold noticeable, mass and bright events.
The Russian Forum of Sex Workers congratulates all sex workers in the world and organizations that protect the rights of sex workers on the approach of this holiday.”
In Greece, Red Umbrella Athens shared a statement detailing all that they are celebrating this year:
"Restarting the dialogue on Law Reform: we are working closely with political parties offering our consultation on specific changes in the current outdated law 2734/99 on sex work.
Establishing a new Day Centre in Thessaloniki: since July sex workers in northern Greece are offered tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B & C, sexual health counselling, psychological and social counselling, legal support, condoms, artistic & recreational activities and many more services all for free.
Raising enough money for Zoe to stay free: we have collected through crowdfunding enough money to keep Zoe, a trans woman wrongfully convicted during the shameful police sweep operations of 2012 aiming at sex workers, out of prison for the next 5 months. We are working on her case, demanding her full vindication and reparations for this degrading targeting. Learn more about the events of 2012. Donate to the cause.
Supporting one of our member's efforts to report an incident of racist violence: Ioanna, a trans woman, was verbally abused by a priest who turned her away when she visited a church's social kitchen. Our lawyer helped her file an appeal to the Racist Violence Unit. The incident was condemned by the Archbishop and an official investigation by the church is still in process."
Regional network PLAPERTS shared their support for the day online, along with a video that can be viewed here.
North America and the Caribbean
St James Infirmary, USA, celebrated Sex Worker Pride Day at their Wednesday night clinic at their new home. At the drop-in session there were medical services, food, groceries and safer drug use supplies.
Also in the USA, 75 organisations representing sex worker rights, public health, technology, reproductive justice, anti-trafficking, racial justice, and civil and human rights, sent a letter to Congress urging passage of the “SESTA and FOSTA Examination of Secondary Effects for Sex Workers Study Act” or the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. A statement released by The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center explains more.
“This bill, reintroduced on March 3, 2022—International Sex Workers Rights Day—in the House by Representative Ro Khanna, and in the Senate by Senator Elizabeth Warren, would study the impact of SESTA/FOSTA on the wellbeing and rights of people who trade sex, including sex workers and human trafficking survivors.
The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center (SWP) spearheaded the effort to highlight the devastating impacts of SESTA/FOSTA on people who trade sex, including sex workers and human trafficking survivors, and the urgent need for Congress to rigorously study these consequences through the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. Since SESTA/FOSTA passed in April 2018, many sex workers saw the online platforms they relied on to vet clients, build community, and stay safe while working erased. By kicking sex workers offline, SESTA/FOSTA put them more at risk of exploitation, including trafficking, despite the law’s purported purpose to curb human trafficking.
“Choosing to engage in sex work as an adult is a human right and laws that do not reflect this undermine people’s right to bodily autonomy, freedom of expression, choice of employment, and even life itself. The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act is a critical step to right the wrongs of SESTA/FOSTA by genuinely and rigorously investigating and reporting on the law’s impacts on sex workers and people experiencing trafficking in the sex trades,” explained Mariah Grant, Director of Research and Advocacy for the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center”
Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics Rhode Island (COYOTE RI) filed an Amicus brief with the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, supporting the Appellants who argue that the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) violates the First Amendment. The case, Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. United States, is on appeal from the DC District Court, where Judge Leon found that the statute was constitutional.
The brief, which is joined by 12 other organizations, describes the harm FOSTA has caused sex workers and sex trafficking survivors since it was passed four years ago. The brief is based on a survey of 248 sex workers and sex trafficking survivors that found FOSTA dramatically increases sex trafficking, exploitation, and other violence. Furthermore, it silences protected speech and causes the greatest harm to the sex trafficking survivors it was intended to protect.