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 2021 on 14 September with in-person events, digital events, and sharing achievements across social media and online networks.
African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) held an online session celebrating sex workers’ achievements, focussing on movement building and organising, the recognition of sex work as work, and celebrating sex workers’ innovation and resilience during COVID-19. The Zoom meeting began with presentations from panellists and a plenary session, followed by an open discussion and reflections on how to sustain their hard won achievements and the next steps to scaling up achievements.
The session was moderated by Grace Kamau, Regional Coordinator of ASWA and Rachael Gawases, Executive Director Equal Rights For All Movement Namibia (ERAM). Participants included Phillipa Tucker, Research and Communications Director of Accountability International; Lungile Khumalo, Executive Director of Voice Of Our Voices (VOOV), Eswatini; and Zziwa Guy Jairus, Programs Officer at Men Of The Night Uganda (MONU).
Coast Sex Workers Alliance (COSWA) is a grassroots female sex worker-led organisation at the Coastal region of Kenya. They provided a short text describing their proudest achievements this year, saying “The Coastal people of Kenya are highly conservative and very religious people. The region is densely populated by the Muslim community who are a very tough nut to crack in terms of trying to bringing them on board in supporting the rights of sex workers.
Despite the many challenges that we face as a sex worker-led organisation we have made many commendable steps towards championing for the rights of sex workers and ensuring a just and socially inclusive society for sex workers. Over the past one year, the world has been very challenged because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, being a sex workers led organisation in a country like Kenya which still criminalizes sex work is very hard but despite the challenges there is a lot that we can celebrate as sex workers from the Coastal region of Kenya. Below is a pictorial presentation of our achievements as Coast Sex Workers Alliance over the past one year.”
Women With Dignity, in Tanzania, celebrated the sex workers’ rights movement, saying: “In this special day of sex workers pride we celebrate the life, the victory ahead of us, we shouldn’t stop here until it's done. We are the change we want, we are the future investors aluta continue. Happy Sex workers pride day.”
Asia and the Pacific
In Singapore, Project X did a Q&A session with two sex workers on Instagram and ran a special 14% off their face masks.
In Australia, Debby Doesn’t Do it For Free ran an Intro Room sex worker story telling event by MC Queenie Bon Bon, with all funds raised going towards an emergency fund for sex workers unable to work during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Respect Inc brought sex worker pride onto the 4zzz local radio waves with Working Power, an hour with sex workers from the #DecrimQLD campaign.
Regional Network The International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) changed its name to The European Sex Workers' Rights Alliance (ESWA) and launched a new logo, website and strategic plan. You can visit their new website here: https://www.eswalliance.org/
In Glasgow, Scotland, Umbrella Lane held an online event with discussion, performances and celebration of the sex worker movement's achievements. They also shared a statement on what they are most proud of over the last year, saying:
“Through fundraising, we were able to payout £37k in crisis payments during the pandemic to workers struggling to make ends meet, this was a lifeline to many. This year has been a time to work together and through partnership building we were able to offer food vouchers (through National Ugly Mugs), free fast-tracked counselling sessions (through Wellbeing Scotland), trauma-informed strength and weight training (through Uplifted Gym) alongside our other services such as postal safe sex supplies, a new community drop in & pantry, events and more to our beneficiaries. We are now at a stage where we are able to signpost to useful services offered by other sex worker inclusive organisations to offer more sustainable support.” – Umbrella Lane, Sex Worker Wellbeing Project, Scotland
In Lyon, France, FRISSE (Femmes, Réductions des rISques et SExualité) screened two short films "Parapluie Rouge" with Beverly Ruby and "Rassemblement du 2 Juin" by Traboules AV. They also ready texts by Grisélidis Réal, hosted a webcam workshop with Kalamite and performances by Bebe Melkor-Kadior.
STAR - The First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans from North Macedonia highlighted their efforts and achievements throughout 2021 that make them proud.
“In these extremely difficult times affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our community and collective has faced many challenges. Because of the strict measures and movement restrictions during the pandemic, sex workers faced loss of work and clients, and with it they lost valuable existential income on which depend entire families. We, as a sex workers collective which stands for and protects the community, stood in solidarity and helped the members of our community and their families.”
In the UK, the English Collective of Prostitutes joined panelists and performers to report on sex workers’ achievements in the UK including: defeating two attempts to introduced Nordic Model type legislation, fighting criminal charges, winning settled immigration status, resisting eviction and deportation, getting financial support to 100s of women during the worst months of the pandemic, countering a witch-hunt aimed at blaming sex workers for government imposed destitution and being a visible presence in movements against repressive legislation like a new Police Bill and in campaigns to stop cuts to welfare.
In Russia, the Russian Forum of Sex Workers sent NSWP a statement of their achievements during the last year.
“Unfortunately, in Russia today only individual sex worker activists are willing to talk about their work with an open mind. The risks of being punished for promoting prostitution and denying traditional family values are very high. Therefore, no mass events, even in the online format, will be held by the Forum of Sex Workers. But Russian sex workers have reason to be proud… A lot of people support animal shelters. They take food, supplies, and make contributions. Someone takes animals to the shelter, treats them. Sex workers in Irkutsk, Orenburg, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk (and these are just the ones we know personally) help the elderly. They make contributions to nursing homes, bring clothes and food, take care of the elderly at home, go to the stores, and clean their apartments.”
In El Salvador, Asociasion De Mujeres Por La Dignidad Del Trabajo shared their proudest achievements of the year so far.
“This year we have managed to articulate actions with other organizations of the sex workers movement (ALIANZA POR EL TRABAJO SEXUAL and its member organizations) in order to speak out publicly in response to the measures imposed against the government of NAYIB BUKELE to the detriment of the population of sex workers with rise of violence, criminalization, persecution and economic injustice.
Through press conferences, social media campaigns, interviews on community radio stations to position commemorative dates celebrated by the sex worker community. Another achievement is the follow-up to a sex work policy for the benefit of the sector, conducting review processes to update the law with feminist organizations and the health sector."
North America and the Caribbean
In Canada, PACE (Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society) shared some of their proudest achievements, including an Indigenous Sharing Circle to mourn the children who never returned from “Residential Schools” in British Colombia.
“Some of our proudest achievements from the past year at PACE include holding a low-barrier vaccination clinic in April in collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health at our office, where we were able to get 99 community members vaccinated as well as holding an event through our Indigenous Sharing Circle to mourn the many children who never returned from "Residential Schools" in BC and beyond and to honour survivors while providing an opportunity for our Indigenous community members to heal through cultural connections. We are also part of a Constitutional challenge to most of the sex work laws in the Canadian Criminal Code through our membership in the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform.”
Triple-X Workers Solidarity Association of British Columbia, Canada, reflected on a difficult year during which their organisation has supported the community. “These past almost two years now have been a difficult time for sex workers particularly, and Covid-19 restrictions and mandates are on-going here, though gathering restrictions were much relaxed later this past summer. Starting today, many businesses and facilities now must ask all clients to show government-issued ID and proof of Covid-19 vaccination. Triple-X was approached by the local newspaper that carries advertisements from sex workers and asked if sex workers too should be required to ask all clients for this. This resulted in a news story "It’s up to sex workers whether or not to ask clients for proof of COVID-19 vaccination, says B.C. advocate" https://www.straight.com/covid-19-pandemic/its-up-to-sex-worker-whether-or-not-to-ask-clients-for-proof-of-covid-19-vaccination-says-bc
Triple-X looks forward to gatherings again with our friends and colleagues in the sex industry in British Columbia in the coming year and we hope that Covid-19 and public health orders will be soon behind us. Happy pride to sex workers everywhere!”
St James Infirmary in San Francisco, USA, created a graphic to celebrate the day.