Today is the International Women's Day, when sex workers join women and gender minorities worldwide in their fight for social justice. Sex worker groups across Europe and Central Asia are important part of the feminist movement, mobilising their communities to stop police repression, state control and violence against sex worker of all genders. However, they are often excluded from women's rights struggles.
The women’s rights movement is still divided on the issue of sex work, with many organisations calling for a punitive approach to sex work and the criminalisation of clients, despite evidence of its negative impacts on sex workers’ lives and working conditions
. The European Women's Lobby, for instance, celebrates #20yrsEndDemand
and state efforts to deny unionisation
and self-organisation of sex workers. All this, because they define sex work as a "system based on the sexual use and abuse of the most vulnerable women". According to the majority of abolitionists, the only solution to abolish sex work is to criminalise sex workers' clients.
At the end of February 2019, ICRSE invited migrant sex workers and their allies to kick-start a programme focusing on the manifold human rights violations migrant sex workers face, such as severe exploitation. Migrant sex workers confirmed that they agree with abolitionist analyses that emphasise the high levels of violence impacting migrant sex workers and the gendered nature of the industry. However, they don't see increased policing, prosecution and imprisonment as the primary solutions to violence against women. Police are often the perpetrators of violence themselves, regularly targeting trans women, women from low socio-economic background or migrants, and their actions often involve bias on the basis of class and race. Calling for the implementation of client criminalisation also justifies large budgets for police, immigration authorities and anti-trafficking measures, while sex worker groups are systematically excluded from funding for community mobilisation and programming, provision of trafficking prevention and victim support services.
Statements from sex worker participants of the meeting:
On the International Women's Day, we demand our inclusion in the feminist movement. Centering our experiences as women, (undocumented) migrants, LGBT people and precarious workers brings invaluable insights, energy, diversity and experience of mobilisation to the feminist movement.
If you are sharing images, please use #20yrsFailingSexWorkers and call out on abolitionist organisations in your context by tagging them in your posts.