Please find our statement for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers below. Delayed because someone set our building on fire and we're concentrated on putting the pieces back together.
On December 17th We Honour Our Community and Call for An End To All Violence Against Sex Workers
December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This day and all that it symbolizes is deeply meaningful to everyone at Maggie’s, rooted in the memory of sex workers targeted by the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington. From Seattle to Toronto, we’re proud to participate in a global network of sex worker justice organizations working to protect and defend the human rights of our communities around the world. We recognize December 17th as a day to honor the lives of those we’ve lost; to center sex workers across our community experiencing disproportionate violence and erasure from all areas of personal, social, political and economic life; and to reaffirm and expand our commitment to strengthening the movement for sex workers justice at home and abroad.
Today we recognize that violence against sex workers takes many forms:
The violence of targeted assaults on our community members and the long-term impacts of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. The violence of targeted attacks on our workplaces through individual expressions of violence, long-standing political and media-led efforts to regulate our workplaces out of existence, and civilian-led efforts to “clean up” communities by displacing us. The violence of targeted attacks on our safe-havens and sex-worker-led organizations that are routinely targeted, protested, and under constant threat of attack. The violence that follows targeted attacks on our safe-havens: the loss of community space, the loss of life-affirming programming, services and resources.
The violence of wide-spread social, cultural and moral frameworks that blame sex workers for the violence enacted onto us by members of the public, violence enacted on us by police, courts and the criminal justice system, and the violence enacted on us by the vast network of state-adjacent institutions and social safety nets working to “rescue” us by denying us access to spaces such as shelters, drop-ins and food-banks; seizing our families, our homes, or barring our access to safety networks; and denying us opportunities to access education or employment. In every form it takes, violence against sex workers displaces us- starving us of critical community ties and social safety nets, our bodily autonomy and physical safety.
Violence against sex workers kills a thousand times over.
Expanding Our Understanding Of "Violence" Against Sex Workers: What is Violence & What Does It Look Like?
We also recognize December 17th as a call to expand our understanding of violence in an effort to highlight ongoing struggles to expand local, national and global campaigns for sex worker justice. We reflect on a year of incredible advocacy and successes for sex worker organizing across Canada and the United States: a powerful challenge to Canada’s anti-sex work laws from our national network of sex worker organizations; successful unionizing efforts and labour organizing from exotic dancers in Los Angeles; and the creative ways sex workers have continued to form networks, support spaces and organize mutual aid for one another in formal and informal settings. On December 17th we also look back at a year that has only further emphasized the uneven impacts of criminalization, targeted violence and erasure for sex workers from historically oppressed communities. Communities who must contend with the same forms of violence, abuse and erasure from the state, anti-sex worker organizations and advocates, as well as the broader public, while shouldering the weight of educating other sex workers, our organizations and advocacy networks on basic forms of inclusion and consideration.
Today we acknowledge the importance of showing up for sex worker justice and building communities where we’re able to live, work and thrive free from violence. In 2023, following the incredible organizing, mutual aid and human rights campaigns bottom lined by sex workers across our communities, we must move conversations of what constitutes “violence” against sex workers forward to include the day-to-day realities of sex workers from historically oppressed communities- both as we live and work in community and as we aim to work within sex worker organizations, advocacy networks, and other movement spaces to be heard. In the context of a Canadian movement for sex worker rights that has historically isolated legal advocacy from broader movement building work and been hostile to the contributions of Black, Indigenous and racialized sex workers from historically oppressed communities, on this day we must move the conversation around “violence” against sex workers forward to meet the moment we’re living in.
It is for this reason that today we also specifically speak to sex workers who know what it is to shoulder the responsibility of fighting for representation, for consideration and inclusion within this movement. We specifically note the violence, abuse and erasure Black and Indigenous sex workers, Palestinian sex workers, migrant sex workers, low income and survival sex workers, unhoused sex workers, sex workers with disabilities, formerly incarcerated sex workers and those with criminal records, sex workers navigating addictions, mental health and wellness challenges, as well as youth and others from historically oppressed communities experience in their effort to participate in and broaden the landscape of sex worker solidarity work at home and abroad.
To Sex Workers From Historically Oppressed Communities On The International Day to End Sex Workers: This Day Belongs To You Too.
To Black, Indigenous and racialized sex workers minimized int their calls for racial equity, hiring equity and clear commitments to address anti-Black racism within recent labour organizing efforts; to Palestinian sex workers calling on our organizations and advocacy networks to say something about Israel’s ongoing genocide; to disabled sex workers highlighting the need for accessibility; to migrant and immigrant sex workers looking to our organizations for translation, necessary accommodation and more meaningful efforts to move past tokenism; to sex workers with criminal records barred from participating in collective organizing and advocacy efforts; to non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming sex workers looking to our organizations and advocacy networks for meaningful representation and engagement; to sex workers from historically oppressed communities silenced, shamed, denied access or simply erased from our organizations and advocacy networks; to sex workers told “not now”, called “too much”, or laughed out of the room:
A principled movement for human rights, labor rights, sex worker justice or liberation will not ask you to minimize the integrity of your community in the interest of collective solidarity- solidarity is not built on silence. The integrity, health, safety and survival of all sex workers, with a particular mind towards those closest to various forms of harm- policing, surveillance, erasure or discrimination- is the foundation of sex worker justice.
Your continued effort to speak, to name harm and to demand inclusion for your community is a gift to this movement, and an invitation to our organizations, our advocacy networks and our community members to expand this work, to sharpen our collective analysis and to improve the lives of sex workers across our communities in tangible ways.
Refusing to allow our organizations, our advocacy networks or our movement for sex worker justice to actively repurpose the tactics, methods and ideologies of the same forces we work to resist and survive (local government, police, or social workers), or remain silent through moments of injustice is a labor of love and an expression of commitment to sex workers left behind in our movement.
A principled movement invites principled critique. A principled movement doesn’t grow without reflection, humility and a willingness to adjust to meet the needs of sex workers at the margins.
Whether your work happens within an organization, a formal advocacy network, or in your day-to-day interactions with other sex workers, at work, through informal conversations or mutual aid efforts - every single action that helps another worker live, work or exist with a little more safety and dignity forms the foundation of our collective liberation.
Intersectional Sex Worker Justice: Our Struggle Is Inherently Political, Our Liberation Is Interconnected
Violence against sex workers, in every form it takes, is deeply embedded in the violence of social, political and economic forces that shape our world. Violence against sex workers is rooted in the same forces of capitalism and income inequality that find us struggling to survive in the midst of a rising cost of living, leaving us to fend for ourselves in an overcrowded, under resourced shelter system, encampments that are violently dismantled by state authorities, or to die out in the cold. Violence against sex workers is rooted in predatory forms of policing and surveillance that surveil, target, harass, detain and deport sex workers under the guise of “rescue”, “protecting” communities around us, or community-led “revitalization” + “redevelopment” efforts. Violence against our communities is rooted in the same trans/misogyny that places the responsibility for gender-based violence on those closest to the harm; in ableism that leaves sex workers with disabilities by the wayside, refusing and revoking access to social assistance and other social safety nets on the slightest suspicion of our participation in sex work; in classism that creates a culture of “respectiability”, bureaucracy and formality that prevents us from challenging harmful laws that are killing us; in the same racist sentiments that characterize Black and Indigenous communities of color as less deserving of dignity or migrant and immigrant sex workers as unable to speak for themselves, voiceless victims.
On the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers we commit to naming, challenging and dismantling these systems as they show up in our communities, our work, and our everyday lives. We refuse to leave any community of sex workers behind in the way the state has left us behind.
Please note Maggie's is closed from December 17th, 2023 through January 7th, 2024. We're happy to accept your feedback, comments and questions via credit or debit at maggiesto.org/donate; via PayPal or e-transfer to email@example.com; or via cash/cheque to Suite 2009 - 10 Trinity Square, Toronto ON M5G1B1.