Image description: amidst a protest for sex workers rights, infant of two banners blurred in the background, a person stands with their back turned in a red shirt reading, "sex workers & strippers deserve safety, justice and respect!"
Today is International Whores Day!
On June 2nd each year sex worker organizations globally celebrate International Whore’s Day. We come together to honor the long histories of sex worker organizing in our communities, celebrate the community members we’ve loved and lost, and commit to building a better world for all sex workers. Today we reflect on how our struggles for sex worker justice are connected across communites and globally! Sex workers around the world have come together to challenge criminalization, stigma and discrimination against our communities and we’re making important strides. From sex workers in India recently celebrating a Supreme Court ruling in favour of their right to be treated fairly by police and the press, to the wave of stripper strikes for improved working conditions and justice for Black strippers across the US, to Uganada’s Network of Sex Work Led Organizations resisting discrimination from health care workers. Sex worker organizing takes on many forms- from formal non-profit work to mutual aid efforts and the everyday work we do to show up for one another. There is no act of kindness, support or solidarity with sex workers that is too small, and it’s all part of a much larger movement for justice that spans the globe and dates back centuries. June 2nd is about celebrating this history, the expansive nature of our movement for human rights, and committing to the work it takes to build a better world for sex workers in our communities- Building a better world for the sex workers we know and love. Building a better world for the sex workers we’ve loved and lost. Building a better world for the sex workers we’ll never meet. Building a better world for the sex workers who will build on our movement in the future.
The History of International Whore’s Day: St.Nizier Church, Lyon, France, 1975
International Whores Day recognizes the efforts of French sex workers who took part in an eight-day strile action in 1975. On June 2nd, 1975, 100 sex workers occupied Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, to express their anger about their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. The sex workers occupying Saint-Nizier Church demanded, among other things, an end to police harassment, the re-opening of the hotels where they worked, and a proper investigation into a series of sex worker murders. Sex workers in other French towns heard of the occupation in Lyon and, in solidarity, took sanctuary in churches in Marseille, Grenoble, Montpellier
and Paris. Despite the national impact of the protest, the police refused to engage with the protestors’ grievances and threatened increasingly harsh punishments. Learn more at internationalwhoresday.com!
Sex Worker Organizing in Canada: Ongoing Struggles Against Policing, Criminalization + Stigma
In a Canadian context, there are a number of important sex worker led struggles underway challening criminalization and its adverse impacts on our communities:
The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform is in the midst of a constitutional challenge that’s brought sex workers and our allies together to challenge the harmful impacts of criminal laws that target our communities, our clients, third parties and more.
Review of Bill C-36 - In February, Canada's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights began a Review of Canada's anti-sex work laws — Bill C:36 - the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act in February 2022. We anticipate the release of the Committee’s findings shortly.
Lifting Lifetime Blood Ban on Sex Workers - Last week Candian Blood Services lifted the life-time ban on sex workers interested in donating blood. The shift comes after decades of organizing from sex worker groups like Triple X in BC and marks an important shift away from person-centered bans. There is still much work to be done to challenge
The Federal Government will soon look at addressing online harms and has started working on legislation that will look to address and censor a broad range of virtual content and content platforms.
Anti-Trafficking campaigns honed in on adult content platforms and companies, pushing credit card providers to refuse transactions and pushing Canadian officials investigate. The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics at the House of Commons launched a review specific to Pornhub and Montreal-based parent company Mindgeek.
The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected a previous finding that elements of anti-sex work laws in Canada put our communities at risk. This undermines much of our work by maintaining the criminalizing areas of our work such as advertising, or targeting clients and third parties does not impact sex workers directly.
Across Canada we’ve seen an increase in the use of public-health discourses to stigmatize and further marginalize sex workers through the pandemic.This had led to increased scrutiny and policing across our communities, specifically for sex workers navigating multiple forms of discrimination.
Ontario Sex Workers Are Fighting Back & Showing Up For Sex Workers In Community
While we’ve seen an uptick in the policing of sex work, stigma and discrimination against our communities, across Ontario there’s incredible work happening to show up for sex workers through the pandemic and challenge harmful legislation:
Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network has been leading the challenge against Bill 251- anti-trafficking legislation that expands the powers of police, social service sectors, even hospitality sectors to target, profile and harass people suspected of engaging in sex work under the guise of rescue.
Our friends at Butterfly are also currently challenging the town of Newmarket’s recent bylaw decisions that disproportionately impact Asian and migrant massage workers.
SWAP Hamilton recently announced that they will be expanding into their own permanent space to continue providing important services and supports for sex workers locally.
SWANS Sudbury continues to provide life-affirming support for sex workers in Sudbury. We partnered with them to distribute emergency survival funds through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safespace London is currently collecting donations to support their work and outreach for sex workers in London.
Ottawa Independent Companions continues to provide collective space for companions in Ottawa to connect, share resources, support and protect one another. They are currently fundraising for their emergency fund!
POWER Ottawa provides educational resources to sex workers.
Sex Professionals of Canada builds space for sex workers to network, share resources and learn about ongoing resistance to criminalization.
What's New at Maggie's Toronto? How We're Working To Meet The Moment Through COVID-19 & Beyond!
At Maggie’s over the last year we’ve been working hard to continue providing pandemic supports to community, expand our programs and services and gradually re-open. The last two years have been an important moment for our organization to re-evaluate our programs and services, work to expand our supports to reach sex workers across industries and step up in the midst of a humanitarian crisis in Toronto to support our unhoused neighbours. Our work over the last year has included:
Humanitarian Aid for Unhoused Communities- Collaborating with grassroots organizations and outreach workers to provide basic humanitarian aid - water, masks/PPE, tents, sleeping bags, warm weather gear, etc. to our unhoused neighbors and communities in encampments.
Delivering Food To Sex Workers through COVID-19 - Each month we deliver more than 160 fresh food boxes to sex workers across Toronto, including deliveries to community members in our shelter system, in partnership with Foodshare Toronto.
Challenging Harmful Public Health Narratives, Political Leaders and Discriminatory Policing through the COVID-19 pandemic by leading on vaccine + booster access for +3,600 people through public clinics, homecare visits and Rapid Test distribution.
Expanding our Public Health Programming and Outreach to indoor venues, bars and clubs to reach gay male sex workers, Toronto’s ball community and more.
Establishing paid consultations and advisory committees for sex workers to provide feedback on their legal needs. Including dedicated space for strippers, trans sex workers and indoor workers.
Partnering with lawyers and mental health professioanls to offer pandemic-specific resources to address discriminatory policing, mental health and wellness challenges community experience through the current climate and providing creative outlets such as expressive arts therapy.
Laying the foundation for Toronto’s first sex worker-led Case Management Program to launch in the fall.
Securing multi-year funding for a sex worker parenting program that will provide drop-in space, workshops and supports to parents and caregivers in our community.
Building our internal capacity, skillsets and readiness for expansion by bringing on an HR Manager, a permanent/FT Executive Director and expanding our staff team while working to model the working conditions we believe all sex workers deserve access to.
On International Whores Day we’re proud to be part of a vibrant and thriving movement for sex worker justice. While there is so much work to be done to decriminalize sex work, we also commit to a vision of sex worker justice that addresses the impacts of wide-ranging + intersecting forms of discrimination that disporporitonately impact queer and trans, Black and Indigenous sex workers of colour, poor and working class communities, survival sex workers, migrant sex workers and others at the margins. Join us tonight from 6-8pm over zoom to learn more about our work, to meet our incredible team of staff and connect with sex worker justice organizing locally!