SEP. 2007 • Issue 6
If you’re part of a sex worker activist project and would like to learn from others doing this work, contact the following groups for insight and inspiration:
Different Avenues is a peer-led organization working for the rights, health and safety of people at high risk for HIV, and fighting violence and discrimination. The organization works across labels and identities to envision a world where our communities live with justice and well-being. The majority of its constituents are youth and young adults, people who are homeless or just trying to get by, and people who formally or informally exchange sex for things they need. Most of its work is local, but Different Avenues also does its best to support national and global movements for social justice.
SAFE serves women, including transwomen, and distributes a Bad Date Sheet to help street-based sex workers avoid clients who have attacked other women or stolen their money. Workers call SAFE’s hotline or invite SAFE volunteers to visit them at home (where they feel safer talking than in the street) and give a detailed physical description of the attacker and what happened. Reports are anonymous and shared only with women. This keeps the information from johns and the police (who may arrest or dismiss a sex worker trying to report a rape), builds trust and community, and helps women define what rape is and be heard without being stigmatized.
Stella, a broad-based sex worker activist group in Montreal, Canada, also has a Bad Tricks and Assaulters List, with a form for the descriptions available online.
US Prostitutes’ Collective
Last spring, San Francisco activists, led by the US Prostitutes Collective, held a Stand-In on a corner where mass arrests of sex workers occurred. By standing in solidarity on the stroll, community members demonstrated that many neighbors do not support arrests and deportation – or other residents who harass or throw eggs at sex workers.
Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP)
YWEP trains girls and young women ages 12 to 23 in the sex trade and street economies as paid peer educators and outreach workers to support other girls in the sex trade and share how to take care of their bodies, emotions, relationships, money, rights, options, and their whole selves. Led by girls trained in the program, YWEP offers a safe space, referrals to social services, harm reduction information about staying safe while using drugs or doing sex work, and a zine by and for girls in the sex trade and street economies. Based on the experience of girls in the sex trade that the police will not protect them, YWEP advocates
ways to resist violence without relying on the police. Strategies include self-defense; safe houses; self-healing through spoken word, zines, acupuncture, herbs and massage; allies who can help resist violence and make it unacceptable in the community; and “sisterhood in the hood” – respecting other girls instead of judging them.
To support the work of sex worker activists globally and resist the anti-prostitution pledge:
1) Show “Taking the Pledge,” a free video from the International Network of Sex Work Projects, and hold discussions in your community or organization. The film can be viewed online at sexworkerspresent.blip.tv. A curriculum to help facilitate your discussion can be found at www.sexworkersproject.org. “Taking the Pledge” is a 13-minute film about the ways that the anti-prostitution pledge required for U.S. funding has affected sex workers around the world. It features interviews with sex workers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Thailand and more.
2) Write letters to the editor of your local paper and to your representatives in Congress opposing the anti-prostitution pledge. You can do this powerfully as a group after watching the video together!
3) Call the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) at 301-270-1182 to get more involved in resisting the pledge.