On Friday 19 July, 36 cities around the world hosted protests against the violent abuse and murder of sex workers.
These protests were sparked by the transphobic and whorephobic murders of sex workers in Sweden, Turkey, France, Italy and other countries.
We were demanding “Justice for Jasmine and justice for Dora”, in reference to two recently murdered sex workers.
In the week the protests took place, a trans* sex worker from Turkey called Dora Oezer was killed. Turkish police are looking for her murderer, who some news sources are saying was a client.
Prostitution is legal in Turkey but organising together to run a brothel is not, putting sex workers (especially trans* sex workers) in more danger. In the same week, Swedish sex worker and activist Petite Jasmine was murdered by her ex-partner on the 11 July. The state had given custody of her children to her ex-partner despite his history of domestic abuse, due to her line of work.
Sweden’s laws on prostitution are supposed to prosecute the client. These laws, often referred to as “the Swedish model”, are often hailed by leftists and feminists who lack a class analysis of sex work and fail to see the harm they cause.
In fact, these laws force sex workers to work in more “underground” settings which increases the risk of the abuse, assault and murder of sex workers.
Sex worker activists often call for decriminalisation and are generally suspicious of any state involvement in their work. This is because attempts to “regulate” the industry in parts of Australia and the Netherlands have resulted in the punishment and criminalisation of more vulnerable and disadvantaged sex workers.
Illegal, unregulated sex work still happens – but because of the regulation as well as xenophobic anti-immigration laws, sex workers are unable to seek any help if they are abused for fear of being prosecuted.
The 19 July protest in London was outside the Swedish embassy. There were about fifty of us, including sex workers and allies and people from various organisations such as the Sex Worker Open University and the English Collective of Prostitutes.
We chanted slogans such as “Justice for Jasmine! Justice for Dora!” and “No bad whores! Just bad laws!” and posed for photographs.
Activists in Sheffield, including some of our comrades, held a minute’s silence to commemorate Jasmine, Dora and other sex workers who are or have been victims of violence. They also left tags with red umbrellas on them in public places, with details of sex worker advocacy organisations and unions on the back.
There were further protests in Scotland. In Edinburgh, the day before the protest, Lothian and Borders police continued their campaign of violent brothel raids.
Glasgow is gaining an increasingly active sex worker community, particularly through the Sex Worker Open University.
Sex workers’ livelihoods and safety in Scotland had been under further threat due to a bill proposed by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant to introduce the “Swedish model” in Scotland, which recently failed.
We call for solidarity with sex workers around the world. We stand for the decriminalisation of sex work, and say that sex work is real work. No bad whores, just bad laws!