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The Red Umbrella: History in the making

The red umbrella was used by sex workers of Venice, Italy in 2001 as a symbol of beauty and the resistance to humans' and sky's attacks, red. On the occasion of the Venice Biennale in 2001 they walked the streets together out and proud. While the red umbrella started as a simple idea, it is quickly becoming an international symbol for the rights of sex workers. More

The red umbrella was used by sex workers of Venice, Italy in 2001 as a symbol of beauty and the resistance to humans' and sky's attacks, red. On the occasion of the Venice Biennale in 2001 they walked the streets together out and proud. While the red umbrella started as a simple idea, it is quickly becoming an international symbol for the rights of sex workers.

The I World Congres of Sex Workers was an art installation by a Slovenian artist Tadej Potocar, placed within the frame of the 49th Venice Bienniale, between 6th and 8th June 2001. Organized on a public space in a tent, or the so-called Prostitute Pavilion (Padiglione delle Prostitute), the event had participants, groups, activists and individuals from Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Germany, USA and Australia. They presented the current situation on the sex market and the strategies of the fight for civil rights of sexual workers. This was performed through conversations, video projects, exhibitions, documentary publications, performances, activist street theatre, appearances, etc.

The Red Umbrellas March was a manifestation march. In order to be better heard and seen it used megaphones and red umbrellas, loudly drawing attention to its situation and not differing from the usual forms of political demonstrations. The march with the Congress participants, local organisations and accidental sympathisers started at the Congress tent and went through the city centre. The march crossed the city in order to cause an interruption, a sound and visual disturbance in the routine and continuity of the city panorama.

Apart from the realistic, manifestation side it also had an important symbolic side. With the joint walk the new geographic points of the city were defined, the points that are otherwise forgotten. This is the geography of the social history of sex workers, from the famous Venetian courtesans Veronica Franco and Gaspara Stampa right until today.

The red umbrella started as a simple idea and is quickly becoming an international symbol for sex workers rights. Continuing this tradition and in honor of all sex workers who dare to resist oppression everywhere, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) adopted the red umbrella as a symbol of sex worker resistance to discrimination.

Be relentless, be everywhere, be recognizable!

Put a red umbrella on the front page of your website. Put a red umbrella on your letterhead. Create a signature with a red umbrella for your emails.

You can download different versions of the red umbrella from the ICRSE website www.sexworkeurope.org  (go to the image gallery here)

Download a version without text and add your own slogan in your own language.

If you do not know how to do that just send the text to info@sexworkeurope.org  and they will help you.

No one has to ask what the red ribbon means. The red umbrella can have the same global impact!

About the ICRSE
The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) was established in 2004 and is registered in the Netherlands. The main goals of the foundation are to bring sex workers and their allies together on an European and international level:

• to further the social acceptance and respect for sex workers
• to promote their civil and human rights
• to organize the support of allies

The foundation also works on ending the sexual stigma of women, gays and lesbians and transgender people and in general to promote their self-determination.

SWAN has developed a fruitful collaboration with ICRSE – we have translated the Declaration of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe that ICRSE has developed into numerous languages spoken in the SWAN region. SWAN News are regularly featured on the ICRSE website. Petra Timmermans was a guest presenter and trainer at the SWAN meetings in Budapest and Kiev, and SWAN members have visited on several occasions Amsterdam and ICRSE Secretariat.

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