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International Sex Workers Day, 3rd March

The 3rd of March is International Sex Worker Rights Day. The day’s history goes back to 2001 when over 25,000 SWs gathered in India for a SW festival. The organizers, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3 March as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

Calcutta: over 500 sex workers gathered from different red light areas to stage a candle light procession on the occasion of the 'International Sex Workers Rights Day'.
The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya, a forum of sex workers organized this rally to highlight the socio-economic plight of sex workers. Children of the sex workers presented street plays and other programs.
Swapna Gyne, a sex worker said, "Today is the International Sex Worker's Rights Day. In 2001 we observed this day for the first time with the sex workers participating from across the country. But we faced many hurdles in observing this day."
"We were not allowed to observe this day. We challenged the government that we will be observing the day by any which way. The day was March 3. Hence we celebrate this day and take oath that till the time sex workers exist, we will observe this day," she added.

Chicago: the local Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) devised a list of demands pointing to the decriminalization of prostitution. SWOP’s political objectives are decriminalization of adult prostitution, securing social recognition of sex work as a valid profession and establishing sex workers right to self-determination. The March 3 demands include an end to raids and deportations, and a stop to the trapping and then forced reeducating of SWs and customers. SWOP also called for ending the repression of SWs under the banner of anti-trafficking.

Sacramento: SWOP-NORCAL celebrated March 3 with a lobbying day. Issues included criminalization of out communities, the targeting of transgender workers, migrants and sex workers of color, lack of police protection and recourse in cases of abuse, and targeting sex workers in lieu of addressing the real issues of trafficking.
On March 3 a specific and urgent issue was brought fourth for which HOP-NORCAL seeks support. Among the numerous hardships which effect the communities, it is surprising that the organizations’ insistence on condoms for protection is actually used as evidence in prostitution cases by police and District Attorneys in California. Although sex workers use condoms, it is clear that condom use is inhibited when the mention or use of condoms can be employed against them. This practice is rampant. In fact, two SWOP members are challenging cases which use this type of evidence. The legislation we bring to Sacramento will halt this practice.

Halifax: Stepping Stone, an organization that provides outreach and supportive programs to sex workers in the Halifax Region (Nova Scotia, Canada) issued a statement urging law enforcement and the courts to review the current arrest and release procedures that impede sex workers’ health and safety within the region. The Canadian Criminal Code gives police the power to release anyone arrested for solicitation on conditions that prevent them from accessing entire sections of the Halifax region. Sex workers and their allies refer to these conditions as being placed on boundaries.
Rene Ross with Stepping Stone says “These conditional releases prevent sex workers from accessing essential services such as transition services, health care and housing.” Not only does this keep sex workers from accessing some services, “it further isolates and forces them to work in unsafe areas and under riskier circumstances.”

Sex Worker Rights Music Video
On December the 3rd the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival premiered the “sex worker anthem”, Courtney Trouble's "The Burnout," a music video by Scarlot Harlot and Courtney Trouble. The makers wish to thank and acknowledge the sex worker activists and organizations around the world for their work and inspiration. In the video, a 'day in Courtney's life' parallels her journey from phone sex to sexual representation/pornography as well as her political journey, interwoven with sex worker demonstrations, clips and photos from organizations listed here.
This music video reflects a personal and local story, and a political story that reaches out to individuals and organizations which resist discrimination and work towards social justice and human rights for sex workers. Many find a common voice in Courtney Trouble's frustration, pride and defiance.
To view the clip, click: http://blip.tv/file/717209

Paris Manifestation for the Rights of Sex Workers
Partially inspired by March the 3rd, but held 3 weeks later, the conference took place in le Sénat in Paris and it included a full day of panel discussions on topics of sex work and the Internet, the criminalization of clients and the debate around re-establishing a brothel system in France. Participants included female, male and transgender sex worker activists, ally activists, politicians and others from across France and also representatives from Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The always fabulous traditional Pute Pride street manifestation took place after the conference. Proudly taking over the street, the crowd wended its way through the streets of Paris in beautiful vibrant glory with banners, red umbrellas and chanted slogans.