17th of December is marked by sex workers internationally as the International day to End Violence against Sex Workers to raise awareness of the violence against sex workers worldwide, demand justice for the human rights violations sex workers face and to remember the lives of friends and colleagues we have lost.
2020 has been a particularly difficult year for sex workers. Covid19 pandemic brought the structural issues even more visible and amplified the levels of discrimination, stigma and violence sex workers face in their daily lives. Sex workers were not able to access financial help from governments and therefore were forced to choose between not being able to feed themselves or keep working and risk their health. The closures of HIV prevention, mental health and other health services also contributed the deterioration of the living conditions of sex workers.
Community-led organisations stepped up once again to fill in the shoes of their governments in order to help the sex worker community by raising money for food distribution, sanitary products and other necessities. SWAN and ICRSE monitored the situation closely and reported the findings in a report earlier this year.
Sex workers are being asked to survive by themselves in increasingly hostile environments. We are still seeing a push for criminalisation of sex work and criminalisation of clients (Swedish model) although the evidence shows the harmful effects of these models on the well being of sex workers. Client criminalisation drives sex work even further underground while blocking sex workers’ access to health services and justice. Decriminalisation of sex workers and the third parties is recognised by community led sex workers rights organisations and many other progressive civil society organisations to be the only way forward for improving the lives of sex workers.
Today we remember our friends who fought back tirelessly who are not here anymore. We are inspired by their memories everyday and will continue fighting for the safety and human rights that we all need and deserve.