Sex worker Greetings and plans for a happy New Year 2012

Dear sex workers and all sexy comrades,

I am a bit of a Queen so I will do like the old one and make my speech for the end of the year and the celebrations. Hopefully you won’t find me as boring.

Many things have happened this year and we are making great progress but I see also still many challenges.

Successful events occurred this year with great involvement from UK sex worker activists during the Sex Worker Open University in October, the London Slut Walk in spring and ECP campaigns in support of Sheila Farmer, the London Occupy movement, for the international day to end violence against sex workers on the 17th December, or the strengthening of the X-talk organisation with better funding.

We have been visible and part of other broader campaigns during May Day, Pride London, Reclaim the Night, the anti-cuts and the students’ movement, prison abolition or No Border actions, for pensions rights, against rape, against HIV, for harm reduction, in demos supporting the Arab spring in particular for Egypt, or against Palestine’s occupation. Maybe not everyone noticed us but I know there were sex workers at all these events.

This is important because sex workers are concerned by everything since we are everywhere and part of so many oppressed groups. We need to show we are there not just to support, but because we are also concerned. We need to come out to our comrades so they realise that we actually share the same struggles and issues, and that we are part of the same communities and the same working class. As they say in St Paul’s tents: we are part of the 99%.

This year, there has been an interesting strengthening of a progressive pole within our movement because we came together despite our differences. There is now a strong majority within our union to push for a pro-workers’ perspective which means not only campaigning for decriminalisation but fighting against exploitation within the sex industries themselves.

It is now clear for most that the workers don’t have the same interests as the managers and employers of the sex industry and if we are part of a same movement for decriminalisation, we don’t share the same economic interest and position within the industry. For saying that, I have been fired from the IUSW which might be actually a good thing so now people can see who stands for what.

The strengthening of this progressive pole is also positive to remind our allies what we expect from them. The UKNSWP which gathers health projects has done tremendous work to reduce violence against sex workers. However, as I wrote in a Morning Star article, I fear that the implementation of an Ugly Mugs system nationally might be used by the government not to decriminalise the sex industry. The UKNSWP will have to make clearer that they demand full decriminalisation including the soliciting laws and the forced rehabilitation orders. In 2012, I expect the sex worker movement to speak for itself in particular to address the government and that the UKNSWP stops speaking on our behalf or to collaborate with the state when it contradicts our interests.

In 2012, we will need to build and consolidate bridges within the trade union and women’s movements. We will have to talk to the abolitionists to achieve decriminalisation. If we have strong disagreements with them on the criminalisation of our clients and third parties, we should find common ground to make sure that sex workers are no longer criminalised and to find better social welfare and support for the sex workers who want to quit the industry.

To be clear, I think we should stop seeing the abolitionists as our enemy. In fact, we all agree to fight against violence and exploitation in the sex industry. The problem is how we do that. We have to convince them that we need their support to stop our criminalisation, the deportations and police abuse, and to oppose the employers of the sex industry.

In 2012, we need to try a collective campaign which gathers as many people as possible, including the abolitionists who would be ready to support us, for our decriminalisation. Let’s open the door, and we’ll see who will be ready to work with us.

 

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About Thierry Schaffauser

Queer, sex worker, drugs user, student in Gender History, GMB trade unionist, migrant, wants to change the world, etc
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