Entertainment » Music

The 11th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Dec 16, 2013

On December 17, public events in 14 U.S. cities and 19 cities around the world will be held to call attention to violence committed against sex workers.

The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was developed by Dr. Annie Sprinkle, Michael Fowley and Sex Workers' Outreach Project (SWOP) founders Robyn Few and Stacey Swimme, to bring attention to violence against sex workers happening globally.

In Chicago, "An Evening of Remembrance and Love" will be held from 7-10 p.m. in Pilsen at the Ugly Step Sisters Gallery. The Chicago event is organized by Sex Workers' Outreach Project-Chicago, and is intended to "recognize individuals who were lost that year and the many forms of violence individuals involved in the sex trade face, as well as to build community and resilience against oppression."

SWOP-USA began commemorating the day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who murdered at least 71 women, most of whom were sex workers, from 1982 to 1998.

A number of cities are holding marches or walks on December 17 to raise awareness and combat the stigma of sex workers. In Albuquerque, NM, a Red Umbrella Day + Slut Walk are planned. Participants will meet at 6 p.m. at the PEP office to collect signs and red umbrellas, and then walk to the Albuquerque Social Club for a candlelight vigil and a reading of the names lost to violence.

A Las Vegas march will step off after a candlelight vigil and speak-out at 5 p.m. at the Erotic Heritage Museum on Industrial Road, and then march the Strip. New Orleans will hold a "Second Line," a funeral procession down Bourbon Street to a private event for sex workers and allies at the AllWays Lounge.

In Seattle, a procession will march from Westlake Park through downtown to a post-event dinner location. In Phoenix, a vigil and a march will be held at 6 p.m. at Margaret T. Hance Park, followed by a potluck to celebrate community.

"In 2013, 73 sex workers from around the world were murdered. Nearly 25 percent of murdered prostitutes since 1986 have never been identified. And these are only the deaths that have been reported," wrote Phoenix organizers. "SWOP Phoenix is joining together with sex workers, allies and sex worker rights organizations from around the world to remember those we have lost to violence, and renew our commitment to the ongoing struggle for visibility, dignity and rights for all sex workers."

Other cities will hold ceremonies. In Denver, an event will be held at The Bakery on Market Street to commemorate those lost with poetry, music and artwork. Los Angelenos can meet at Plummer Park from 4-6 p.m. for a candlelight vigil, and in New York, a living altar will be created at 6:30 p.m. at the Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan.

Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Center will hold an event at 6 p.m., Portland’s Red and Black CafĂ© will host an event at 10 p.m., and San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture on Mission Street invites all for an evening of remembrance and activism. St. Petersburg, Florida "extends their invite to sex worker allies, as well! Our work is risky in a society that doesn’t observe our basic human rights."

In Tucson, sex worker advocates fold a paper crane every year in memory of each sex worker reported as murdered. They will discuss decriminalization and legalization, and why the anti-trafficking movement is harming individual sex workers. There will also be a wine tasting. Many events are also being held in Canada and across the world.

These events are aimed at raising awareness of the violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. They also address issues relating to stigma and discrimination that allows violence against sex workers to occur with impunity. Organizers seek to raise awareness about the barriers faced when attempting to report violence, and promote empowerment and change over what has become an unacceptable status quo.

For complete information on December 17 events, visit http://www.december17.org/event-locations/

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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