Image of one red umbrella among many black umbrellas. Test reads: "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW)

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW)

Alisha OstbergBlog, safer sex, sex work, stigma

December 17th marks International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) and was originally started 20 years ago in Seattle as a memorial for sex workers who were targeted and killed in the area. The original memorial was to honour those who were murdered, and it is also important to note that violence is not only physical. Violence is systemic, it is societal, it is seeped into our language, attitudes, and policies.

 Canada is a violent place for sex workers. Research shows that the murder rate for sex workers in Canada represents approximately 60 to 120 times the murder rate of adult women in the general Canadian population (Stats Can, 2007). Overall 45-75% of sex workers have a higher lifetime risk of experiencing physical and/or sexual violence (CPHA, 2014).

From federal legislation to bylaws to public discourse, sex workers are constantly questioned, patronized, ignored, and dismissed. Workers that also belong to another marginalised community are more vulnerable to experience violence, as well as never being found or looked for if they go missing.  Indigenous sex workers are dehumanized, with their disappearance often ignored or unknown. Migrant sex workers are being deported simply for their employment. Black sex workers are under extreme surveillance and are subjected to violence at the hands of the state. Ending violence against sex workers must include anti-racism, Indigenous sovereignty, disability justice, status for all, and Trans rights. This day is to remember and honour sex workers, and it is also a day to renew our commitment to justice.

Let this day hold grief and anger at the loss of our community members, the harms faced by our friends, and the vitriol of our institutions. Let it build solidarity and a renewed commitment for non-sex workers to show up for our family. Let it be one day closer to the elimination of a need to memorialize, one day closer to equity, justice, and liberty for sex workers. For now, let it be a day to mourn, and a day to remember.

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