International Whores Day and Decriminalization of Sex Work Worldwide

International Whores Day was established on June 2nd in 1975, as a response to the imprisonment of 10 consensual adult sex workers in Lyon, France. At that time, hundreds of thousands of people joined together to occupy churches to protest the criminalization of sex work. 

At the time, sex workers were experiencing police brutality as well as eviction from where they lived and worked. Many feminists, including Simone de Beauvoir, joined the movement, seeing “whorephobia” as a tool to violently extend patriarchal control.

This 1975 protest sparked the sex workers rights movement that continues internationally to this day. Celebrating International Whores Day acknowledges all the activism work that has been done to improve the rights of sex workers.

Though lots of work has been done, there’s still much more to do to change the political landscape for sex workers worldwide! And it’s our job to do it. 

Sex Workers Rights, Internationally

In many areas of the world, including Nevada, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and parts of Australia, Sex work is “legal.” Where sex work isn’t outright criminalized, organizing, soliciting, and selling, or a combination of the above, are illegal – effectively negating the entire industry. 

The majority of the world (according to this map) still uses legaleze to keep sex work illegitimate, in an unending (and largely unsuccessful) plight to curb “demand.” But what these laws actually do, is fail to protect sex workers’ physical, emotional, and financial health. 

Where We’re At: Sex Workers Rights in Canada

In America, sex workers have fewer rights today than they did in 1975, and here in Canada, since the Conservatives were in Federal power in the early 2000’s, we’ve had major regression too. The International Whores Day and all it’s celebration stands for is still so relevant today. 

Under Canada’s current legislation, Bill C-36, Individual sex workers in Canada are permitted to advertise, perform, and benefit from their own services. Procuring these services is illegal, and as a result, our safety is compromised. Bad dates go unreported, and law enforcement remains under-involved and underprepared to support our working population! 

When police forces cite sex work as a reason for needing more resources, they are given more members, and more weapons, not more de-escalation or sensitivity training, and social resources to cope with the real problems behind sex-work-related conflict. 

As another very real example, strippers have major challenges accessing the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits – and these are people with places of employment and paychecks! The hoops the CRA has us jump through in order to claim benefits theoretically available to us are astronomical, and left a lot of us in a huge crisis as the pandemic ground work to a halt in 2020.

And we know what it’s like for the rest of us. Accessing emergency funds, unemployment or disability, finding an accountant willing to work with us, not to mention the fear of being accused of fraud for claiming cash-based income. 

The list goes on and on. 

Elect Sex Workers!

To truly decriminalize sex work, our governments need to not only see sex work as a legitimate career, but also recognize that we deserve a seat at the table! Bill C-36 and the criminalization of the purchase of sex make it very challenging but not impossible, with public support. Still, there are many many barriers to being properly represented locally, let alone federally, but we need to support and encourage members of our own community, and community leaders, to speak up for our rights on a public level. 

Wrapping it up: Decriminalization and Why It’s Important

International Whores Day was originally celebrated to do work that still desperately needs doing: push for complete decriminalization of all things related to sex work, push for equal and accessible basic services!

Here in Canada, we need our government to move past Bill C-36 and legalize and legitimize sex work, we need financial process and law reform so we can better access benefits available for us, and we need to, at a local level, support those in our communities who are ready to represent us locally, provincially, and federally. 

Sex work is real work, and it’s well beyond time it was viewed that way. Celebrate International Whores Day with us on June 2nd!