Violence against the sex worker community is a global issue, faced by people in almost every community worldwide. We have a responsibility to inform ourselves and advocate to make this conversation as public as possible, and to do what we can do to promote equity for our community.
In this article, let’s unpack the history of The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17), the founders, Robyn Few and Annie Sprinkle, how we remember and advocate, and what we can all do to be more involved and educated!
The History of The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
December 17 was founded by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and Robyn Few, both of whom are feminists and advocates, focused on education and empowerment for people who are sex workers. They are seminal figures in the destigmatizing of sex workers, advocating for our basic human dignities.
An example of the social system’s failure to protect and support youth-at-risk, Robin Few was only 13 when she was introduced into the sex industry. At age 45, this determined woman founded the The Sex Workers Outreach Project. The SWOP is an American social justice network advocating for basic fundamental equalities for all people who are sex workers and our larger communities, and prioritizes ending violence through education and advocacy. Few spent her life organizing and advocating for the removal of prostitution and sex work from the criminal code of the United States, before her death in 2012.
Dr. Annie Sprinkle
Dr. Annie Sprinkle is an American sexologist.Through education, pornography and post-porn feminist content production, she has contributed greatly to the destigmatization of the sex industry. She has also injected feminist priorities into the sex industry through education and advocacy.
Sprinkle pioneered new porn genres, among which are: edu-porn, gonzo, post porn, xxx docudrama, art porn, and feminist erotica. She is well known for her contributions to the growing popularity of the post-porn movement and lesbian pornography.
First observed in 2003, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was founded in recognition of the Green River Killers’ victims in Seattle, Washington. It has gained international traction: communities worldwide organize and advocate against the victimization and marginalization of sex workers.
The 49 victims of the Green River Killer were all young women, all either sex workers or vulnerable teens. The conversation now acknowledges the diversity of identities working within our community. Violence against sex workers of all identities, including LGBTQIA+, is a major problem globally: it goes largely unreported and unpunished. The growing number of trans sex workers at the forefront of sex worker advocacy and equity has substantially amplified their voice on December 17.
At the center of December 17 is the truth that the acceptance of violence against sex workers, including rape, battery and assault, and murder, must end.
Different Ways That the Day to End Sex Worker Violence is Observed
During the week of December 17th, actions and vigils are staged to highlight the gross inequality faced by sex worker communities in the eyes of society and law enforcement, advocating for the end of state violence and oppression and a greater acceptance of the sex trade in general. The aim of December 17 is to bring awareness to the ways in which sex workers experience violence and criminalization.
December 17 Internationally
Momentum continues to grow: in 2015, December 17 was observed in 60 cities worldwide. A major symbol throughout the week, The Red Umbrella has been used since 2012 as a symbol for sex worker advocacy. During marches and vigils, sex workers and their communities carry the red umbrella.
How You Can Support as a Sex Worker or Ally
- Learn about sex worker violence in your area: there’s almost no area where there hasn’t been major incidences of sex worker violence, and education is power! Be informed about the issues faced by our community so you can participate and do something about it!
- Participate: Join feminist and sex-work-advocacy protests and marches in your area!
- Donate or volunteer with The Red Umbrella Fund – an international organization generating and granting unrestricted funding to sex worker advocacy initiatives worldwide.
- If you can, share their website through social media channels
- Donate directly to The International Day To End Sex Worker Violence, and support our worldwide efforts to bring the conversation into the mainstream.
Wrapping it up: Where We Go From Here in Our Own Education and Advocacy!
While rooted in horrific violence against marginalized women in 2003, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is now honoured as a week to bring conversations around systemic marginalization of our diverse community to the forefront.
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others on the history of violence against sex workers, both locally and globally, and how we continue to be impacted by societal oppression.
The more we know, understand, and advocate, the greater power we have to bring down the societal structures that keep us and our communities from gaining the rights and power we deserve.