Why, since man and woman were created for each other, had He made their desires so dissimilar? Why should one class of women be able to dwell in luxurious seclusion from the trials of life, while another class performed their loathsome tasks? Surely His wisdom had not decreed that one set of women should live in degradation and in the end should perish that others might live in security, preserve their frappeed chastity, and in the end be saved. - Madeleine Blair
In contrast with the much better-known International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th, International Sex Worker Rights Day usually comes and goes with very little fanfare. SWOP only posted about it Tuesday, and few of the sex worker blogs mention it at all. Renegade Evolution wrote about this on Alternet three years ago:
Apparently, while I don’t expect Sex Workers Rights to rank real high at all on everyone’s radars, it doesn’t seem to rank much at all on anyone’s. Even on the feminist blogs. The Big Feminist Blogs? One, Feministe, mentioned today at all. That’s it, one. Elsewhere out and about? Other than a few places like Amber’s, SITPS, and Sex Workers blogs, and a few shout outs, I see nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. And I’ve looked. I’ve looked on big blogs and small, radical and sex positive, PoC and white, labor rights concerned and sexual freedom concerned. I’ve searched high and low.
She’s right, and it hasn’t changed much since then; most of the sites which mention it at all just republish the same 2009 press release (which I believe originated from the St. James Infirmary). I hadn’t heard of it (except maybe in quickly-forgotten passing) before yesterday, when regular reader Shelley called it to my attention. Now, I’ve said before that prior to last year I wasn’t much of an internet person; starting in the late ‘90s I occasionally visited websites, used Amazon and such, but I never even contributed to message boards before the autumn of 2004 and blogs were totally off my radar until about a year ago (I knew they existed but never read them). So, that’s my excuse; however, I’ve known about December 17th for years, so why not March 3rd?
Well, maybe it’s precisely because December 17th steals its thunder, at least in the United States where the former originated. March 3rd, however, originated in India in 2001 as a festival organized by the sex worker rights organization Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, and attended by 25,000 sex workers despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. In celebration of their victory over those who wish to criminalize and marginalize sex workers, DMSC proposed it as an annual, international event the following year:
We felt strongly that that we should have a day what need to be observed by the sex workers community globally. Keeping in view the large mobilization of all types of global sexworkers (Female, Male, Transgender), we proposed to observe 3rd March as THE SEX WORKERS RIGHTS DAY. Knowing the usual response of international bodies and views of academicians and intellectuals of the 1st world (many of them consider that sex workers of third world are different from 1st world and can’t take their decision) a call coming from a third world country would be more appropriate at this juncture, we believe. It will be a great pleasure to us if all of you observe the day in your own countries too…We need your inspiration and support to turn our dreams into reality.
Perhaps its Asian origin has slowed the day’s “catching on” in Europe and the Americas, but in the light of the current trafficking hysteria and the growing problem of American “rescue” organizations in Asia, I think it’s time to remedy that. Whores and regular readers of this column are acutely aware of the paternalistic attitude taken toward prostitutes by governments, soi-disant feminists and many others, and it’s no secret that many Westerners still have very colonial, “white man’s burden” ideas about Asia; imagine then the incredible paternalism to which Asian sex workers are subjected by American busybodies! I therefore think it’s a FANTASTIC idea to popularize a sex worker rights day which began in India; its very existence is a repudiation of much of the propaganda which trafficking fetishists foist upon the ignorant public. I ask all of my regular readers who have blogs yourselves to write about this observance, and I ask those who don’t have blogs to please mention it in appropriate venues online (you can link to this column or to the SWOP article I linked above if you like). Talk to people about sex worker rights, donate money to your favorite sex worker organization (or your favorite sex worker for that matter), or just carry a red umbrella to silently demonstrate your support. And if you’re a sympathetic amateur and encounter anyone who tries the “anyone who would defend a witch must be a witch herself” attack on you, you might respond with something like this statement from an IWW press release for a Richmond, Virginia solidarity event:
While it may be a controversial topic, the morality of sex work is irrelevant when it comes to egregious violations of human rights. From police brutality, to sexual violence in sky-high numbers, to the refusal to recognize the legitimacy of their work, these flagrant violations should be no more tolerable than any other violations of simple human rights. The Sex Workers’ Rights movement operates from the perspective that sex work is an occupation, and is thusly deserving of the same rights as any other workers, including the right to legal protection from crimes such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape. The movement also strives to give sex work legitimacy, and to show that sex workers are, in fact, humans as opposed to objects.
It’s good to see that some non-sex-workers understand this, even if feminists refuse to.