December 17 is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. It’s a day to draw attention to the hate crimes that sex workers experience, remember the lives lost to these crimes, and fight against the stigma and discrimination that perpetuates violence against sex workers.
Observed since 2003, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers began with a memorial and vigil for the women whose lives were taken by the Green River Killer. His victims included at least 49 sex workers and vulnerable women, and today, we honour them all. December 17 has also become an important annual day of remembrance and action for sex workers and their allies.
Some sex workers are more at-risk for work-related violence than others. Those who are Indigenous, racialized or transgender more often face violence and fear police harassment. In addition, Canada’s current prostitution laws decriminalize the sale of sex but criminalize all related aspects, including solicitation. This increases the fear of calling the police when sex workers are in danger as they don’t feel protected under the current legislation.
The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly difficult for sex workers as restrictions and public health measures limited their ability to work safely and especially since they cannot access labour protections like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance. The lack of protections available for sex workers put them in an extremely vulnerable situation, creating even greater barriers for affording basic needs such as food, medicine, child care, housing, and more.
Sex workers deserve the right to safe working conditions, and respect and dignity, just like every other Canadian worker.
On this International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, OPSEU/SEFPO’s Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel (RAA) invites you to stand in solidarity and fight for stronger protections against violence for sex workers by encouraging your MPP to support sex work law reform.
For those who are comfortable attending an in-person event, Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project will be holding a community vigil and night march on December 17 at 6:00 p.m., in honour of sex workers who have lost their lives to work-related violence. Click here to find out more.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Morgen Veres, OPSEU/SEFPO Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel Co-Chair