Sex Worker Pride

September 14, 2020   |   Blog

Today, September 14th, we celebrate Sex Worker Pride, a global event that recognizes achievements of the sex worker rights movement. Sex Worker Pride was initiated in 2019 by the NSWP, with the aim to increase visibility of sex worker stories and activism. Despite ongoing harms caused by intersections of criminalization, stigma, and racial and gender oppressions, sex workers, and particularly racialized and marginalized sex workers, demonstrate unparalleled resiliency to bring safety, justice and occupational rights to their lives.

Harmful end demand laws such as the Canadian Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) defines sex work as a form of inherent exploitation and frames all sex workers as victims and all clients and third parties as violent criminals. This polarizing narrative continues to hinder sex workers’ access to occupational health, safety and human rights.

Ten years of AESHA data has found that Canada’s end demand laws perpetuate existing harms for sex workers, including elevated risks of violence and abuse, barriers to accessing justice and continued stigma and fear that prevent access to safe, secure housing, health and social protections. These harms disproportionately impact racialized, im/migrant sex workers, who are viewed categorically as victims of exploitation, but at the same time deemed unworthy of occupational protections, by end-demand laws.

While laws continue to be informed by stigma, and racial and patriarchal stereotypes, the experiences of sex workers are as diverse as the community itself. Sex Worker Pride is a time to amplify the diverse stories and experiences of sex workers, and to challenge the harmful dichotomy of victimization vs. liberation that sex workers are often placed within.

In addition to harms caused by PCEPA, COVID-19 has proved an exceptionally challenging time for sex workers locally and globally. In Canada, sex workers lack equitable access to supports, and due to ongoing criminalization, are not protected as workers.

However, where government support remains inadequate, the sex work community has once again proved resilient. 2020 so far, has shown the positive effects of community care and sex-worker led organizing. Vancouver’s sex work community have worked together to provide meals, a mutual aid emergency fund, harm reduction supplies, and socially distanced community events, to help members meet basic needs and maintain community connection and solidarity.

Today, in recognition of Sex Worker Pride, we celebrate the collective efforts of our community partners, AESHA participants, and the ongoing strength of the sex worker rights movement.

To learn more about the AESHA project, including outreach and research updates, read our latest newsletter.