Anti-hate-crimes legislation or anti-discrimination legislation will not protect the community because many of the community members do sex work. You have to decriminalize sex work at the same time to protect the LGBTI community. There are clear linkages between LGBTI rights and sex workers’ rights.
– Kemal Ördek, Red Umbrella Project, Turkey
Astraea is excited to celebrate International Sex Workers’ Day today, which commemorates the eight-day occupation of a French church in 1975 by more than a hundred sex workers demanding improved working conditions. More than a quarter-century later, Italian sex workers marched through the streets with red umbrellas as part of an exhibit at the Venice Biennale of Art. Symbolizing strength and protection from violence, the red umbrella was adopted by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers as the official symbol for sex worker’s rights several years later. This rich legacy of sex worker organizing continues today around the world.
Despite facing violence and criminalization and having limited funding for their activism, sex workers are challenging sexism and transphobia by demanding their rights to bodily autonomy. They are pushing for access to quality healthcare and fair working conditions; documenting human rights violations and fighting for police accountability; leading harm reduction strategies and educating peers about their rights. LGBTQI sex workers in particular are disproportionately profiled and experience heightened violence at the hands of law enforcement.
Recognizing the links between queer and trans justice, economic justice and gender justice, Astraea is honored to support sex worker groups, including:
- The first and only open sex worker rights organization in Turkey, Red Umbrella Project powerfully resists the human rights violations that all sex workers experience in their daily lives. Red Umbrella builds alliances within the LGBTQ, sex worker and feminist movements in Turkey and internationally. In 2016, it published a report documenting over 700 cases of transphobic violence and discrimination against sex workers in just a year.
- In Baltimore, Maryland, Power Inside is a sex worker-led organization that fiercely advocates against police abuse and sexual violence against sex workers, lesbians and transgender women. Most recently, Power Inside compiled and documented testimonies of women who have experienced police brutality and sexual misconducts at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department and presented them to the US Department of Justice.
Astraea envisions a world in which all people are free to exercise self-determination, bodily autonomy, and freedom of choice––regardless of their occupation. It is through the work of sex worker activism that we will build a better world for LGBTQI people…and all of society.