International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers Memorials

by Bella Robinson – Executive Director, Coyoti Rhode Island


I want to talk about memorials and obituaries for a minute.  Usually an obituary describes the person that has passed away.  It also includes, loved ones that were left behind. It usually includes the person’s accomplishments.   It often includes the person’s ties to their community.

However society and the media haven’t been very kind to sex workers.  Usually the mentioning of sex workers, occurs when they have been arrested, murdered or a victim of violence.  Rarely does the media bother to describe them as people.

Sex workers are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins and loved ones.  They shop at the same stores, and their kids attend the same schools.  Many of them have achieved a lot in their lives, and sadly these accomplishments are usually left out of the conversation.

“Once a whore, always a whore”

“Bad women get what they deserve”

Society has stigmatized sex workers, and pushed them to the edges of society.  Sex workers are often seen as subhuman.  Law enforcement refers to sex workers and the homeless as, NHI  for “No human Involved”

The media often stigmatizes and disrespects sex workers.  Rarely do these publications show us any compassion for our situation.  Instead they reinforce these irrational notions that people are somehow at fault for poverty and violence.   It becomes a circus, with people passing judgement on the less fortunate.

Using blame to stay in the problem rather than support solutions.

Just pull yourself up from your boot straps

I guess that’s easy for people in power to say.  You know the lucky ones.

All these actors contribute to stigma, violence and human rights violations to marginalized populations who are vulnerable. It is easy for those in powerful positions to bully and discriminate. 

The US government has never been known to stand up for oppressed civilians.

The government plays the actor of the bad parent who refuses to take responsibility for creating a system that has failed so many people.  They stay on course with this rhetoric and the majority of society follows suit.  

When it came to Native Americans, African Americans, women fighting for their right to vote, and LGBTQ rights.   We had to sue the government to gain these rights.  So why is society waiting around for the government to acknowledge human rights for sex workers and other marginalized populations.

US sex workers have organized and they have filed a constitutional challenge to CA prostitution laws 647 (b)

ESPLER v GASCON is now in the 9th district court of appeals.  This case could set legal presence and allow sex workers to access equal protection under the law.  This case was funded by small private donations and has ongoing legal bills.  Please make your tax deductible donation today.

As we read the list of 132 Sex workers that were lost in 2016, let’s remember that…..

It is time to change the social perception that she wasn’t a person, she was a “prostitute”. No one wants to feel a sense of community or sameness with her. She was something other than us and therefore we don’t need to feel fear or grief at the fact or the manner of her death.”