About December 17

In the spirit of remembrance and healing, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) and SWOP chapters from around the United States wish to join sex worker allies and advocates from around the world in recognizing December 17, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. As we approach this day, we seek to come together to remember those who we have lost this year, and renew our commitment in the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all sex workers.

Violence against sex workers is an international concern which plays out on a daily basis, in all countries around the globe.

  • A study conducted by the New York City-based Sex Workers Project reported that 80% of participants had reported experiencing violence, including 27% at the hands of police.
  • In a report on violence against sex workers in India, 70% had reported abuse by police, and 80% had been arrested without evidence.
  • During a meeting of sex workers and advocates from Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, participants described “routine police violence including sexual violence, beatings, rubber bullets, and spraying sex workers’ genitals with pepper-spray guns.”

The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was originally developed by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and SWOP founder Robyn Few to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of violence against sex workers happening globally. SWOP-USA began commemorating the Day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who murdered at least 71 women, most of whom were sex workers from 1982 to 1998.

During the week of December 17th sex worker rights organizations around the world stage actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. These events also often address issues relating to stigma and discrimination that allows violence against sex workers to occur with impunity. We seek to raise awareness about the barriers faced when attempting to report violence, and promote empowerment and change what has become an unacceptable status quo.

Last year’s events included:

  • SWOP-NYC organized a forum on December 10th to explore the connections between sex workers rights and human rights on International Human Rights Day. This was followed later in the week by a candle-light vigil in the Metropolitan Community Church to memorialize those who we have lost to violence in the past year.
  • SWOP-USA organized a national protest to spotlight the death of Marcia Powell, a sex worker who passed away due to the inhumane treatment and conditions she suffered while incarcerated in Arizona.
  • The Sex Workers Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) released the report Arrest the Violence, which detailed violence against sex workers in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Hong Kong-based group Zi Teng staged a mourning ceremony to remember the lives of six workers who had been murdered in Hong Kong in 2009. The ceremony closed with a march to police headquarters to protest the abuse and disregard faced by sex workers.

Every year, we push to make International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers become more firmly established as part of the human rights canon. We hope to take time this year to think about the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, colleagues, and allies who we have lost this year to violence. Please join us in our work to access rights, fight violence, and end silence which sex workers face every day.