8th March marks International Women’s Day. Like our mothers and grandmothers before us, we are going on strike. We are calling on sex workers all over the country and around the globe to join us. We strike to protest against the sexist, racist and criminal laws and whore stigma that jeopardise our lives. We will be on strike whether we work in brothels, saunas, strip clubs, street corners or porn shoots, in flats, escort agencies or working independently.
The criminalisation of the sex industry makes our work unsafe and exposes us to violence. So, on March 8th, we will refuse to do the sex/work that we do for money and all the domestic, sex and care work that we are expected to do for free.
The Sex/Work Strike is not just for sex workers, and not just for women. We call of people of all genders and all professions to join us. In joining together, we strike against the conditions of women’s visible paid work and the invisible and devalued domestic and sexual work that keeps the world turning, profits flowing and our communities and families functioning. Injustice runs through our private relationships and public lives. Criminalising our work makes us less safe, and fuels those cycles of injustice.
We know how many workers urgently need money, particularly those of us affected by poverty, migration and legal repression. We encourage sex workers across the globe to come together, creating innovative ways of protesting – so everyone can join the strike even if they can’t afford to just take the day off.
Criminalisation means we face violence at work – at the hands of clients, partners, bosses and policemen who know we can’t go to the legal system for help. Working outside the law means we can’t access vital services, or work together for our own protection. Trans sex workers, migrant sex workers and workers of colour bear the brunt of this violence. The current system is a violation of our dignity and our basic labour rights. It maintains the ownership that men and the government have over our bodies.
Criminalisation is connected to systems of class and race which divide women from each other. It categorises women either as Sacred Virgins or Bad Whores. But let us be clear: these laws maintain male power not just over the bodies of sex workers, but over every woman’s body. This network system of male power and violence treats women’s lives as disposable. It means most women are not believed when we speak out about sexual violence at work or in our relationships. We can’t just offer crumbs of equality to a few women. Until we recognise the interconnected ways that exploitation and oppression affect all women women, none of us will get free.
Criminalisation is not the solution to this problem. We strike against the reactionary idea that sex for money needs to be criminalised to protect and save women. Current attempts to criminalise clients in the sex industry mean that it is working class women, women of colour and migrants who earn less money, are criminalised and often deported. We call on all women to struggle against their own conditions of womanhood and the exploitative and oppressive laws that criminalise our bodies and our labour. We need to STRIKE against the system that divides our labour between what ‘naturally’ belongs to women (and therefore shouldn’t be paid) and what belongs to men (therefore we should supposedly be thankful for and get paid less for doing it).
Decriminalisation means we can work collectively and openly, keeping each other safe maintaining decent working conditions. We must fight against violence and stigma we face with our own voices, under the (red) umbrella of labour and human rights. We don’t need a new set of restrictive laws. We demand freedom from violence and exploitation, and to join with workers around the world in the fight for gender, economic and racial justice.