17th December 2020 marks the 17th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW). Every year, sex workers around the world gather to remember those whose lives have been lost to the exceptional levels of violence, marginalisation and stigma which they face around the world, and renew our commitment to changing these conditions so that no further lives are needlessly cut short.
At NUM, we see first-hand the impact of this stigma each day. We receive reports of crime and harm committed against sex workers, and support victims through trauma. However, we also see the courage, resilience and generosity of sex workers as they choose to share this information to keep others safe. The solidarity of the sex work community is visible throughout the work we do, and we draw strength and resolve from this every day.
The event this year takes place in unprecedented circumstances. Whereas many sex workers would usually gather in person with one another to share strength, support one another and remember collectively, this is not possible in many places due to Covid-19 restrictions. The impacts of isolation, financial insecurity and exclusion have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and more sex workers than ever are experiencing hardship as a result.
Not only do we take today to remember those whose lives have been lost through the direct violence of individuals, but also to remember those for whom marginalisation has been too great a burden in other ways. The lack of adequate physical and mental healthcare, the pressures of poverty, the stigma which leads to isolation from those whose support we need the most - we have lost many more of our community to these, and we honour their memories also.
At NUM, our mission is to end violence against sex workers; physical violence, psychological violence, state violence and structural violence. We remember those who are the victims of all of these today.
In the UK, 184* people involved in sex work were murdered since 1990. Very little media attention has been given to them, and even less afforded to the conditions that contribute to this violence. These individuals were part of our families and communities. They were important to their loved ones and friends, and they are important to us.
Their names are listed in our memorial card, which you can view, download and share below.
In place of our in-person commemorations, we have invited sex workers and allies from around the world to say their names. We invite you to watch the video below and take the time to remember every person mentioned, and those who cannot be. Say their names so we do not forget them. Say their names so that no one forgets them. We will also, as always, be tweeting the names of each person throughout the day on the 17th December.
We invite all of you to take time to remember our colleagues and friends alongside us, and then resolve to continue fighting for equal rights for all members of society.
- Explore how stigma and criminalisation combine to reduce the power that sex workers have over their work and lives;
- Commit to listening to sex workers and sex worker-led organisations.
- Help end their victimisation by refusing to be silent.
- Work with sex workers to eliminate the social conditions and the harmful policies that limit their life chances.
Let’s work together to ensure no more sex workers die at the hands of predators or due to ill-informed policies and exclusionary politics.
To the sex workers who we've lost, we echo a phrase used in Black communities in the US and among queer and marginalised people for those who were killed due to socially unjust conditions: May they Rest in Power!
National Ugly Mugs
* This number only reflects those murdered, who are in the public domain and who have been identified as sex workers.