A NEW era of support for sex workers’ self-determination and respect for their work and lives could result from an international festival staged in
This has been claimed by organisers of the five-day event which sought to raise awareness of the struggle by sex workers for recognition of their labour and human rights.
The Festival, held in Glasgow, was also aimed at building up a community of sex workers’ rights activists at local, regional and international level.
The event came at a time when Rhoda Grant, a Labour MSP, is attempting to bring forward a new law making it an offence to attempt to buy sex.
The “Sex Workers’ Rights and Community Building Festival” was organised by the Sex Worker Open University, a volunteer collective launched in London in 2009.
SWOU worked along with Edinburgh-based Scottish Prostitutes Education Project (SCOT-PEP), a charity which has campaigned for decriminalisation of sex work, including the purchase and sale of sex.
The Festival’s main purpose was to campaign against laws restricting sex work and attempts to criminalise the men who buy sex.
Its organisers argue such laws risk driving sex work underground and putting women and male prostitutes at greater risk of violence and abuse.
SWOU challenges the popular stereotype of sex workers as victims or criminals.
A spokesperson said: “We believe those who choose to work in the sex industry, for whatever reasons, deserve the same legal and human rights as all other workers and criminalisation only increases our vulnerability and oppression at work.”
George Lewis, co-chairman of SCOT-PEP, told TFN the charity was “extremely proud” of SWOU’s achievements in organising the
“At a time when we face further legislative moves in Scotland that are misinformed about the realities of sex work, this event was extremely timely.
“Sex workers and allies gathered from across Europe and from Canada and Australia to discuss sex-work laws and best practice when recognising the need to acknowledge sex-work as work for many people.
“The overwhelming positive evidence about, and support for, a decriminalised model was encouraging for us at SCOT-PEP who have been campaigning for decriminalisation as the best model for protecting the health and human rights of sex workers in Scotland.”
The festival had got off to what Lewis described as “a rocky start” when, days before it started, the Scottish Trades Union Congress pulled out of an agreement to host a formal discussion of experts on sex work worldwide.
Despite initial agreement that SWOU could host one of its public events at the Congress, the STUC made clear its opposition to sex workers’ self-organising.
The cancellation of the venue directly impacted the organisation of the festival which was taking place in several venues including the Centre for Contemporary Art and Kinning Park Community Centre.
Molly, a current indoor sex worker said: “It’s a slap in the face to have our small marginalised community collective treated this way by such a well-established and powerful organisation. The irony is that many of us are trade union members ourselves!”
Amy, a former street-based sex worker and member of SWOU said: “I am shocked and angry that STUC could pull out with such short notice.
“Working on the street, I am used to be harassed and pushed out. Being treated the same way by the trade union and women’s groups makes me sick to my stomach.”
Luca, a male sex worker and co-founder of SWOU said: “As society is confronted with massive changes due to economic crisis, austerity measures and cuts in public services, trade unions need to support – not shut down – efforts from communities to organise for their rights.
“We are very proud of the Festival and all the work achieved at it. We believe this is the beginning for a new era of support for sex workers’ self-determination and respect for our work and our lives.”
Innovative project gets recognition
|SACRO, the national charity which provides community justice services throughout Scotland has been awarded star status in recognition of its outstanding work to support women involved in sex work in Edinburgh.The Another Way service offers women one to one support to help them with issues such as addictions, personal safety, domestic abuse, housing and legal problems.
The service is only one of a handful of projects across the UK to have been awarded star status by the National Ugly Mug scheme – a scheme set up by the UK-wide National Sex Workers Projects group to help sex workers to report and receive warnings about dangerous individuals who might threaten their safety.
Nicola McCloskey (pictured), criminal justice worker at Sacro’s Another Way service picked up the “Star Status” award. Tom Halpin, Sacro Chief Executive, said: “This a testament to the hard work by our own staff and partners.”