Why Are Sex Workers Left Out Of the Violence Against Women Conversation?

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susan davis
Why Are Sex Workers Left Out Of the Violence Against Women Conversation?

this is an interesting piece which contains some disturbing statistics but seems quite credible;


by Kate Zen

Though prostitution is often touted as the world’s “oldest profession,” the estimated 40 to 42 million people world-wide who work in this profession are still not recognized as workers, and they do not have basic workers’ rights. According to a January 2012 study by Fondation Scelles, three quarters of these 40-42 million are between the ages of 13 and 25, and 80% of them are female. The homicide rate for female prostitutes is estimated to be 204 per 100,000, according to a longitudinal study published in 2004. This constitutes a higher occupational mortality rate than any other group of women ever studied.

Yet in spite of all this, there is almost no mention of violence against sex workers in any human rights conversation at the United Nations about Violence Against Women.  Last week, at the close of the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon affirmed the UN’s seven-year long commitment to focus on fighting Violence Against Women until 2015:

“Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage,” Ban-Ki moon declared, “No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear.“

But in the words of black suffragette Sojourner Truth:

 “Ain’t I a woman?”

Why are sex workers not a part of the Violence Against Women conversation? Sex workers are daughters, sisters, mothers, and community members living in your town, riding on your buses, eating at your restaurants, and reading in your libraries. Though a majority of sex workers are female or female-identified, many are also sons, brothers, fathers, and lovers. Gay, straight, black, white, tall, short, rich, and poor, sex workers come from a variety of different backgrounds, and go into sex work for a variety of different reasons. Some of them migrate across the world for better opportunity and some of them are trafficked against their will. Some of them are addicted to drugs, and some of them have Ph.Ds; those two groups are not even mutually exclusive. You or someone you love probably know a sex worker; maybe you have even loved a sex worker.

Stigma keeps this massive industry underground, and also subjects sex workers to unpunished physical violence from clients, employers, and police; as well as the violence of social isolation and internalized shame. Stigma is at the root of the hateful attitudes that condone assault and impunity, the discriminatory laws that keep the industry underground, and the harmful working conditions that result from hiding in the shadows of society.

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