What is International Sex Worker Rights Day, and how did it start?

blank-print-document-1What is International Sex Worker Rights Day, and how did it start?

International Sex Worker Rights Day began in 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organized by a Calcutta-based group called Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee). In 2002, Durbar invited organizations from around the world to join them in commemorating Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3rd:

We felt strongly that that we should have a day what need to be observed by the sex workers community globally. Keeping in view the large mobilization of all types of global sexworkers [Female, Male, Transgender], we proposed to observe 3rd March as THE SEX WORKERS RIGHTS DAY.

Knowing the usual response of international bodies and views of academicians and intellectuals of the 1st world [many of them consider that sex workers of third world are different from 1st world and can’t take their decision] a call coming from a third world country would be more appropriate at this juncture, we believe. It will be a great pleasure to us if all of you observe the day in your own countries too…We need your inspiration and support to turn our dreams into reality.

Since 2002, sex workers and advocates around the world have organized protests, gatherings, film screenings, art shows, and lectures on and around March 3 to raise awareness about human rights abuses sex workers face.

Ultimately, March 3rd provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on sex worker activism, resilience, community and strength, and away from salaciousness, violations and paternalism.  Sex worker organizing extends across the globe, with efforts aimed at demanding recognition of sex worker autonomy, freedom from criminalization and legal protection from violence and abuse.


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Some Global Sex worker Rights Goals

  • Stop police harassment and violence against sex workers, including robbery and rape
  • Ensure sex workers have safe, fair working conditions
  • Eliminate barriers to accessing healthcare, housing, mainstream employment, and financial services.
  • End stigma and discrimination.
  • Identify and assist victims of sex trafficking and reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking.
  • Increase economic, racial and gender equality to address economic compulsion.
  • Stop harmful brothel raids, sting operations, and crackdowns on sex worker communities online and outdoors.  Decriminalize sex work.




10 Things to Do to Celebrate March 3rd

  • Organize a film screening  – Show a feature film, like Live Nude Acts Unite! Or The American Courtesans. Or show a half-dozen short films from around the world! There are many amazing sex worker rights videos: we’ve organized some on YouTube, and you can find more on other video-sharing sights.
  • March or Protest – Organize a protest at the legislature, the court house, the public square. You can protest a specific local issue, or you can also just demonstrate to raise awareness about sex worker rights!
  • Organize a public discussion – About global sex worker organizing, sex worker human rights abuses and what’s being done to stop them, or how to be an ally.
  • Hold a community organizing and strategic planning day – Use “International Sex Worker Rights Day” to bring your sex worker community together and create goals and advocacy objectives.
  • Use your event to create a consensus statement or new resource – Organize a guided discussion about “decriminalization” or “how to be an ally” or “what I love about myself” or priority issues, take notes, and then turn your notes into a statement or hand out! Or hold a discussion of issues people in your community has and turn the notes into a needs assessment or the start of community participatory action research.
  • Launch a social media campaign – Fighting stigma or to raise awareness about a specific human rights abuse or issue. Chose a slogan or hashtag, get poster board or dry erase boards and markers, and take photos of people with the signs – Tweet & FB post!
  • Hold a sex worker self-care day – March third is just as much about celebrating sex worker communities as it is about making change — and we need to take care of ourselves too! Organize a potluck picnic or brunch. Play beauty salon. Give each other back rubs.
  • Hand out and/or put up flyers in high-traffic areas – If you want to do something public but are short on man-power, handing out flyers downtown, in a train station, or at a shopping center only takes one or two people. Shy? Put up flyers on coffee shop boards and flyer racks.
  • Organize an art show – many sex workers are creative, talented people! Showcase some of their work!
  • Organize an open-mic night at a local bar or coffee shop!


Red Backdrop

What Sex Workers and Advocates Say About Sex Worker Rights

We are not ONLY “victims” or ONLY “empowered”- the reality of the sex trade is complicated and our lives don’t fit into a box. Don’t ignore our reality by assuming we are one or the other (we might be both or neither – let us define how we view our lives.

-YWEP & Different Avenues (Source)

[W]e believe that the right to do sex work legally (and as safely as possible) has parallels with the right to legal and safe abortion. Both issues directly involve the rights to life, liberty, security of the person, equality, privacy, and conscience, and in the case of sex work, the right to free expression and association as well…But when abortion or sex work is criminalized, those affected have even less choice and control – for example, they can be more easily exploited or harmed by unaccountable third parties, putting their lives and health at risk. Just like women who have abortions, sex workers face stigma and judgment and are often shamed and silenced, especially women and transgender workers.

-Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (Source)

The assumption is that sex workers are nothing but spreading disease and that places a heavy stigma on sex workers. If you’re a sex worker it is assumed that you must have HIV or you must be at a very, very high risk, but illogically your access to condoms is cut short.

-Monica Jones in Nothing About Us Without Us (Source)

[We] believes in the essential dignity of every human being and recognizes that marginalized communities must take the lead in addressing the challenges they confront if we are to make lasting progress toward social justice…In many of the countries where AJWS works, sex workers face extreme stigma, violence and discrimination—with severe consequences for their health and human rights. They face multiple barriers to accessing health services and information, including denial of treatment by health care providers.  

-The American Jewish World Service (Source)

By equating sex work to trafficking in persons, the very complex phenomenon of human trafficking is narrowed down to a moral issue, an approach that fails to address the economic, political and social root causes of trafficking. Furthermore, trafficked persons in all other industries are not recognised and remain unprotected.

The conflation of sex work and trafficking in persons leads to inadequate counter-trafficking policies and to counter-productive prostitution policies. The two issues are both complex and need their own individual approach and policy.

-La Strada International, Europe’s Leading Network Against Traffic in Human Beings (Source)


If all demands of sex workers could be summarised in one word, it would be decriminalisation. Progressive governments in New Zealand and New South Wales in Australia adopted a decriminalisation model to improve the situation of sex workers. Recently, the New Zealand government and the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective evaluated this model positively. The results of this evaluation demonstrate a significant reduction in the vulnerability of sex workers and improved access to human rights.

-TAMPEP Europe (Source)

Criminalizing sex work, and conflating the buying or selling of consensual sex between adults with trafficking, aggravates the risks sex workers face. It also undermines the response to HIV, and perpetuates harmful patriarchal ideologies and gender stereotypes.

-Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (Source)

As the largest network of service providers to the victims of trafficking in the United States, we are dismayed to see the continued conflation of sex trafficking with sex work, and the ongoing confusion between buyers of sexual services and traffickers. We are concerned about the consequences of such tactics on sex workers and trafficking victims alike. The unintended consequences of these programs include increased isolation and vulnerability to violence and exploitation, as well as a deepening of the rift that prevents many trafficking victims from reaching out to law enforcement when they seek to escape their situation.

-The Freedom Network-USA (Source)

Even for those who believe that sex work is inherently harmful, criminalizing sex work creates harm in and of itself and only adds to the hardship of those working in the commercial sex industry. Criminalization creates stigma. Criminalization allows authorities to harass, intimidate, and exploit sex workers and individuals who are profiled as sex workers. Criminalization entrenches people in poverty and forecloses the ability of people to leave the sex trade. To protest the decriminalization of selling sex is to insist on further harming sex workers, including those trafficking victims who are forced into sex work.

-Urban Justice Center-NYC – Sex Workers Project (Source)

In environments where many aspects of sex work are criminalised – including, for example, soliciting, living off the earnings of a sex worker (the latter generally penalizing families and children of sex workers the most), or other provisions criminalising third parties — sex workers face discrimination and stigma which undermine their human rights, including to liberty, security of the person, equality, and health.

-SANGRAM, (India) (Source)

As we have repeatedly argued, regulating autonomous sex work and repealing any laws that indirectly encourage harassment and violence against us is the suitable way to respect and guarantee the human rights of those who voluntarily choose to engage in sex work.

-RedTraSex (Source)

The key demand of the sex workers’ movement in Burma, in Asia and all around the world is simple.  We demand that sex work is recognized as work. But we have one other key demand, specific to certain parts of the women’s movement. We demand that we are not treated as victims.

-Kthi Win, Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers (Source)

Legislation that governs sex work without consulting sex workers and advocacy organizations such as SWOP, inevitably falls short of understanding the complex nature of the sex industry. Sex workers demand inclusion. NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!

-SWOP-Seattle (Source)


March 3rd is Sex Workers Rights Day


Back in 2001, over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. The event was organized by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members (wow!!!), and members of their communities.  Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3rd March as an annual, international event, as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

Panel on Human Trafficking at USF St, Pete Tuesday, January 26th, 7-8:30pm


Panelists representing the League of Women Voters, the Clearwater PD, Sex Workers Outreach Project Tampa Bay Area, and Immigration Law Group will discuss the different types of trafficking happening right here in the Bay Area, the difference between sex trafficking and consensual sex work, and actions we can take to prevent trafficking.

Click image to enlarge and see details.

This event is free and open to the public.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Events in Florida





Hollywood, FL  600 S Dixie Hwy
Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 8:00 PM – Friday, December 18, 2015 at 2:30 AM

Get tickets

Translatin@ Coalition Florida Chapter is holding a fundraiser. International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. We don’t have any support from Federal or Private Organizations for the job we already provide. The funds we raise will be used to assist Creating Change Conference January 20-24, 2016 in Chicago-IL.


Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015

November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance. TDOR memorializes transgender persons who have died due to hate crimes and other types of prejudice.

Tampa-local, India Clarke, 22, was murdered in July of 2015. This case got national attention as the Tampa police department continually misgendered her in interviews about the crime. This issue was later corrected in the media. Clarke’s murderer also turned himself in.


Memorial events for all 2015 victims will be held in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. You will find details for those events as well as other memorials across Florida by clicking here. Go to this site to find TDOR events across the U,S/ and the globe.

SWOP stands in solidarity with this day, as so many transgender people have historically been killed in crimes related to sex work–whether actively working as sex workers or simply being profiled as such.

Stats from SWOP USA website:

12 trans women who engaged in sex work were murdered in United States in 2015 and comprised 29% of all U.S. sex worker homicide victims. 10 of these trans women were black. One was Latina. 10 were 35 or younger, and 50% were 25 or younger.

23% of 2012 GLBT homicides in the United States were connected to sex work, continuing a trend from 2011 and 2010 where 22% and 18% of homicides were connected to sex work.

4 in 5 trans women in D.C. have been verbally, physically or sexually assaulted. 44% of D.C. trans women were denied a job they were qualified for, 45% were discriminated against at work, and 41% have worked in the sex industry.

40 percent of transgender inmates in the United States reported sexual victimization compared to 4 percent of all inmates. Nearly one in six transgender people (16%) (including 21% of transgender women) have been incarcerated at some point, and 47% of black transgender people have been incarcerated.

Transgender people engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women, and 13% of transgender people who experience family rejection have done sex work.

Black (53%) and Latino/a (34%) trans women have extremely high rates of underground work, likely related in part to structural exclusion from educational systems and dramatically higher rates of employment discrimination.

Read more here.

Amnesty International Votes to Develop Policy Encouraging All Nations to Decriminalize Prostitution

This is the press release.

Amnesty staff celebrating historic decision 12 August 2CMJJ-aBWwAYcNfv015, 17:00 UTC

A crucial vote to protect the human rights of sex workers was passed today in Dublin at Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM). Delegates from around the world adopted a resolution which authorized the International Board to develop and adopt a policy on the issue.

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world,” said Salil Shetty.

The research and consultation carried out in the development of this policy in the past two years concluded that this was the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights and lessen the risk of abuse and violations they face.

The violations that sex workers can be exposed to include physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, human trafficking, forced HIV testing and medical interventions. They can also be excluded from health care and housing services and other social and legal protection.

The policy has drawn from an extensive evidence base from sources including UN agencies, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, UN Women and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. We have also conducted research in four countries.
The consultation included sex worker groups, groups representing survivors of prostitution, abolitionist organizations, feminist and other women’s rights representatives, LGBTI activists, anti- trafficking agencies and HIV/AIDS organizations.

Amnesty International considers human trafficking abhorrent in all of its forms, including sexual exploitation, and should be criminalized as a matter of international law. This is explicit in this new policy and all of Amnesty International’s work.

“This is a historic day for Amnesty International. It was not a decision that was reached easily or quickly and we thank all our members from around the world, as well as all the many groups we consulted, for their important contribution to this debate. They have helped us reach an important decision that will shape this area of our human rights work going forward,” said Salil Shetty.

Sex Work, Sin, and Shame: A Pride Perspective: Unitarian Unilateralist Podcast

On Pride Weekend, 2015, SWOP Tampa member and USF professor Jill McCracken gave a talk at the St. Petersburg Unitarian Unilateralist Church. SWOP Tampa is immensely proud that Jill was invited to speak at the UU–a church that has a long community history of open–minded, compassionate faith. The description of Jill’s talk is below with a link to listen.



Sex Work, Sin, and Shame: A Pride Perspective

Join us for another installment of our guest speaker series, “100 Years of Epiphanies”. Because our third principle is the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations, we are hearing the personal stories of members and friends of this congregation as a way to live that value. We are more than just people – – we are our stories. Hearing those stories helps strengthen this congregation by deepening our understanding of one another.

Sex work, sin, and shame: What are they? How are they related? And how does our understanding shift when we explore them from a pride-ful perspective? On Pride Sunday, join Dr. Jill McCracken as she explores the relationships between sex work, gay pride, and the dignity and worth of all persons. Sex work, or the exchange of sex for money or other gain, is a foundation of Dr. McCracken’s research about language, gender, sexuality, and violence. Through and integral to this research, Jill shares her journey toward self-knowledge and healing.