NUM Statement: December 17 2017 – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Sunday 17th December 2017 is the annual day of recognition and remembrance of sex workers who have been victims of violence. It’s a day when sex workers, sex work support projects and their supporters come together to remember victims of violence, call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers & reinforce the message that crimes against sex workers are unacceptable and a violation of sex worker’s rights.
Sex workers experience a range of targeted crimes including physical and sexual assaults, online harassment and abuse. Sex workers in the UK experience disproportionate levels of targeted violence compared to other occupational groups. A review of research in 2017, funded by the Wellcome Foundation and carried out by Leicester University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted, from analysing available data from NUM, and wider literature, that the rate of murders of sex worker was disproportionately higher than amongst other occupational groups. https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/criminology/people/teela-sanders/sex-work-and-homicide
Key reasons why sex workers are targeted, include that they are not generally treated as equal citizens entitled to their universal rights in law. In 2005 sex workers from across Europe endorsed ‘The declaration of the rights of sex workers in Europe’ http://www.sexworkeurope.org/resources/declaration-rights-sex-workers-europe which identifies human, labour and migrants rights that sex workers should be entitled to under international law, amalgamating all the rights that have been agreed in international treaties to uphold for all citizens. Amongst these are the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to equal protection of the law and protection against discrimination; the right to work, to free choice of employment and to just and favourable conditions of work. The declaration states that ‘Governments should end the impunity for the disproportionate level of violence and murder committed against sex workers in all countries’. Stigma and criminalisation compromises these rights.
The stigmatisation of sex work contributes to the denial of full rights and a lack of protection from victimisation and increases hostility and violence towards sex workers.
Criminilisation of sex work creates a difficult relationship with the police who have the duty to protect sex workers from crime, but also are the enforcers of the laws related to sex work. Fear that the police will arrest them or others they work with, or disrupt work places, prevents many sex workers reporting crimes. This is heightened for migrant sex workers who may also fear identification and action from immigration. This means that crimes against sex workers are under-reported and offenders undetected.
Sex workers have a right to protection and safe working conditions and the 17th December is an important day to both remember those sex workers who have experienced violence, including those who have been victims of murder, and to call on legislators and policy makers to develop law and policy which promote and enhance sex worker safety. Hence, the 17th December is a fitting occasion for National Ugly Mugs to restate and reinforce its commitment to continue to work, each and every day, for an end to violence against sex workers. National Ugly Mugs will continue to work to end violence against sex workers by
- enhancing sex worker safety via the National Ugly Mugs reporting and alerts scheme;
- supporting sex worker’s entitlement and access to high quality information, advice and support services;
- advocating for and enabling sex worker voices to be heard;
- continuing to advocate for meaningful legislative and policy scrutiny to ensure laws and policies which enhance and not undermine sex worker safety. This includes advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work as the legal framework which the evidence clearly shows best supports the safety of sex workers.
National Ugly Mugs