Sex workers in Australia will join thousands of other sex workers around the world to celebrate and commemorate the 35th anniversary of International Whores Day the 2nd June. A diverse range of events are being held around Australia over a week of celebration.
On Saturday June 5 2010, Scarlet Alliance will host a march from the Sydney Opera House to celebrate this occasion and to protest against the lack of anti-discrimination protections afforded to sex workers. The international sex worker rights movement has adopted the red umbrella as a symbol of sex worker rights and our right to protection from discrimination. Sex workers and supporters who participating in Sydney’s International Whores Day rally will be carrying red umbrellas to symbolise solidarity with the international sex worker community.
Local sex worker, Nicolette Burrows explained:
By holding this rally against the backdrop of one of Australia’s most iconic and recognisable attractions, we are hoping to attract international attention and to acknowledge the long tradition of sex work in Australia’s colonial history. As we know, many of the women who arrived in the early convict and settler fleets docking in Sydney Harbour made their livelihoods as sex workers.
Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Worker Association, has led the Australian sex workers rights movement since its formation in 1989. This year, Scarlet Alliance and its sex worker membership will facilitate two International Whores Day events in Sydney and a number of others throughout Australia.
Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance said
Sydney sex workers and supporters will brandish red umbrellas to mark this occasion and demand action against discrimination. In other states and territories, sex workers are protected by anti-discrimination protection. It is time for NSW to catch up. Protection under anti-discrimination laws would send a strong message to the community that sex work is decriminalised in NSW and it is no longer acceptable to discriminate against sex workers because of our chosen work.
Credited as being the birth of the contemporary international sex worker rights movement, International Whores Day commemorates 2ndJune 1975, when 150 sex workers in France staged a week long occupation of Lyon’s historic St Nizier Christian Church, to protest against increasing police intimidation, harassment, arrest and jailing of Lyon’s street based sex workers. This action also highlighted the inaction of police in investigating violent crimes against sex workers. When local authorities threatened to remove the children of the protesting sex workers and place them in institutional care however other mothers came forward to stand beside sex workers in a show of solidarity. (see bottom of release for more information).
Nicolette Burrows, a Sydney based sex worker said
Sex workers make a significant and integral contribution to Australian society, yet we are rarely recognised for our unique skills and our profession is seldom afforded the respect it deserves. Whilst sex work is decriminalised in NSW, sex work is not generally recognised as a legit occupation. Sex workers still face massive discrimination from society at large, in particular, from the law courts, as was exampled by the 2009 trial of American Marine Petty Officer Timothy Davis, who was acquitted on charges of raping a sex worker in a Potts Point brothel, despite openly admitting to the assault.
Ms Burrows added
Sex workers in all but three states and territories of Australia are denied protection under anti-discrimination legislation, which results in situations whereby sex workers are denied our basic human rights. The right to work in a chosen occupation or industry free from discrimination is enshrined in a number of international treaties to which Australia is a signatory. This includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable work conditions and to protection against unemployment’. Sex workers are often discriminated against when applying for bank loans, credit cards or other financial goods and services. Sex workers in Sydney are rallying to redress these inequalities and to demand the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation addressing discrimination on the basis of employment or occupation.
Scarlet Alliance CEO and spokesperson Janelle Fawkes stated
Laws pertaining to sex work in Australia differ from state to state. Across different states and territories, sex work is decriminalised, legalized and tolerated. Sex work is a legitimate profession and sex industry workplaces are legitimate work places. Sex workers make a valuable contribution to communities, yet sex workers in the majority of states and territories across Australia are not afforded the same rights under anti-discrimination legislation as workers in other industries. Sex workers are often charged exorbitant fees for advertising our services; sex workers and sex industry establishments have been subject to harassment from neighbourhood resident action groups, and international sex workers wishing to work in Australia are routinely denied work visas on the basis of being, or suspected of being, or having a history of being, workers in the sex industry. This is unacceptable, and sex workers will continue to demand an end to discriminatory practices and polices which directly impact on our livelihoods and lives, and we will continue to demand the introduction of anti-discrimination protections in each state and territory.
International Whores Day will be celebrated on 2 June 2010 with a cabaret style performance night event at the Red Rattler, 6 Faversham Street, Marrickville. The event begins at 7pm and will feature performance, a mystery booth, food, raffles and sex worker merchandise, including clothes and accessories. Madame Cake, KK No Pants, Debby Debutante, Carmen, Ginger Snaps and special guests Thailand’s Bad Girls will perform at the event, which will be emceed by Kooky Devine. This event is open to all sex workers and sex worker supporters.
The International Whores Day rally will take place on the steps of the Opera House, Circular Quay, Sydney, on Saturday 5 June 2010 at noon. Speakers from Scarlet Alliance and the sex worker community will address participants before the march. All sex workers and supporters are encouraged to attend this rally. Sex worker media spokespersons will be available at this event to give interviews and comment to the media.
- Scarlet Alliance along with sex worker organisations and sex workers internationally, use the term ‘whore’ on this day following in the long tradition of marginalised communities who have reclaimed words to remove the power of derogatory terminology. The word ‘whore’ has long been used as a derogatory term against sex workers. Sex work/er is the term recognised and accepted by sex workers and we would ask media to use this term when referring to us; but of course on this occasion we would request media to use the term ‘Whore’ when referring to International Whores Day, itself.
Additional background information on International Whores Day
During the occupation of St Nizier Church, Lyon sex workers attracted high profile media attention by attempting to engage with French government officials including the Minister of Women’s Affairs, by hanging a banner from the gothic spires of the Church proclaiming “Our children don’t want their mothers in jail”. The outcome of this action was that broader French society was forced to examine it’s attitudes towards sex work, and to acknowledge that many of Lyon’s sex workers were engaged in sex work in order to support their children. In response to the discussion and debate this action stimulated amongst French media and society, local authorities threatened to remove the children of the protesting sex workers and place them in institutional care. This threat lead to an unprecedented act of solidarity by non-sex working mothers in Lyon, who joined the occupation, outraged that French authorities would threaten Lyon’s protesting sex workers with the removal of their children.