International Sex Workers’ Day 2024: History, significance and more

International Sex Workers’ Day is annually observed on June 2 to create awareness about the challenges and exploitation faced by sex workers worldwide.

Sex workers are among the most vulnerable social groups in the world, and they often find themselves subjected to exploitation, physical and emotional exploitation, human rights violations, and social stigma from society. As they are ostracized and widely stigmatized by society, they have difficulty obtaining appropriate healthcare, housing, access to financial services such as loans or insurance, and, foremost, finding alternative means of employment except sex work. 

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International Sex Workers’ Day aims to create discussion about exploitative working conditions and a lack of legal safeguards for sex workers. It also provides an important space for lobbying, policy reforms, and promoting the rights of sex workers.

History

The inception of International Sex Workers’ Day may be traced back to June 2, 1975, when sex workers in Lyon, France occupied the Saint-Nizier Church on rue de Brest and began an eight-day strike. The situation emerged as a result of the police crackdown on sex workers and the increased violence directed at them. The death of two sex workers, along with the government’s failure to respond, sparked the protest. The sex workers requested better working conditions, the reopening of the hotels where they worked, a probe into the killings of the two sex workers, and an end to the stigma associated with them.

However, the police refused to listen to any of their requests and, after eight days, quickly removed the protesting sex workers from the chapel.

Despite the demonstration resulting in no changes to the government’s measures, it prompted the beginning of similar rights campaigns and acknowledgement of sex workers’ rights throughout Europe and the United Kingdom.

Significance

“Spanish politician Federica Montseny states that ‘Prostitution presents a moral, economic, and social problem that cannot be resolved juridically.'”

In other words, just changing the legislation will not eliminate the challenges that sex workers deal with. The difficulties they encounter stem from the pervasive stigma and prejudice they experience as a result of their social status as sex workers. Inhumane working conditions, difficulty in changing professions, and a lack of access to healthcare or financial services have made this an extremely complex issue that has long been ingrained in our society. 

The celebration of International Sex Workers’ Day strives to foster solidarity among sex workers and spark change in all areas of society.