Three times a year, there are days set aside by the sex worker community to make a concerted effort to call public attention to governments’ systematic denial of our rights, implemented by often-brutal police and supported by prohibitionists who want to see our trade eradicated no matter how many of us are hurt or even killed by the process. Though many of them deny this and insist they really want to “help” us, their chosen tactics (which include stalking, infantilization, pathologization, impoverishment, abduction, confinement, deportation and brainwashing, to name just a few) reveal the truth to anyone whose thinking is not clouded by dogma. So even though activists like myself call attention to this marginalization and maltreatment every day, it’s good to have several annual occasions on which our unified voices can ring out together to pierce the haze of ignorance, disinformation and disinterest.
Those occasions are: the Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17th, the anniversary of the 2003 sentencing of the Green River Killer); Whores’ Day (June 2nd, the anniversary of the 1975 protest in which over 100 French prostitutes occupied the Church of St. Nizier in Lyon); and today, Sex Worker Rights Day (the anniversary of a 2001 festival in Kolkata attended by over 25,000 Indian sex workers despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it by pressuring the government to revoke their permit). The symbol of sex worker rights used for all these days (and sex worker protests in general), the red umbrella, originated in yet another 2001 protest event, this one in Venice, Italy; it was adopted as the official emblem of the sex worker rights movement by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) in 2005.