International Sex Workers' Day 2021: History and Significance

Know about the history and significance of the International Sex Workers' Day which is observed on 2nd June annually.
International Sex Workers' Day
International Sex Workers' Day

International Sex Workers' Day 2021: Why is it celebrated on 2nd June. Let us find out!

The day honours and recognises the exploited working conditions of sex workers. Sometimes people don't behave properly with sex workers and they face violence too. Therefore, the day teaches to respect them.

International Sex Workers' Day: History

Approximately 100 sex workers on 2nd June, 1975 collected at  Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, to express their anger regarding their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. 

There they hung a banner from the Steeple which reads 'Our children don't want their mothers to go to jail’, and also launched a media campaign to precise their grievances across the world. 

Do you know that this action made national and international news headlines, strikes followed all over France by the sex workers, and created a legacy of activism that is observed annually on International Sex Workers' Day?

Sex workers that are occupied at  Saint-Nizier Church demanded several things including an end to police harassment, re-opening of the hotels where they worked, and a proper investigation into a series of sex worker murders. Across the country, French sex workers joined the action by participating in an eight-day long strike.

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In spite of the national impact of the protest, the police refused to occupy with the grievances of the protestors and threatened increasingly harsh punishments. After eight days, eventually, the police cleared the Church and the occupation and strike did not result in any law reform but the sex workers considered it as a spark that ignited their right movement in Europe and the UK.

Therefore, on 2nd June, every year, NSWP focuses on the theme of Access to Justice when commemorating International Sex Workers' Day. 

Let us tell you that International Sex Worker Rights Day is also observed on 3rd March and the history goes back to 2001. At that time around 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival in spite of the efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to avert it taking place by putting pressure on the government to revoke their permit.

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee organised this event and is a Calcutta-based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members and members of their communities. Therefore, sex worker groups across the globe celebrate 3rd March as International Sex Workers' Rights Day annually.

Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic poses an impact on sex workers around the world. Therefore, the need for sex workers should not be ignored in this pandemic or sex workers should not be left behind in the response to COVID-19.  

At these difficult times, several organisations are coming up including the  Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and UNAIDS that are showing concerns regarding the sex workers globally and are also calling on countries to ensure respect, protection, and fulfilment of sex workers' human rights.

We can't ignore the fact that because of the pandemic, sex workers across the world are also facing hardships, a total loss of income, and increased discrimination and harassment. 


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