December 17: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

A red umbrella lying in sand

December 17 marks the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Started in 2003, the day was brought to call attention to the violence they face from hate crimes.

It is not just direct acts of violence that sex workers are faced with, however. Because of the stigma associated with sex work, sex workers continue to face tremendous barriers when it comes to access to health and social services, as well as from police protection.

This, in turn, enables further acts of violence towards them because they have very few resources to turn to seek escape or protection.

In 2019, MoveUP became the first-known union in Canada to publicly support the decriminalization of sex work. Our union took this stance because we recognized this was an issue of health and safety, and of the right of workers to be safe from violence.

Decriminalization is an attempt at reducing police stereotyping and harassment based on behaviours. Decriminalization will make it easier for workers to organize and advocate for better and safer working conditions. Having sex work take place above ground, and not in the shadows, makes it easier to identify and support victims of labour trafficking, and for workers to exit exploitative and violent situations.

In October, the Canadian Alliance of Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) proceeded with a constitutional challenge. They have challenged that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (also referred to as Bill C-36), introduced in 2014, has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violations.

MoveUP has supported this challenge through a recent postcard and online letter writing campaign directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government asking them to keep their promise to repeal the Harper-era sex law which their own party called “a bill that puts people at risk.” We are now awaiting the outcome of the court challenge to determine what next steps need to be taken.

In the meantime, we thank all those who have supported basic human rights, and the right to health and safety and freedom from violence, for sex workers by signing on to our campaign. We encourage you to use December 17 as a time to think about how we can build a society that respects and protects all workers, including sex workers.

Sex work is work!

In solidarity,

Lori Mayhew, President
Graeme Hutchison, Secretary-Treasurer
Rysa Kronebusch, Vice-President Utilities
Christy Slusarenko, Vice-President, Combined Units
Annette Toth, Vice-President ICBC