JL: Hello Philadelphia! We are here today representing Project Safe, a Kensington-based harm reduction collective, and the Red Umbrella Alliance which fights for the rights of sex workers in Philadelphia and beyond. I’d like to take a second and say thank you to everyone here and the organizers of this particular march for standing in solidarity with sex workers today.
AM: As advocates, we believe that sex work is not inherently violent; it’s the criminalization and stigma attached to sex work that create violence. Under the current system of laws, practices that sex workers use to stay safe are criminalized. Last month, thousands of sex workers used backpage to screen for unsafe clients. The shi- the shutdown has literally forced workers from the hotels to the streets, to take on greater risk just so they can pay their bills. Sex workers need tools like backpage to stay safe. Trans women of color bear the greatest risk because racism and transphobia ensure that they have little or no access to a safe working conditions. In spite of being the most vulnerable to violence or because of it, trans sex workers of color have been at the forefront of the sex workers rights movement, but often not recognized as leaders.
JL: Trans sex workers of color, particularly black women were among the first to revolt at Stonewall, but stigma, racism and transphobia have erased them from the history of the mainstream “gay rights” movement. Trans women, trans women of color, trans sex workers of color like: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Miss Major Griffin Gracy, who by the way is still alive and still fighting for her rights. These women should be honored as the pioneers that they were and are to this day. We believe that sex workers rights are women’s rights are human rights. In their 2015 report, Amnesty International recommended the full global decriminalization of sex work as the most effective way to decrease violence against workers.
AM: We recognize that decriminalization is a process and unlikely to happen overnight. As a first step, we call on mayor Kenney and the Philadelphia to immediately grant immunity from prosecution to any sex worker who reports violence on the job.… rights not rescue!
JL : Many sex workers identify as queer and trans, HIV positive, people of color, immigrants, refugees, impoverished, substance users, veterans and disabled folks, to name only a few of the many diverse lived experiences they embody. For this reason we stand in solidarity with anti-violence movements, recognize that black lives matter, and seek to build coalition with anyone organizing for a more just and equitable world. The reality is that sex workers are everywhere; they are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, and comrades here today. We are real people in our community who have always been and are now on the front lines of resistance. Sex workers will not be ignored, will not be silenced or terrorized and are tired of being invited (late) to the table they built. Solidarity with sex workers, decriminalization now!
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