It’s a sad fact that women who sex work are at a high risk of experiencing violence. In their 2019/2020 impact report National Ugly Mugs stated that they received 991 reports, 41% of these were reports of violence including rape and 23% were stalking and harassment. These statistics give an insight into the high levels of violence that sex workers are exposed to, and why the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) is so important.
Stigma and discrimination have an important role to play in creating a world in which women who sex work are at a disproportionate risk of violence.
Negative attitudes and stereotypes surrounding sex work create a hostile environment for sex workers. These barriers have a serious impact, making women feel less like they can report violence or access support, they are also less likely to be believed if they do report violence further reducing the support available to them. Derogatory language that is often used when referring to sex work or sex workers helps to legitimise violence towards sex workers as it creates a culture in which sex workers are viewed as less valued than other members of society. To eradicate violence against sex work, its important that we challenge discrimination and stigmatisation.
If sex workers faced less stigmatisation and discrimination around their work, it would make it easier for those who experience violence to report it and seek justice. It would also create a society in which perpetrators felt less free to commit violence against sex workers, and would face greater consequences when they did.
So, here are 4 ways you can help reduce the stigma and discrimination that women who sex work face:
1. Learn Learn about the discussions around harmful language and discriminatory behaviour, stay up to date with the sex work led discussion around what language should be used when discussing sex work so you’re equipped with the understanding to identify stigma and discrimination when it arises
2. Speak up If you hear someone using derogatory language when discussing sex work and it feels safe to do so, speak up about it. This doesn’t have to be confrontational, it could just be a quiet word to let them know why what they said was derogatory, and what they could say instead.
3. Support Get involved supporting sex worker led organisations. There are loads of great sex worker led organisations working towards ending stigma and discrimination and creating a safer world for sex workers, by donating to these organisations, sharing them on social media or getting involved in the work they do, you can help spread their amazing work. Visit our linktree for some great sex worker led organisations.
4. Change your own language The simplest thing we can all do it reflect on our own attitudes and ask ourselves whether we hold any negative stereotypes about sex work and if we need to change the language we use. If we are all willing to learn about our own attitudes and correct prejudices we may hold, collectively this could make a huge difference.
Stigma and discrimination creates a world in which sex workers suffer disproportionately from violence, anything we can do to reduce the stigmatisation and discrimination of sex work will help create a safer world for sex workers.
Thank you to everyone who has got involved in our 17 Days Campaign so far, and if you want to learn more about the campaign, what we’re doing, and how you can get involved please visit our campaign page on our website by clicking on the link below.Visit our Campaign Webpage
National ugly Mug, (2020), Ending Violence Against Sex Workers. Available: https://nationaluglymugs.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/NUM-Impact-final.pdf. Last Accessed: 03/11/2021