Thursday, December 18, 2008
Violence against sex workers must also be confronted in Guyana
"Soon as the sex was over, this man started slapping and cuffing me up and he empty my purse and take away all my money, not just what he pay me,” recounted a female sex worker based in New Amsterdam, who had been assaulted and robbed by a client, to an advocate at United Bricklayers, a local AIDS-prevention, community-based organization, less than two months ago. “Now how could I go to the police and make a report when sex work is not legal,” she added.
Sex workers in Guyana , and other parts of the world, face disproportionate levels of violence which is often unreported. The assault, battery, rape and even murder of sex workers, which is all too common in the industry, goes unnoticed because of the existing legal framework around the profession which prevents sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination perpetuated by sex-work related offences has made violence against sex workers acceptable.
Last month, sex workers from across Guyana came together for a national consultation and decided to join their peers around the world to stand against violence committed against sex workers as the 6th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is observed on December 17, 2008 . First commemorated in 2003, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is the brainchild of Dr. Annie Sprinkle, a former sex worker herself who left the industry after two decades and later went on to earn a PhD in Human Sexuality. Dr. Sprinkle was moved when “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgeway confessed to having strangled 90 female sex workers to death and having “sex” with their dead bodies in Seattle, Washington. Originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the forgotten victims, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has evolved into an annual international advocacy day to protest human rights abuses against sex workers, demand an end to all violence and the right to work safely.
With the genesis of the Sex Work Coalition – Guyana (SWCG) as one of the outcomes of the November consultation, this is the first time December 17 is being observed in Guyana. SWCG brings together female, male and trans- sex workers, their advocates, human rights defenders and organizations which work with these stigmatised groups in Guyana. It is supported by four local organizations – One Love, United Bricklayers, Guyana Rainbow Foundation and Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination – working in partnership with two regional coalitions, the Caribbean Sex Work Coalition and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.