SWOU statement on London Reclaim The Night

One of the best received workshops at AFem2014 was from the Sex Workers Open University. They’ve written a write-up of Saturday’s London Reclaim The Night, which was “again not a safe space for sex workers” or trans women:

Centre stage was given organisations that fight to put us out of work and onto the streets, and there are reports of planned protests against sex workers workplaces. Recent protests outside sex workers’ workplaces have led to multiple reports of sex workers being spat at by these protestors. Nor was it a safe space for trans women, with transmisogynist leaflets distributed [from S: you can read the leaflet if you want, but warning, it’s incredibly transmisogynist and vile]. Lots of women and groups participating spoke up against this hatred of trans women and sex workers, and we are clear that our concerns are about how the event is organised – and with a small minority who feel empowered to be hateful by the way the event is organised – and not with the many women who marched and are in solidarity with sex working and trans sisters.

This open hatred of sex workers is a sadly familiar situation at London RtN. Events in previous years have seen the sex worker bloc attacked by some women on the main march, and RtN stewards/organisers directing the police to interrogate women marching in the sex worker bloc. This makes clear that the organisers seek not to end violence against women, but violence against some women – and that way they seek to achieve that is through supporting and perpetrating increased violence against women who they deem as not deserving of safety, rights and justice.

The violence that they think we deserve spans a whole spectrum from direct interpersonal violence – such as being spat at as we go to work – through to police and state violence, and the economic violence of poverty. In directing the police to question marchers on the sex worker bloc in previous years, organisers have demonstrated that they support and encourage police harassment of sex workers, including at RtN. The police are primary perpetrators of violence against us, including sexual violence and forms of state violence such as arrest, incarceration and deportation. For sex workers who are migrants (documented or undocumented), people of colour, trans, queer, drug users, or parents (particularly mothers or liable to be read as mothers), the risk of police violence is compounded. By arguing that our jobs should be taken from us, and protesting our workplaces, the organisers of London RtN self-evidently wish to subject us to the economic violence of poverty, and they specifically link our poverty – the “end” of sex work – to their own “liberation”. There can be no liberation based on supporting and perpetrating increased violence against some women. Sex workers in London last night felt scared to be on the streets – scared of violence from RtN organisers.

What is heartening is that trans women and sex workers (obviously not a clear distinction!) were standing side by side throughout this, and that “many women at Reclaim the Night London spoke out and marched in solidarity with trans and sex-working sisters”. Solidarity to all fighting for true liberation!

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