at its most basic, is a harm reduction campaign. As a multi-state
network of sex workers and advocates, we address local and national
violence that sex workers experience because of social stigma and
in one of the most prominently violent societies today, sex workers
in America experience this phenomenon pointedly in the context of
their stigma and criminal status. Yet, sex workers are seldom afforded
protection or recourse from violent acts committed against them
because of the precarious, often graft-ridden relationship between
sex work and law enforcement. Society tolerates violence against
sex workers because of the stigma and myths that surround the sex
industry. Only until these falsehoods are corrected and sex workers
are legitimized will we be able to effectively prevent and minimize
the structural and occupational challenges of sex work.
killers like Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer who preyed
on prostitutes, managed to evade law enforcement for over 2 decades.
Meanwhile women, like Robyn Few and Shannon Williams, who, as adults
had consensual sex for money, are routinely targeted for elaborate
high budget police stings. This gross misappropriation of public
resources systematically entraps sex work to be a profession that
is unsafe and stigmatized. The system, effectively, is institutional
violence against the people who exchange money for sex.
works to educate policymakers and the public on the institutional
harms committed against sex workers, and advocates for alternatives.
Our first major action was to organize the first annual International
Day to End Violence against Sex Workers in 2003 with the Green River
Memorial to the victims of Gary Leon Ridgeway. In 2004, SWOP spearheaded
a voter ballot initiative to decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley,
CA. Some of our more recent work focuses on amending so called "protective"
legislation like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of
2000 (and now its reauthorization in 2005 with the new End Demand
provisions) which has increased criminal penalties and the stigma
associated with sex work.
promotes proven and effective social policy approaches to the sex
industry. In order to reach its goals, SWOP adopts the principles
and practices of nonviolent action in order to reduce violence and
achieve dignity and rights for sex workers.
Our Goal of Decriminalization:
Decriminalization seems to be
the best answer for all stakeholders. We view New Zealand's legislation
as the model system to which we aspire. A point-by-point break-down
of what their law reform means is available here.
Basically you remove prostitution
from the criminal code and place health and safety regulations on
it. The penalty for the crime of hiring an underage prostitute is
increased for sex business operators and clients. So, in effect,
it is regulated, but the regulators are not the police; rather,
they are health, OSHA, and labor inspectors. And we believe that,
as in New Zealand, the main stakeholders (sex workers themselves)
have a place at the table when writing these regulations.