Today, news reached me that yet another sex worker died as a result of laws criminalising sex work. On November 25th, 2014, a 24-year old woman in Tongyeong, South Korea, jumped out of a hotel room on the 6th floor to escape arrest by an undercover police officer who had posed as a client. She suffered severe injuries and died in the early morning hours at a nearby hospital, leaving behind her baby and sick father. Although I suppose I am somewhat hardened by the many deaths of sex workers I have read or been told about over the last years, this one hit closer to home, maybe because I’ve lived in South Korea and can therefore imagine the environment in which this tragedy happened better than in most other parts of the world.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered the countless times people have asked me why I am interested in the cause of sex workers’ rights, and on the one hand, I can understand why people ask. It’s probably just an innocent question, because it’s not something most people take a deeper interest in. But on the other hand, I sometimes just want to turn around and walk away. I think everybody takes at least some interest in justice and equal rights for everyone. Nobody would ever ask you why you demonstrate against racism or for gender equality, sign petitions to stop deportations of migrants or human rights abuses in your or another country, or donate money to fight Ebola or help people affected by natural disasters. So far, I haven’t grown tired of answering the question, and more often than not, talking about it has resulted in people looking at the subject in a new light, and I think that’s good and important. Still, on a day like this, I can’t help but wish that people would just ask themselves first: ‘why aren’t I interested in justice for sex workers?’
December 17th is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. Should sex workers organise a vigil or protest in your city, why don’t you join them this year and stand with them in solidarity? Click here to find out about events planned near you and search on Twitter for the hashtags #December17, #Dec17 and #IDEVASW.