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Sex workers’ murders spark worldwide protests


sex workers' rights, women's rights, Protests have taken place around the world following the murders of two sex workers.

The killing of Dora Ozer and Petite Jasmine sparked demonstrations in 36 cities across four continents.

Ozer, a trans woman, died in Aydin, Turkey, on July 9 after being stabbed by a client.

Jasmine was killed by her ex-husband on July 11 in Sweden. She was an activist for the rights of sex workers, and the mother of two children.

Sex workers, their families, friends and supporters gathered outside Turkish and Swedish embassies on July 19 demanding an end to stigma, criminalisation, violence and murder.

There was a protest in London and others took place in Brighton, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) said: “Those two tragic deaths should be a wake-up call for all of us: human rights defenders, feminists, LGBT activists, policy makers and anyone who refuses a world where people – because they are selling sexual services – are seen as less worthy of human dignity and respect and therefore more likely to be seen as unfit mothers by the state, or to be the victims of brutal and heinous crimes.”

ICRSE said discrimination against trans women in Turkey is such that often the only employment route open to them is sex work.

And Sweden, known for being a leader in gender and sexual equality, is criticised for its paternalistic attitude to sex work. A 1999 law criminalises the clients and aspects of sex workers’ work and support structures.

Petite Jasmine had lost custody of her children to her ex-husband who was known to be violent, because she was a sex worker.

Green Left,  based in Australia, said: “In considering all sex workers as victims and all clients as abusers, the Swedish state denied women who sell sexual services any kind of agency.

“This paternalistic approach, aggressively promoted to other countries including Australia as “protecting women”, actually leads to an attitude that infantilises women and discredits women’s choices and experiences.

“It ultimately leads to many human rights violations.

“Women caught selling sex have their children taken away from them, are kicked out of their homes and see their experiences denied.”

Kate Gould, writing in the Huffington Post said: “Under Turkish law prostitution is legal if carried out in a regulated brothel and by registered sex workers, but many are being  closed down by local governments keener to appeal to a moral majority than to consider the safety of those working in the sex industry. This forces sex workers out of the comparative safety of brothels and onto the streets.

“The stigma faced by transgender people in Turkey is such that many can find work only in the sex industry. Here they are forced to work illegally due to regulations that state that only women can register as sex workers. This leaves them unable to work in brothels and, therefore, at greater risk of attack.”

A recent article in The Guardian reported on a change of attitude towards sex working in Edinburgh where police have stepped up their raids on saunas.

A bill which would have made the purchase of sex illegal failed to get through the Scottish Parliament last month, but sex workers are worried that there is now a tougher policing approach in the capital which marks the end of a “don’t look, don’t tell” approach.

Scot-Pep, an organisation promoting social justice and inclusion for sex workers, questions whether the motive of the Edinburgh raids was for health and social reasons. Scot-Pep says it is “very concerned about reports we received from women involved in the raids and question the assertion that this is about keeping people safe. Is it safe to instill fear amongst sex workers of police and social services? We remain extremely concerned as to whether this is a taste of things to come in light of Rhoda Grant MSPs attempt to introduce a bill to criminalise the purchase of sex.”

The Guardian article attempted to put both sides of the debate on whether to legalise or criminalise prostitution, quoting Linda Thompson on the Women’s Support Project, Glasgow, who supported the attempt to outlaw clients buying sex.

“There is this rhetoric of the woman who is empowered by sex work, but we recently heard from a young woman who has said this almost destroyed her.

“The way she put it was: “Who wants to hear from an unhappy hooker, who was the happy one? The pro sex-work lobby frame prostitution as a positive choice and if it didn’t work out for you, you made the wrong choice,” said Thompson.

Gould, in the Huffington Post article counters: “Dora Ozer chose to work in the sex industry, but she didn’t choose the conditions under which she did so.

“As they were for Petite Jasmine and the hundreds of thousands of sex workers like them, those were determined by a state and society wilfully blind to her rights.”

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