Speech translation

As an activist, a queer person and a sex worker I come here today to ask you to include us in your activism. To remember about us everyday and to fight stigmatization of sex work in yourselves. Because everyone here knows or loves a sex worker. We are everywhere, and our work has many faces. Sometimes we do sex work full-time, sometimes we do it on the side. Sometimes we work online, sometimes in person. You might not know this, but we are your close ones, siblings, parents, coworkers, neighbors.

Today Manifa marches for the right to laziness, against exploitation. I consider this to be a just and important cause. We demand time for ourselves, not simply to regenerate, which also makes for work for our bodies, but time we can spend as we wish. That is revolutionary and incredibly important in the fight for workers’ rights.

I can’t, however, speak about having access to this time and a right to laziness for people who have NO fundamental rights.  

For many people sex work means managing your own time, and periods of good earnings allow them to minimise time spent working and to focus on private goals. However, this depends on many random factors. Most of us have no steady pay, our earnings depend on the number of clients, which is always changing.

We have no systemic safety nets in our work either, but just like anybody else we get sick, injured, we have personal problems which interfere with our work. But in the case of sex workers the ONLY safety net we can depend on are our savings and networks of people and communities closest to us

In most sectors there are NO job contracts, there are no safeguards against exploitation or mobbing by the prospective employer. Our safety depends mostly on our own resources.

Each day we can find ourselves without a job or be unable to do it. We get no contractual days off, we have no sick days to take. We do not get health insurance from our jobs, we need to pay nfz dues from our own pockets. Many of us cannot afford it as all of our earnings differ. In result, plenty of us simply has no health insurance

If we didn’t manage to save up enough money or unexpected expenses overwhelmed us we are left with nothing. If we get sick we are out of a job for a longer while, since we have no access to healthcare and recuperation takes more time. Sometimes we get in debt because we then earn nothing or because we borrow money for doctors and medicine. In that case we do it privately, without insurance. 

Neither can we report irregularities in our working places, since we would risk it getting closed and cutting ourselves and our coworkers from a way to support ourselves. 

We also risk being victimized by the police, who are notoriously violent towards us. Helping each other can endanger us by bringing us into conflict with harmful laws. Laws that do not recognize the difference between friends working together to ensure better safety and a boss or an exploiter. Laws that treat us as victims unable to decide for themselves and actively prevents us from doing so in every aspect that depends on our earnings. When we cannot do our jobs, we risk our health, homes, our families or even our lives.

We can’t simply change our jobs either, the stigma does not exist in a void, it is present everywhere, including in recruiters. We can’t list the skills we learned from sex work in our CVs, even though we know plenty about client service, management, social media and many other topics. Worse yet, knowledge of our previous work can completely erase our chances to get accepted and can jeopardize our safety and risk outing us. But first and foremost, we should never be forced to change our job for a different one, one with access to workers’ rights, just because ours is stigmatized. We need to be able to, not have to.

I have experienced slow months without clients and being suddenly let go from a massage salon, which forced me to look for any and all ways to support myself. When I wasn’t able to pay rent or afford a visit to a doctor, in my desperation I said “yes” to riskier meetings and started responding to shady guys that I would never say yes to otherwise. I was very lucky that I could count on the support of my closest ones and that I managed to get out of most of dangerous situations more or less fine.

The lack of workers’ rights, which would provide us with a safety net against various events in life, leads to dangerous situations. If you care about improving the situation and safety of sex workers, you need to recognize our work as work, and us as workers in need of basic workers’ rights. Only by recognizing our work at a social and legal level can we bring about a meaningful change in our working conditions.

I believe that:

There is no equality without end to stigmatization.

There is no class solidarity without solidarity with sex workers

There are no workers’ rights without rights for sex workers and full decriminalization

There is no fight for human rights without a fight for the dignity of sex workers.

This is because there is no feminism without marginalized and excluded groups. If you want to have a real feminist fight you MUST support and listen to minorities and include them in your actions. Give us, feminists and feminist people from marginalized groups a voice and let us speak for and decide for ourselves.