Candlelit vigil to mark International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers

The vigil will be held at the gates of Leinster House at 6:30 PM on Friday, December 17.

SWAI gather as they will on December 17 to mark International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers.
Image: Twitter: @SWAIIreland (Photo by Giulia Valentino)

The Sex Worker Alliance Ireland (SWAI) is holding a candlelit vigil on Friday, December 17, to mark International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers. Attendees will meet at the gates of Leinster House at 6:30 PM, with any interested party encouraged to come along and show their support.

It will be a small, socially distanced gathering which hopes to draw attention towards the lack of legal protections and rights for sex workers under Irish law. The review of these laws governing sex work has stalled, and Garda “welfare checks” have resulted in sex workers being evicted and in some cases even deported during the global pandemic.

This vigil calls for an end to the violence committed against sex workers, alongside the stigma which affects their health, safety and security. There will be a moment’s silence to acknowledge and remember those who have suffered violence and lost their lives as a result of the ill-treatment of sex workers in Ireland.

SWAI explains that they have seen more prosecutions of violent criminals who have attacked sex workers since the changing of laws in 2017. However, Ireland still remains for the second year in a row in the Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons report, essentially meaning that as a country, it does not meet the minimum standards for combating trafficking. Despite the promise of client criminalisation, fewer trafficking victims have been identified, and violence against sex workers has increased by 92%.

LGBTQ+ sex workers face additional layers of stigmatisation and marginalisation. Earlier this year, SWAI coordination, Kate McGrew, spoke to GCN about the issue.

“Trans and cis, gay male sex workers often get left out of the conversation about sex work, which is very frustrating because they make up a significant portion of sex workers […] we all have similar kinds of struggles and concerns, but different demographics of people have their own issues that they deal with,” she said.

“Trans people have this whole added layer of stigma and they can deal with people at work who are potentially doing more verbal harassment, and even violence; levels of violence are higher amongst trans workers. So, the stigma that comes with sex work is heightened when you’re dealing with potentially transphobic people or people who have internalised homophobia.”

For more information on SWAI’s candlelit vigil marking International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers, visit the Facebook event.

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