Sex workers of all genders and from all sectors of the industry gathered in Paris in early June to hold a national conference, organised by STRASS, in which they discussed their rights, safety, and community organising. In the face immiment possible further criminalisation, that conferenvce has now been turned into a campagning video, 'Putes en Lutte', subtitled in English, in which street-based sex workers, migrant sex workers, women who have been working for thirty-five years or more, male sex workers and trans* sex workers speak of their need for rights, not rescue.
Sex workers speak movingly of the power of self-determination, and community organising. "It is the first place where we can speak, where we can talk freely", said one woman, reporting that her friend had cried with happiness to be surrounded by other sex workers. A male sex worker spoke of the power of sharing knowledge and building solidarity: "You know what is problematic in each community ... this helps us to find solutions with all sex workers".
One migrant sex working woman said, "I am undocumented, so I could not get another job ... I am conscious of the dangers of the job, but we need to eat, to live", speaking from an experience of excercising agency within limited options that is often simplified or ignored by those who seek to criminalise us. Another sex worker added, "to me it is hypocrisy to want to criminalise any aspect of our work - including our clients - to pretend it is for our good. What we need is rights - which we can only have when we also have rights for migrants, for women, for trans* people. Even if you were an 'abolititionist', it is not by criminalising us that you will have a world without [sex work]; it is by having more options - for all".
One male sex worker who also works in community health, spoke of how the legal context of stigma and criminalisation makes sex workers' access to health more precarious. When we are stigmatised and on the margins, we are less likely to trust our doctors, and more likely to have to accept unprotected sex.
Morgane, a sex worker and activist in STRASS, said, "I would ask them that they go and speak to whores - learn from us, instead of thinking that they are the ones who have to teach us".