History of the Sex Worker Rights Movement

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Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes Formed in Vancouver

1982

In 1982, sex worker Sally deQuatros joined forces with Marie Arrington and Joni to form the Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes (ASP) in Vancouver, BC. DeQuatros and Arrington met while working for Vancouver Rape Relief, a local feminist organisation that has since become most known for their anti-trans and anti-sex work policies.

Maimie Pizner’s Montreal Mission for Friendless Girls Opens

1915

Born in 1885, May "Maimie" Pizner was an American sex worker and social worker. Pizner was born to an affluent Jewish family in Philadelphia. However, following her father's murder, Pizner dropped out of school and began work as a sex worker and salesgirl. She spent her teens in and out of jail, eventually losing an eye. Despite these challenges, she spoke five languages and was a talented writer.

Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries found STAR House

1970

Following the 1969 Stonewall Riots, transgender sex workers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

STAR started following a sit-in at Weinstein Hall at New York University in 1970. The sit-in was to protest school administrators canceling a dance because it was sponsored by a gay organisation. The sit-in brought together many gay groups, including Gay Liberation Front and Radicalesbians. They were successful in regaining the venue for the dance.

Stichting Maxi Linder Association Founded in Suriname

1994
Stichting Maxi Linder Association (SMLA) was founded in October 1994. The organisation fights for the rights and health of sex workers in Suriname. Their approach includes providing services, conducting research, and media awareness campaigns.

The organisation chose the name Maxi Linder, after Suriname’s most famous sex worker. Maxi Linder was the country’s first sex work labour organiser. She lived from 1902-1981.

Amsterdam World Charter for Prostitutes’ Rights

15 Feb
1985

During the first World Whores Congress in Amsterdam, organised by Margo St-James and Gail Pheterson, sex workers decided to form the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR). Both sex workers and allies were present. A total of 75 participants from six European countries, three South-East Asian countries, the United States and Canada participated.

First Sex Workers Congress in Dominican Republic

1995

HIV prevention organisation Centro de Orientación e Investigación Integral (COIN) organised the 1st Congreso Dominicano de Trabajadoras Sexuales in May 1995. The First Dominican Congress on Sex Workers was co-organized by COIN, UNICEF, and sex workers. COIN had been advancing the rights of sex workers in the Dominican Republic since its founding in 1987.

Better End All Vicious Erotic Repression (BEAVER) Founded

1977
Inspired by the founding of San Francisco-based sex workers’ rights organisation COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), Toronto-based sex worker Baba Yaga / Margaret Spore established BEAVER – Better End All Vicious Erotic Repression. BEAVER was Canada’s first sex workers’ rights organisation.