On 2 June 1975, approximately 100 sex workers occupied Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, to express their anger about their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. They hung a banner from the steeple which read ‘Our children do not want their mothers to go to jail’, and launched a media campaign to broadcast their grievances to the world. Their action made national and international news headlines, started a strike that involved sex workers from all over France, and created a legacy of activism that is celebrated each year on International Sex Workers’ Day.
In 2001, over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival, despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. The event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members, and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3 March as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.
Penzi, who is a paralegal with “Sisters of Majengo,” a community-based organisation that promotes health and human rights for female sex workers through advocacy, trainings on sexual reproductive health and rights, economic empowerment and community outreach in Majengo, lives in an urban settlement in Kenya and has been in the business for 24 years as an indoor sex worker.
NSWP endorses Empower Foundation, Thailand and the English Collective of Prostitutes' call for sex worker participation during the Women's Strike on 8 March. This statement is being released on International Sex Workers' Rights Day. Their statement can be found below.