On Saturday, strippers, prostitutes, and "allies," hit the streets for the 43rd annual International Whores' Day.
In cities such as Oakland, New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, "sex workers" held demonstrations mainly to voice their opposition to the recently passed anti-sex-trafficking bill, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, and to advocate for the decimalization of prostitution.
Strippers have been sucked into the activism, too, reports Vox, out of fear that they might be open for punishment under the new legislation. "[S]trippers have always been targeted by the same laws and lobbies that want to eradicate prostitution, and they plan to speak out on International Whores’ Day."
In Oakland, California, 300 prostitutes and their supporters gathered to celebrate and promote the rights of sex workers. According to a report from Jezebel, some of the signs at the gathering read, "STIGMA KILLS," "MY BODY, NOT YOUR CHOICE," and "SEX WORK ≠ TRAFFICKING."
"This is more sex workers than I’ve ever seen in one place ever," a 42-year-old dominatrix named Pele told Jezebel. "We’re out in the street and loud and proud—I’ve never seen this."
Another sex worker named Charlie argued that the internet helps eliminate risk of abuse. "My personal experience before I used the internet as a platform for sex work was getting assaulted constantly, getting kidnapped, getting raped, getting drugged," said the 24-year-old.
International Whores' Day apparently originated 43 years ago at a Lyon, France church with a 100-prostitute gathering for an eight-day strike. "With the help of the Catholic Church, they, along with women in five other French cities, took refuge in protected sacred spaces and spoke out against police abuses of sex workers. Decades later, June 2 is still recognized as International Whores’ Day by sex workers’ rights groups," reports Vox.
The legislation being protested passed — with bipartisan support — as part of an effort to crack down on human trafficking, particularly of children.
"The bill really moves the ball forward on an area with strong Republican and Democratic consensus at a time of horrible partisan rancor," Mark P. Lagon told CNN in March. Lagon is a former U.S. ambassador-at-large to combat and monitor trafficking in persons.
The law is "designed to close a loophole in existing law that allows websites to avoid responsibility even as they knowingly facilitate trafficking. It would ensure any institutions that are party to this reprehensible practice are subject to the strict penalties they deserve," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The law allows sex trafficking victims to sue online platforms that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, "a move that prosecutors, victims and anti-trafficking activists are heralding as an essential step in cracking down on the crime," notes CNN.