In September 2013, I am expecting my first child. When you read this blog, possibly the baby has already been born! I do worry that I will miss my work that has become such a huge focus in my life over the past few years. Balancing being a mother and a sex worker rights activist will likely be a challenge. But through my work and activism, I have spent time with and remain amongst some of the most intelligent, strong and wonderful mentors and mothers in the sex worker rights movement. Their courage continually inspires me. I hope that even when navigating the first months of motherhood, I will continue being involved in activism and advocacy locally and regionally
I started my journey into sex work activism when I began studying for a PhD that compares the lived experiences of female sex workers working in Scotland, where sex work is becoming increasingly criminalised, and in New Zealand, where sex work is decriminalised. Also out of frustration with the constant portrayal of women in sex work as everything other than workers – victims, whores, sexual deviants, and so on – I wanted to explore the experiences of female sex workers from their perspective.
The best activists are not self-perpetuating, but become mothers and teachers to other activists
After carrying out interviews in Scotland, I went to New Zealand, where I was hosted by the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC). I was welcomed into the collective with open arms, and the wonderful people there facilitated my journey into sex work activism. Since its formation, NZPC campaigned for decriminalisation of sex work and was a driving force behind this achievement with the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003. The sex work laws in New Zealand are now recognised as some of the most progressive in the world. NZPC is an example of the brilliant possibilities of a great sex worker collective and all that can be achieved through sex workers of all genders, experiences and backgrounds, coming together and demanding change.
I learned from my first activist mentor, Catherine Healy, that the best activists are not self-perpetuating, but become mothers and teachers to other activists. Everything Catherine does in her day-to-day activism has the intention of building the capacities of those around her. She taught me so much – not only in terms of knowledge, but a wider sense of feeling conviction in my opinions and striving to put these views across with grace and respect even to those who do not share our perspective.
While in New Zealand, I became a policy officer at the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). My role involves advocacy and campaigns focusing on the needs and rights of sex workers living with HIV. Then I moved to Bangkok and worked with the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW). I learned from spending time in different countries and cultures that sex workers all over the world share a sense of empowerment and resilience to the policy and legal environments that continue to impede the realisation of sex worker rights. It is this sense that has led to such a powerful global movement.