Today in Sex: Ending Violence Against Sex Workers

This week, the LA police released 180 photos of women who may or may not be previously undiscovered victims of LA's so-called "Grim Sleeper" serial killer. Lonnie Franklin, Jr. has already been charged with ten murders and one attempted murder and if even half of the women in his photo collection are dead, he will be one of the world's most prolific serial killers. How did he get away with murdering even ten women between 1985 and now? He chose his victims wisely--most were street prostitutes and almost all were black. Coincidentally enough, today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Sex work is a notoriously dangerous occupation. However, unlike legal occupations, we have no idea exactly how dangerous it is until something like this happens. That serial killers like Franklin, or Washington State's Gary Ridgway or New York's Joel Rifkin are allowed to get away with their crimes for so long, shows how seriously the legal system takes it when bad things happen to people they consider "bad." None of these guys were geniuses--they just picked women society didn't care about.

How many women are raped and/or beaten by their johns and feel unable to report it because of the stigma/illegal nature of their occupation? We have no idea. And client-violence is not the end of their troubles.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, Ugandan sex workers face even more daunting problems. "Health clinics that offer HIV testing and treatment services in Uganda regularly deny sex workers access to care and withhold anti-retroviral medications on the grounds that there are other people, whose jobs are legal and who aren't engaged in immoral activities, who are more deserving of treatment." Who do they suppose their clients are?

Originally started by Annie Sprinkle in 2003, as a response to the Green River killings, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is a worldwide remembrance of the women, men and trans people who've been victims of violence. There'll be a candle-light vigil/procession tonight at 7pm at Cal-Anderson Park.

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