Today 17 December marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Sex workers collective Sex Worker Advocacy & Resistance Movement (SWARM) released a short animated film to shed a light on the lives of British sex workers.
To Survive, To Live and tells the story of five women working in the UK. The film also prompts a conversation on the law regulating prostitution in the UK.
While prostitution itself is legal, a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, pimping, and pandering, are crimes.
A candid take on the lives of sex workers
The short movie follows the worrying data published in a report on violence against women in prostitution in the UK. Sex workers in the UK experiences hate crime and harassment and the lack of a support network makes it worse.
The documentary ‘weaves together candid interviews from five people selling sex in austerity Britain’.
Marianne, Florence, Gia, Jessica, and Cora tell their stories made of drug abuse, bills to pay, children to raise. And the constant fear of getting killed while working.
Being a sex worker, however, isn’t always a choice people make out of desperation. One of the women, in fact, explains that being a sex worker allows her to fit work around mental health of physical illness, something that an office job wouldn’t.
Isolation is a real problem
It is a life of isolation, the short movie explains, worsened by the stigma they face on a daily basis.
‘I’ve always worked on my own. There is definitely no way we’re ever going to stand together and like, be a sort of unified presence on those roads cause it would be so obvious,’ one says.
‘If a cop drove past and saw that, there would be no way we’d be just be allowed to stand there all together quite clearly soliciting.’
Moreover, as sex workers might be accused of brothel keeping if they share a flat with some colleagues, they mostly work alone.
‘I would love to work in a collective, to be able to work safely with my colleagues,’ one says, explaining the obvious benefits of having a back up in the next room if things go sour.
Finally, clients are reluctant to share their information with sex workers if they know they might get prosecuted.
Client criminalization would lead to a phenomenal amount of risk, the movie explains.
Going to the police isn’t an option
Many say police isn’t helping.
‘I felt like it wouldn’t matter and I’ve definitely never felt like it would be possible to get any kind of help if anything happened and I survived it,’ one explains.
And for those from abroad working in the UK, deportation is a real risk.
‘I had immigration coming to my house, literally knocked on my door and they asked me for my passport,’ another says.
‘Now, after that incident, I definitely wouldn’t call the police, if I ever had issues at work,’ she also says.
One furthermore adds: ‘I would always much rather deal with a violent client by myself.’
Watch the full video below: