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Red Umbrella Event, International Whores Day, On the Steps of the Opera House

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The women here are all shapes and sizes, some subdued, some grinning with pleasure at dressing up for the day and showing the world what they’ve got.

There are few men present; they’re probably at home playing computer games, one woman supposes.

But here are the girls.

"Poor unhappy women of the town" no more, they shuffle on the steps, smile at each other, adjust their umbrellas, hitch their frocks into position.

The AAP reported: Sex workers gathered under red umbrellas at the Sydney Opera House today but they were demanding a different form of cover - new anti-discrimination legislation.

The symbolic protest by about 60 prostitutes, massage parlour workers and supporters marked the eleventh anniversary of the decriminalisation in NSW of the world's oldest profession.

The industry now wants the NSW government to introduce laws to protect individual workers and businesses against discrimination.

"NSW is lagging behind in providing anti-discrimination protection for sex workers at a time when we have a decriminalisation industry,'' Australian Sex Workers Association manager Janelle Fawkes said.

"The next step is to provide anti-discrimination legislation - there's an urgent need.''

Link to more of the AAP article

The music is switched off. ‘Hello!’ cries the mistress of ceremonies, "Joanne" of the Sex Worker Rights Action Coalition. Dressed to kill in a long split red velvet gown and wearing a beaked black mask over a blonde wig, she addresses the crowd of working women and gathering tourists on the subject of professional prostitution and prostitutes’ rights to recognition and protection.

Scarlet Alliance the Australian Sex Workers Association, peak advisory and advocacy body, are among the speakers on the steps.

Link to International Whores Day Events of 2006

Link to Media Release from International Whores Day 2001

Sietske Altink (left) of the Red Thread Organisation in Amsterdam speaks about sex worker rights and the importance of all of our struggles.

Werk je in de prostitutie of heb je dat gedaan? Dan ben je hier op het juiste adres: De Rode Draad is een landelijke organisatie die de belangen van (ex)- prostituees behartigt.

Link to the Red Thread website.

Informatie en emancipatie Waarom komen prostituees niet in opstand tegen zoveel rechteloosheid? Veel van hen weten dat hun rechten geschonden worden. En de vele nieuwkomers kunnen permanent bij De Rode Draad terecht voor informatie. Die informatie brengen we nog naar ze toe ook. Maar wat doen de vrouwen ermee? Ze gaan niet naar de vakbond. Ze durven niet te klagen, want ze zijn bang dat zijzelf of hun collega's daardoor hun werk kwijtraken. De machtsverhoudingen in de prostitutie zijn nog altijd erg scheef. Overheden en instanties mogen daaraan veel meer aandacht gaan besteden, en met vereende krachten zorgen dat alle wetgeving nu eindelijk eens wordt nageleefd. Tot slot: ondersteun sekswerkers bij het opkomen voor hun rechten.

Sietske Altink is beleidsmedewerker bij De Rode Draad, het informatiecentrum voor prostituees.

The International Day for Whores dates, Joanne tells onlookers, from 1975 when sex workers and their supporters staged a sit-in in a church in Lyon, France, in protest against police abuse and discriminatory legislation.

Joanne and others speak to their colleagues and a small crush of photographers about the ongoing fight for legislative protection, social acceptance and freedom from prejudice.

While feminists, social commentators and interested bodies debate the politics of prostitution, its virtues and its abuses, it remains an inerasable industry across the world, and as regulation has assimilated previously chaotic (or organised criminal) illegal aspects of it, so has the prostitutes’ pride movement claimed more and more voice. Prostitutes supply sex, counselling, economical affection, succour and sociability to the community. Should they be proud? These sex workers think so.

norrie mAy-welby, (left) prominent transgender sex worker activist, poses proudly on the steps while listening to the speeches. norrie works tirelessly for the rights of marginalised peoples, including refugees, queers and sex workers.
Link to norrie being interviewed by Andrew Dentron, scroll down the page to find norrie.
Link to norrie mAy-welby's blog
Link to norrie mAy-welby's myspace

Link to more photos, and Kate Holdens' article continues....

All photos © Scarlet Alliance, The Australian Sex Workers Association, 2007. Kate Holden article reprinted from RED Magazine with permission.

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