Sex workers excluded at IWD march London

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The “Million women rise” march organised as part of the IWD event in London and supposed to be a day of solidarity between women and women’s group from across Britain ended with one group of women being silenced. The march started in Hyde Park and ended in a rally in Trafalgar Square. Whilst other women spoke about domestic violence, Iraq, Zimbabwe and expressed solidarity with women from everywhere on a range of issues one group were excluded. As poet and activist, Jean Binta Breeze stood on stage and read two of her poems on violence against women.

Across the square two members of the organising committee were informing one woman that she would no longer be allowed to speak.

Terisa Mackay of the Solidarity 1st Coalition to Decriminalise Prostitution based in Ipswich and who is also a member of the TGWU.

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Terisa was due to speak about sex workers in Ipswich and how the women women were coming to terms with the murders and conviction of serial killer, Steve Wright, trying to return to their work and lives. Just before she was due to speak Terisa was informed that the organisers had changed their minds and she would no longer be able to speak. This decision was taken on the basis that two of the organising committee members did not approve of her speech and rather than challenge the two women they agreed to their decision.

What was supposed to be “a show of political, social, economic and creative solidarity.” was anything but that as I personally witnessed acts of verbal and physical violence from one group of women against another.

Ushers called in reinforcements to line up in front of the stage to prevent women from the various groups such as the English Collective of Prostitutes, Women Against Rape, All Africa’s Group’s Campaign and the Black Women’s Rape Project and their supporters from accessing the stage to express their disgust with the organisers decision.

They were further prevented from using their loudspeaker system and one of their members who was filming was attacked by another woman from the crowd. I witnessed all of the above plus women shouting that the sex workers should not be allowed to speak and one of them calling my friend a “black bitch”.

I and my friends and colleagues left, what had started out as a march of solidarity – or so we thought at the beginning- with not just a sense of frustration and disgust but the realisation that the words RESPECT and SOLIDARITY were not in the vocabulary of some of the women attending the march and rally. Whilst they were prepared to listen to Middle Eastern and African women about violence, rape and prostitution, they were not prepared to listen to sex workers in their own cities and country not to speak of the vulgar racism spouting out of their mouths. Clearly for some attending the march, sex workers were not entitled to respect, solidarity or a voice and Black women were bitches!

How safe to stand up in London and shout support for the “other” not on your doorstep yet when you are face to face with the presence of sex workers and women of colour you try to silence them and scream “not in my backyard”!

Criminalisation and marginalisation of Sex Workers

Andrea Spyropoulos 10 minute talk at meeting held by the Safety First Coalition at the Houses of Parliament, London, 17 October 2007 — versus the increased criminalisation of sex-work in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Flickr set: IWD

UPDATE LATER

The International Prostitutes Collective have published Terisa MacKay’s banned speech.

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