Feminist Fightback understands that challenging direct and indirect threats and acts of violence towards women is fundamental to feminism. As is an insistence on unconditional safety and freedom in every sphere of life.
We absolutely agree with Reclaim the Night’s (RtN) criticism of low rape convictions and poor media representation of women affected by rape, especially in the current political climate where cuts to rape support services are making it more and more difficult for survivors of abuse to access the help they need.
However, we have no choice other than to roundly condemn RtN London’s deeply problematic view of sex work. This is by no means a new development. However, we are particularly troubled by RtN’s condemnation of Amnesty International’s recent decision to support the full decriminalisation of all aspects of prostitution, as well as RtN’s endorsement of the Nordic model which criminalises the clients of sex workers. Feminist Fightback understands that this focuses on a perception of sex work as synonymous with violence against women, with sex workers as passive victims, rather than reflecting on sex work’s position within capitalism, which compels all workers to sell their labour in order to survive, in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.
Fightback is committed to continuing the debate on women, sex work and feminism, and to act in solidarity with sex workers’ efforts to gain equal treatment and representation as workers. Fightback supports sex workers’ rights to self-determination, unionization and self-organisation and sees this as the best way to empower sex workers themselves to fight exploitation, which is rampant in their industry, as in many others. For us this means complete decriminalisation of sex work, not least for the safety and well being of sex workers themselves. We do not ignore the risk of violence faced by some sex workers at work and in their daily lives, in fact it is our deep concern with the violence that sex workers face that convince us that decriminalization of sex work is necessary.
Feminism needs sex workers and sex workers need feminism. There is an important role for sex workers organising within the feminist movement, and a particularly strong argument for their presence on the Reclaim the Night march as a group of women who face routine violence from the state and the police, as well as from other sources. The de facto exclusion of our sex worker sisters from the march due to this political position therefore precludes our participation in RtN London 2015. We stand in solidarity with sex workers in the fight to end violence against all women in our homes, workplaces and movements.