Stand with SWOP-Chicago in Supporting Amnesty International’s Proposal on Decriminalization of Sex Work

April 3, 2014

For Immediate Release


The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)-Chicago supports the proposal put forth by Amnesty International to decriminalize prostitution.  We believe that the criminalization of actors participating in the sex trade contributes to a host of negative effects for both sellers and buyers of sexual services: it alienates them from communities that support their health and human rights, precludes the development of social services that can help them address issues of concern, undermines their ability to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and other STIs, and eliminates the agency of individual sex workers.  In countries where sex work is decriminalized, violence against sex workers is reduced and access to health and human services is increased.

The removal of punitive laws and policies targeting sex workers is crucial.  SWOP-Chicago is not alone in this belief.  International agencies such as The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, UNAIDS , the World Health Organization, the Global Alliance Against the Trafficking in Women (GAATW) and the Human Rights Watch have called for or support the decriminalization of sex work. Contrary to what some may have you believe, decriminalization is NOT an attempt to legalize ‘pimps’, nor does it increase exploitation of sex workers. Such arguments are made with a limited understanding of the sex trade, a limited understanding of global capitalism, and undermines the struggle for sex workers to live healthy, safe, stigma-free lives.  

Decriminalization will help sex workers address all forms of exploitation, including abusive or sub-standard working conditions instituted by both state and non-state actors. In countries such as the United States where sex work is criminalized, sex workers are often afraid to come forth   Criminalization of buyers of sex will not eliminate this concern, but would instead drive the industry further underground. Clients will be more likely to withhold personal information that sex workers need to keep them safe in order to prevent the police from using this information.  

Finally, SWOP-Chicago is committed to ending human trafficking within the sex trade.  Criminalization of prostitution hampers the anti-trafficking efforts of organizations working with people in the sex trade and makes it easier for sex workers to be wrongly categorized as trafficked persons.  Moreover, under criminalization, there is a reduced chance that those who are trafficked into the sex trade will come forward against their traffickers.  Criminalizing the buyers of sex is tantamount to eliminating the agency of individual sex workers, and creates an environment conducive to the proliferation of human trafficking.

SWOP-Chicago and other members of the sex worker rights movement are in agreement with with other human rights movements in condemning the abuse and violation of the rights of all individuals, including sex workers.  Thus, we stand in solidarity with Amnesty International in calling for the full decriminalization of prostitution.  

Please join us in posting this statement and spreading the word via social media using the hashtags on Friday, April 4 in support of Amnesty International’s consultation of the decriminalization of sex work.

#YESamnestyDECRIM #Amnesty2014

#NotYourRescueProject #Amnesty2014

#StandWithYouthWhoTrade #Amnesty2014



Members of SWOP-Chicago



March 3rd Film Screening – International Sex Worker Rights Day

We invite you to celebrate Sex Worker Rights Day, and join us for a documentary short film screening about sex worker activism around the world.

What: Screening of “A Kiss for Gabriela” + “The Honey Bringer” … plus more!

When: Monday, March 3, 2014

Door opens at 7pm | Screening begins at 7:30pm

Where: Multikulti – 1000 N. Milwaukee – 4th Floor

Tickets: Online Purchase by Sat, 3/1 at 11pm – 5. | At Door – 8.



A Kiss For Gabriela




Gabriela Leite is the first sex worker to run for Brazilian Congress.

After thirty years of fighting to improve the working conditions and the legal and societal status of sex workers in Brazil, Leite runs for office. “A Kiss for Gabriela” tells the story of her 2010 campaign as she faces 822 opponents and challenges a male dominated political system to see if a sex worker, activist, wife, mother, and cultural icon since founding the clothing line, Daspu, can beat the odds and win the election.

Dir. Laura Murray | 29 min


The Honey Bringer: Stories from the Sex Worker Freedom Festival

In 2012, the International Aids Conference returned to the United States to celebrate elimination of the US immigration and travel ban by HIV+ persons. But at that time, a ban on US travel by the two groups most effected by HIV/AIDS–sex workers and drug users–remained.

While researchers, policy makers and politicians gathered in Washington for the conference, sex workers convened in Kolkata for an alternative summit: the Sex Worker Freedom Festival. “The Honey Bringer” documents the festival through interviews with sex workers from Asia, South America, Africa and Europe and footage of conversations and performances by attendees. The Honey Bringer presents an intimate view of the oppression and resilience of sex worker communities from around the world and sends a clear message to the rest of society: that it is not victimhood, but power that speaks.

Co-Dir. Vincent Lee and Clare Havell with Sex Worker Open University | 32 min


Many thanks to the following for making this event possible!

  • The Kiss for Gabriela team and Sex Worker Open University for Complementary Screening Permission
  • Multikulti
  • West Town Bakery

Tax/Money Management and Health Insurance Workshop- Saturday, February 8

Sex Workers Outreach Project – Chicago invites you to attend a…
Tax Workshop | Health Insurance Sign-Up | Social Shindig
on Saturday, February 8th in Ukrainian Village! Please RSVP for locationImage

Sat, Feb 8, 1-4:00 p.m.
Tax & Insurance Presentation – 1-2pm
Socializing, Q&A, and One-On-One Healthcare Registration Support 2-4:00 p.m.

A private location in Ukrainian Village
(Near Division Blue Line)

Please RSVP to

or call (312) 252-3880 for information

RSVP on Facebook here!

William Enmark, a CPA with an investment/finance background and over 17 years of experience as a tax professional, will lead an info-session on filing taxes as a freelancer, sole proprietor or independent contractor in the adult biz.

Then health insurance exchanges gurus will share the 101 on getting hooked up to Obamacare and offer private, individual sessions to help you get signed up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline.

Money Management workshop will cover topics including:

* The benefits of filing taxes
* Tax deductions sex workers can claim
* Budgeting your income and managing your money for the year
* How to stay legal and who can help
* Dealing with a “cash-only” income and how much to set aside for taxes

*Saving for retirement

…and more!

After the presentations, stay for coffee, pastries, and socializing.
Or take advantage of the insurance exchange navigators who will be available for one-on-one sessions to guide you through the Affordable Health Care Act registration process.

This is a private event and only open to current/former adult industry workers.

The event is free to attend!

Sunday Feb 2nd – Self Care Day!

It’s been a long, hard winter…and February is the cruelest, coldest month. So… we’re putting on a self-care day for current and former adult industry workers.

Got the winter doldrums? Come join SWOP-Chicago for a day of massage, make-up, nails and more!


Date: Sunday, February 2

Time: 2:00 – 6:00 pm

Location: A private space in lakeview. RSVP below, or email for location information!

Free  |  Private

Details: Join us for free mini-massages; get your nails or make-up done; have some light snacks and beverages…and pamper yourself!

This is a private event and is ONLY open to individuals currently or previously involved in the adult entertainment industry, erotic labor market, or sex trade.


Help SWOP-Chicago Gear Up for 2014!

2013 has been a very active and exciting year for SWOP-Chicago!

In May, we launched the PROS Network-Chicago, a network of service providers offering neutral, non-judgmental and culturally sensitive services to folks involved in the sex trade, and supported the development of a similar resource network in Philadelphia.

In conjunction with the PROS Network, we also expanded our efforts to ensure sex workers  have access to culturally competent, non-judgmental resources through the development of education programming for service providers. In 2013, we’ve gave trainings at Rape Victim Advocates, Thresholds, Heartland Alliance, Howard Brown, AASECT, Howard Area Community Center, UIC medical and nursing schools, DePaul University and University of Chicago’s Sex Week. We also attended the Desiree Alliance and gave presentations to help other sex worker activists develop resource networks and service provider trainings.

Throughout the year, we tabled at events including Dandelions in the Concrete, Cinekink, and Sexfest and organized a tax workshop, film-screening of The Scarlet Road, and community-building events on Sex Worker Rights Day and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

And in September, we started conducting weekly outreach to street-based workers and other vulnerable populations in East Garfield Park.  In all, we’ve distributed over 13,000 condoms, hundreds of hot beverages and snacks, and just over a 2,000 PROS Network resource maps through street-outreach, at events, businesses & social service agencies and through peer-distribution.

We’re hoping to make 2014 even more productive!


In addition to continuing street-based outreach in East Garfield Park and service provider training, we hope to:

  • Begin holding community meetings on the West Side to include street-based sex workers in our advocacy and education.
  • Distribute 50-70,000 condoms to sex workers and other vulnerable communities. Check out our 2014 Condom Distribution Plan here!
  • Help to offer much-needed legal services to folks involved in the sex trade in the Chicago-land area.
  • Secure an office space to house materials, outreach supplies, and meetings.
  • Continue offering rights, safety, and tax workshops, and help sex workers in the Chicago Area enroll in health insurance programs.
  • Start holding more regular peer-support activities.

And we’ll need your help to pay for rent and utilities on an office, purchase outreach supplies, pay for stipends and snacks for community advisory meetings and leadership-building events with folks we conduct outreach with, print pocket PROS Network maps and SWOP brochures, and secure snacks & space for workshops and supportive activities.

This holiday season, we’d be grateful for any support you can offer in meeting our goals for 2014.

Through Christmas Eve, you can donate directly to the cost of outreach supplies through our Indigogo campaign.

Or you can donate via our Paypal  or Givlet links.

Thank you for your support!

Thank You for an Evening of Rememberance and Love

Thanks to all who came out and joined us in remembering those we lost 2013 as well as connecting, healing, and enjoying time with our resilient, fierce and very very special community.

December 17 Chi

A special thanks to many:

To EROS and Slixa for funding the event.

To the Ugly Stepsister Gallery for hosting us.

To Carnival Grocery for supplying wine and snack-plates, and to West Town Bakery for bagels, baguettes, and baked goods.

To Rape Victim Advocates, the Chicago Recovery Alliance, Chicago Women’s Health, Broadway Youth Center, and TPAN for joining us.

To Sofia Moreno, Heliophilia, the Windy City Queertet, and Chyna Fox for performing and DJ Masisi for keeping the music flowing throughout the night.

We sincerely appreciate your support and solidarity.

*     *    *

For those who couldn’t make it, photos from our event (as well as events that took place around the world) are now online. You can also find the list of memorial names, speeches, press, songs and videos at A speech about the list of memorial names read around the world each year, given before that list was projected at our event, is included below.

*     *     *

Hi – my name’s Meg. I’m a board member at SWOP, and I also coordinated the list of memorial names that you’ll see in a moment. Some of you have been to a December 17 Event in the past, but for those who haven’t, what you’ll see is a list of sex workers who were victims of violence this year.

There are 78 names on this year’s list. The list includes the names of  individuals who were shot. Who were beaten to death. Who were dismembered. It also includes the names of individuals who committed suicide or overdosed or died early of health complications. Physical violence isn’t the only form of violence our community faces, and we feel it’s important to recognize the impact of stigma, criminalization, and isolation on members of our community.

The list was compiled from newspaper and non-profit reports. It includes several members of our activist community. We lost Tracie , a former SWOP board member and a close friend to many of us, this August. Beth, the former director of SWOP Boston chapter, committed suicide a few weeks later in September. And Petite Jasmine, a  board member of Rose Alliance in Sweden and someone many of us know as the fierce activist, bubbly person and barbiesque blonde we met at the International Aids Conference in 2012, was brutally murdered on July 2013. She lost custody of her children several years ago become she was a sex worker. The children were placed with their father regardless of him being abusive towards Jasmine, and a year after she lost custody, he killed her.

Another way that names were added to the list was through emails sent to SWOP-USA, from friends or family members of
individual victims of violence. Many of these emails included personal stories. And so before the list is projected, I’d like to read one of those stories. I received this email a few hours ago. It’s from Aislinn, a former dancer in Fort Wayne, Indiana
I am an exotic dancer, though at this time I don’t work because of the myriad issues surrounding that kind of work. I, like many of us, have heard of, and personally experienced the loss of fellow sex workers, and I’d like to take this time to ask you to please remember a friend of mine, Erin Justice, aka Tea (teh-yah). Erin was a sex worker from Ft. Wayne, IN, and a kind hearted, lovely young lady. She went missing in the June of 2011. Her body was found in July, in a lake 2 hours north of our town, having been tied with cement blocks at her arms and legs. The horror of that, I cannot begin to explain. I can’t properly express knowing that there would be no news coverage for this woman, this girl, someone’s daughter. The understanding that most of us have probably been in contact with the suspect (of course there was a suspect, who’d apparently done this very same thing 10 years before, but I have no way of confirming that). Erin had given me a pair of red shoes, which I left in the Virgin Islands after having been raped in the club I was working at there, as a memorial to her. 
I still think of her, everyday. We weren’t that close, but I knew her. I had touched her, smiled with her, laughed with her, had drinks with her. She gave me her shoes, told me how beautiful I was. When sex workers are co-workers, we are sisters. Her death came at a time that was important to my life as a woman and a sex worker, and I’d like to honour her memory, and bless the soul of those red shoes, which literally brought me luck every time I danced in them. I talked to Erin every single time I put them on my feet, and I just know she was there with me, is with me still, when I think of my darkest moments in this business that steals so much from us. One day, I’d like to do my part and get back into the clubs, start reaching out to my sisters, especially in places like Houston and Miami and Dallas, where I experienced and heard of some of the worst assaults and rapes, but also where I danced in my favourite clubs, met my favourite people, and learned so much. 
I was unaware that Dec. 17 was a day for this, until I happened across an article on Reddit, a few minutes ago. I haven’t been in a club in a long time, and I’m still working up to getting back into the business, because I genuinely want to invest my time and energy into making sex work a safe, sane, enjoyable, desirable path of choice, not force or the result of capitalism and patriarchy. Finding out about this organization has given me a lot of hope and if I can find out more about what I can do to be a part of it, please let me know. Thank you for your time, and for standing in solidarity with me as I remember our sister Erin Justice.
Lists are impersonal. But stories like this give meaning to the 78 names on the list. And emails like Aislinn’s, for me at least, give hope in the power of coming together, supporting each-other, inspiring each other, and paying remembrance to those we’ve lost while renewing our commitment to fighting injustice. So, as we watch the list, let’s remember that each name represents dozens or hundreds of similar connections and stories, and each name represents a tremendous loss to hundreds of people. And let’s also recognize the tremendous resources we collectively have, and the strength and solidarity that exists in this room tonight.

December 17 – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

SWOP Flyer Revised - side one

December 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Since 2003, communities around the country and around the world have gathered on December 17 to recognize individuals who were lost that year and the many forms of violence individuals involved in the sex trade face, as well as to build community and resilience against oppression.


SWOP Flyer Revised

This year on December 17 SWOP-Chicago invites you to join us for an evening of remembrance and love.

Location: Ugly Stepsisters Gallery, 1750 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL [Pilsen]
Date: Tue, 12/17 – 7:00-10:00 p.m

The evening will feature a structured open mic/speak out portion, in which community members and allies can tell stories and share thoughts related to violence against sex workers. Our event will also feature refreshments, music by DJ Masisi, therapeutic group engagement, an interactive altar at which attendees can light a candle and leave a personal message, and a projection of the names of the sex workers who we have lost this year. We will also have someone on hand to de-brief with individuals who might feel overwhelmed or triggered.

We will also be collecting winter-gear and toiletries for Outreach!

Please bring last years’ coats, scarves, hats, gloves, slickers and boots, as well as any travel-sized toiletries you’ve collected–we’ll give them out during weekly street outreach on the West Side.

Not in Chicago?

Find out about events occurring across the United States and Canada, and around the globe at

We Thank Our Sponsors for Making the Event Possible:

Primary Sponsor

 EROS Banner 2

Event Benefactors: