The French union of sex workers aka STRASS exists in France since 2009. It was created by sex workers during a
European meeting about prostitution that took place in Paris. It brought together sex workers, jurists, social workers, sociologists etc…
We, sex workers, consider that respect for one’s fundamental rights is the best way to emancipation and that is why we fight with the STRASS so that each and every sex worker has the same rights as any one and any worker. It is only then that we will be able to defend ourselves against violations of our rights.
The STRASS, for whom?
The STRASS represents all sex workers whatever their gender or the type of sex work they do. We are prostitutes (street workers or working indoors), porn actresses/ actors, erotic masseuses, professional dominatrixes, sex phone/webcam operators, strippers, erotic models, escorts etc…
The STRASS is particularly attentive to women – by adopting a feminist perspective based on the right of every woman to control their own body – and to migrants – by adopting a critical perspective towards immigration policies that put them in danger.
The STRASS, what for?
We demand that common law be applied to all sex workers. To this day, French legislation is particularly discriminatory towards sex workers (working on the street or indoors) as a consequence of the prohibitionist policy led by the French government.
We fight for the recognition of any form of sex work, against its prohibition because all the repressive measures against sex workers keep them in a state of insecurity with no rights. Our professional status will guarantee our independence, social protection and a pension. At this time even when we pay our taxes, we are eligible to very few social security benefits.
We demand through the application of common law that sex workers be protected against forced labour, slavery and servitude as well as trafficking. Particularly when concerning migrant women and women in an illegal situation. Children must be protected against sexual exploitation too.
We fight for the repeal of the law that criminalizes public soliciting. Since 2003, sex workers can get 2 months in prison and a 3750 euros fine for public soliciting whether active or passive. This law is used by the police in a complete arbitrary way and all sex workers working on the street are considered as criminals. It also isolates us (for example from structures of help and prevention), makes us precarious and more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and all sorts of abuse.
We demand that legal dispositions against “pimping” be repealed. These laws, supposed to protect us against exploitation are also an obstacle to the exercise of prostitution because they prevent us from organising ourselves (by making it illegal to share a work place for example) or to get help from outside. Because they accuse of “pimping” anyone who benefits from our income, including friends and family (unless they can prove otherwise), those dispositions also have for consequence to isolate us even more from the rest of the population.
Finally, we are strongly opposed to the criminalisation of clients. The law already sanctions sexual attacks as well as the “clients” of minors, particularly vulnerable people or victims of forced labour or trafficking. To go further by sanctioning the clients of adult sex workers, in the absence of any abuse or violence will not only be a blow to our sexual freedom but will also make our situation worse. We reject the idea that we are, on principle, victims that need to be saved, even against our will.
The STRASS, how?
We allow sex workers to take back their voice in the public debate about their professional activity. We have had enough of being silenced by other speakers presented as specialists on the subject (doctors, catholics and other moralists, abolitionists…). We fight against moral judgment that makes us victims or anti-role models.
We inform the general public of the reality of France’s policy against sex workers, particularly its disastrous effects on our rights and our freedom as individuals.
We go and meet sex workers, we inform them about their rights and give them practical leaflets on how to use them. We try to give advice and support them in what there’re doing.
On an international scale, we belong to different networks that bring together other unions of sex workers – in particular the International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) and the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) – to think and act together on behalf of all sex workers.