About SWOP

       SWOP, at its most basic, is a harm reduction campaign. As a multi-state network of sex workers and advocates, we address local and national violence that sex workers experience because of social stigma and criminalization.

       Operating in one of the most prominently violent societies today, sex workers in America experience this phenomenon pointedly in the context of their stigma and criminal status. Yet, sex workers are seldom afforded protection or recourse from violent acts committed against them because of the precarious, often graft-ridden relationship between sex work and law enforcement. Society tolerates violence against sex workers because of the stigma and myths that surround the sex industry. Only until these falsehoods are corrected and sex workers are legitimized will we be able to effectively prevent and minimize the structural and occupational challenges of sex work.

       Serial killers like Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer who preyed on prostitutes, managed to evade law enforcement for over 2 decades. Meanwhile women, like Robyn Few and Shannon Williams, who, as adults had consensual sex for money, are routinely targeted for elaborate high budget police stings. This gross misappropriation of public resources systematically entraps sex work to be a profession that is unsafe and stigmatized. The system, effectively, is institutional violence against the people who exchange money for sex.

       SWOP works to educate policymakers and the public on the institutional harms committed against sex workers, and advocates for alternatives. Our first major action was to organize the first annual International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers in 2003 with the Green River Memorial to the victims of Gary Leon Ridgeway. In 2004, SWOP spearheaded a voter ballot initiative to decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley, CA. Some of our more recent work focuses on amending so called "protective" legislation like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (and now its reauthorization in 2005 with the new End Demand provisions) which has increased criminal penalties and the stigma associated with sex work.

       SWOP promotes proven and effective social policy approaches to the sex industry. In order to reach its goals, SWOP adopts the principles and practices of nonviolent action in order to reduce violence and achieve dignity and rights for sex workers.

Our Goal of Decriminalization:
      Decriminalization seems to be the best answer for all stakeholders. We view New Zealand's legislation as the model system to which we aspire. A point-by-point break-down of what their law reform means is available here.
      Basically you remove prostitution from the criminal code and place health and safety regulations on it. The penalty for the crime of hiring an underage prostitute is increased for sex business operators and clients. So, in effect, it is regulated, but the regulators are not the police; rather, they are health, OSHA, and labor inspectors. And we believe that, as in New Zealand, the main stakeholders (sex workers themselves) have a place at the table when writing these regulations.