The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland would like to extend our thanks to the organisers and attendees of Saturday’s FEMPOWER conference. We received a warm welcome, and were met with significant interest and support from many of the women there, so much so that we ran out of copies of our policy document “Realising Sex Workers’ Rights in Ireland”.
It was apparent to us that feminism in Ireland is far from united in support behind the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign. Many feminists, across generations, are either ambivalent or opposed to the introduction of laws that criminalise sex workers’ clients. We hope that politicians, including Senator Katherine Zappone, will begin to listen to these voices – and to ours.
A Disappointing Move
We are disappointed that Ugly Mugs was “uninvited” to hold a stall at the conference, with no real explanation given. We are told that it was because the conference was oversubscribed and that there were “health and safety” concerns. However, there was more than enough room for another stall; we have not heard of any other organisation being uninvited; and if it really was considered that there were too many stalls booked, the question has not been answered as to why Ugly Mugs was selected for exclusion.
We note that most of the stalls were large enough for two people to stand behind. Surely, if there were health and safety concerns about the number of people, some of these could have been cut down to one person so that every group could take part.
We wish to state for the record that SWAI is not formally affiliated with Ugly Mugs and that its founder, Lucy Smyth, is not and never has been a member of SWAI. However, those of us who are sex workers are absolutely reliant on the service that Ugly Mugs provides. It helps protect our health and safety, so it is particularly ironic that it would be excluded from FEMPOWER on those grounds. If the organisers had any concerns about its presence at the conference they could have raised them with us, its service users. Sex workers’ voices need to be heard on issues that affect our lives.