SWARM is a collective founded and led by sex workers who believe in self-determination, solidarity and co-operation.
We campaign for the rights and safety of everyone who sells sexual services. Together we organise skill-shares and support meet-ups just for sex workers, as well as public events.
We are UK based and part of the global sex worker led movement advocating the full decriminalisation of sex work.
“All countries should work toward decriminalisation of sex work.”
— World health organiSation
On the 29th of June, police raided houses in Swindon. As a result of these raids, three migrant sex working women are in custody and are due to be deported. They were arrested as a result of the UK’s brothel-keeping laws, which criminalise women working together in a shared space for safety. These laws push sex workers into working alone, making us vulnerable to violence. The raids were done under the guise of “safety”, but arrest and deportation is violence at the hands of the state.
I’m writing to you as your constituent to raise a concern that I’d like you to raise urgently with the Home Office. On Friday, three sex workers from Romania were arrested in Swindon and are being held in custody prior to being deported. A fourth Romanian woman at a separate Swindon address was served paperwork by immigration enforcement officers stating she must find ‘legitimate work’ in the next 30 days. (See this news report for details on all four women.)
It is absolute salt in the wound of their arrest and imminent deportation that this has been justified with reference to the women’s “safety”. The Detective Superintendent told reporters: “this is a very positive outcome as the women are now safe and away from their clients and are no longer vulnerable to the risks of off-street sex work”. This is brushes over the fact that raids, arrest and deportation in themselves constitute material state violence – and that in being taken to an immigration detention centre, they are being taken to a place where violence against women is endemic. We very much doubt that the women in question today feel safer today than they did when they were working together in a shared flat.
For anyone interested in the politics of sex work and migration, Laura Agustin’sSex at the Margins is a cornerstone text, exploring the way sex is sold, particularly for the undocumented, as people move around the world. Known for her criticism of grossly well-funded, largely ineffective anti-trafficking NGOs, Agustin coined the phrase “rescue industry” and, of this sector, she’s remained outspoken in her condemnation.
SWARM welcomes a vote by BMA junior doctors to support the decriminalisation of sex work. At Saturday’s conference in London, a motion calling for decriminalisation passed by a large margin, meaning junior doctors now stand in agreement with organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNAIDS, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and Amnesty International.
On Saturday, members of SWARM attended the Shut Down Yarls Wood protest. We stand in solidarity with migrants being detained in detention centres across the UK against their will. We stood as a sex worker bloc alongside the trans sex worker organisation, Sex Worker and Trans, to ensure that sex worker voices are visible and recognised within the fight for migrants’ rights.
Today, on International Workers’ Day, Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) is re-launching as Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM).
As sex workers, we understand how vital it is that we advocate for ourselves on the issues that affect us and and build solidarity with other marginalised or criminalised communities. And we need a strong, organised resistance movement to fight the threats we face.
The news that police forces across England and Wales have have an endemic problem of officers abusing vulnerable or marginalised people, particularly people experiencing domestic violence, people who use drugs, sex workers, and people who have been arrested, is sadly no surprise to SWOU. Many sex workers fall into several of the above categories, and know from experience that contact with the police spans a spectrum from fear-inducing to abusive.
We decided to create this small zine to give a little space for survivors sex workers like ourselves to share their stories, analysis, and testimonies… Our lives are complex and often hard to put in to words due to the stigma, shame and guilt associated to both sex work and (sexual) abuse. And what sometimes makes it even harder are these un-nuanced discourses and debates on sex work and prostitution: Happy hooker or victim. Empowered or abused. Always one or the other. Never both, never neither.
Nothing is that simple.