Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, there are sex workers in Guelph. Any time the topic is bridged in the corporate media, it comes with this strain of shock that such a thing is happening in our own backyards. Of course it is. Perhaps that’s why sex workers find themselves particularly vulnerable to violence. Hear no evil, see no evil, right?
One of the people working against that is Sarah Wilmer, the Women’s Community Development Co-ordinator of HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health. She’s the point of contact for SWAG, the Sex Workers Ally Group Guelph/Wellington, who “engages community organizations, public agencies and individuals with lived experience in a collaborative effort to improve the systems and conditions that marginalize sex workers in Guelph and Wellington County.”
SWAG tries to support sex workers by improving access to services for sex workers, working towards their better health and wellbeing, and, perhaps most importantly, reducing the stigma around sex work. It’s this last point that is the timeliest around every December 17, which is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Stigma, and the moral and legal grey area of sex work, makes sex workers all the more vulnerable to violence. The equation is simple, reduce the stigma, increase the access, and you make it possible for sex workers to be protected from the violence that’s always in the back of their minds.
So this week on the podcast, we talk to Wilmer about her work with SWAG, what life looks like for sex workers in our area, SWAG’s mission to end stigma and all the challenges there in, and how our perceptions of sex work will need to change before any real progress can be made on ending violence against sex workers. For me, this issue is linked to some of the thoughts I wrote down earlier this year about “The Upside Down” in Guelph, revealing more about the hidden corners in our city that need more light and understanding, and I hope it is revealing.
Let’s talk about sex work on this week’s Guelph Politicast.
To learn more about the Sex Workers Ally Group Guelph/Wellington, you can visit their Facebook page here. And to learn more about the services and outreach of HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health, you can visit their website here. The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is Sunday December 17, but SWAG and ARCH will handing out red umbrella cookies in St. George’s Square on Friday.
The theme music for the Guelph Politicast is from the KPM Klassics collection by Syd Dale.
The host for the Guelph Politicast is Podbean. Find more episodes of the Politicast here.
Remember that the Politicast Podbean channel is also the host for podcast versions of Open Sources Guelph. The previous Thursday’s episode of Open Sources will be posted on Mondays.