Red Umbrella Run

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On Sunday 24 April 2016, I ran my first marathon:

  • I ran the London Marathon to fundraise for Amnesty International (UK).
  • And I did so carrying a red umbrella – the international awareness-raising symbol of violence and stigma faced by sex workers.

The red umbrella is a message of support to sex workers, and I chose one with butterflies so transgender sex workers know I include them too.

I live in Ipswich, and in December 2016 it was ten years since the murders of Tania Nicol (19), Gemma Adams (25), Anneli Alderton (24), Annette Nicholls (29) and Paula Clennell (24). Like other residents at the time, I was shocked and saddened by these events. I still am.

Much work is needed to raise awareness of the dangers faced by sex workers, to promote their safety and wellbeing, to take a mature, modern approach in how the law and agencies interact with people involved.

Decriminalising consensual sex work would make sex workers safer by reducing the risk of violence; it would make access to healthcare easier; create better working conditions; and help to end stigma. It would empower authorities to intervene fully where violence, rape, and trafficking occurs – to help survivors and hold perpetrators to account. Agencies supporting decriminalisation include: UNAIDS, WHO, the Lancet, Royal College of Nursing, Human Rights Watch, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Open Society Foundations, the Economist, American Civil Liberties Union California, and Amnesty International. Crucially, sex workers say this is what’s needed. ‘Prostitution’ is a complex subject, but consent is simple and elegant; it should be the basis for all policies and interactions concerning sex work. Plus, I’m a huge fan of evidence-led research and being on the right side of history.

My beloved donors help me raise over £1,600 and with gift aid the total was more than £2,000: because I was in the marathon by ballot every penny went to Amnesty. This far exceeded my expectations, and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who donated. I knew I’d be slow (6 hrs + some seconds) I walked parts, paused to hug loved ones, but I finished smiling and without getting injured which was my goal. I carried the red umbrella open the whole way, saw friends on the course, was uplifted by the goodwill of other runners and an amazing crowd. Oh, and I have a shiny medal to prove it!

While my marathon ambitions are pretty much over, I remain committed to supporting sex workers’ rights. I owe special thanks to English Collective of Prostitutes whose activism, policy, research, and casework makes them leading experts on this issue. Any change in UK prostitution laws needs their input if it is to be valid and beneficial to all. Laura Watson has been tremendously kind and our joint interview on BBC Suffolk was one of my highlights. Love and solidarity to many inspiring organisations and individuals including Sex Worker Open University; SCOT-PEP; Leeds Basis; and others in the Twittersphere and abroad. Huge love and thanks to Juniper Fitzgerald who knew I was a sex worker ally before I did.

Best wishes from a grateful writer and runner,

K

x

@katiewardwriter

P.S. If you agree with us, you can sign the PledgeDecrim petition which includes a Prostitution: Fact and Fiction resource. I only run 26.2 miles for causes supported by strong evidence and nice people 😊

P.P.S. Amnesty Policy to Protect Human Rights of Sex Workers Q and A

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