The death of sex workers’ rights activist Margo St. James on January 11, 2021 has ignited a spark in the international movement she helped to build. As individuals and groups prepared for her memorial on May 1, 2021, support for sex workers’ rights as human rights and the decriminalization of prostitution is stronger than ever.
Thanks to the organizing efforts of Margo St. James in the early 1970s when she created COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) in San Francisco, ten states in the U.S. now have significant proposals in place related to decriminalization and sex workers’ rights. These are Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Louisiana.
Activists in many more cities and states have formed alliances and relationships with legislators to put forward laws to advance sex worker justice. Margo also joined forces with international sex workers’ rights groups. She was at the forefront of organizing conferences in the 1980s in Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Today, on every continent except Antarctica, sex workers and allies have organized to protect the lives and liberty of sex workers.