Pye Jakobsson is a sex worker, presently taking a break from sex work while working in HIV-prevention. Her current roles include Project Manager at Hiv-Sverige/HIV-Sweden, Co-Founder and Coordinator at Rose Alliance, an NGO by and for current and former sex and erotic workers in Sweden, and President of The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), which advocates for rights based health and social services, freedom from abuse and discrimination, and self determination for sex workers.
Could you share how you became involved in the sex workers’ rights movement and why it’s so important to you?
I actually started out in the HIV-rights movement in Portugal in the ’80s. When I moved back to Sweden in 1994 I was quite shocked at the judgmental and infantilizing attitudes there was against sex workers and just started doing activism on my own. I was quite naïve I guess as it was sort of a one-woman mission. Thankfully I’m far from alone nowadays.
What does your activism and work involve?
Unfortunately a lot of my activism over the last decade has been against the “Swedish Model“, not out of choice I can assure but out of necessity. I am so sick of talking about that stigma-enhancing piece of sh*t of a law but as long as Sweden is trying to promote it internationally I will continue to fight it. I have also worked really hard to establish a movement in Sweden, always a challenge and even more so in the current political environment. But I’m proud to say that we now have a really lively and great organisation, Rose Alliance. One of my main passions has always been around sex workers who use drugs, the double stigma and extreme prejudice towards that group is something I have experience of first-hand and I will always challenge the simplified explanations of why sex workers use drugs or why drug users sell sex. And obviously pushing the agenda that sex work is work, it might be a bit different but it’s definitely work!
You are also concerned with sex trafficking. What do you think needs to happen so the two movements are more aligned – if you agree it would be beneficial that they are?
I am concerned with labour exploitation in general. I have my doubts regarding if the trafficking terminology is really helpful as it conflates migration, sex work, bonded labour and slavery into something that is way too diverse experiences to be explained within the ideology that is often behind anti-trafficking efforts. I really do think that the framework of labour rights is much more useful here as it leaves room for a variety of scenarios. Without a clear distinction between sex work and forced labour we can never really address the exploitation that happens in the sex industry as well as in other industries. It’s important to remember that this is not unique for our industry.
Why do you feel it’s important for the sex workers’ rights movement and the anti-human trafficking movement to work together?
There are organisations doing anti-trafficking work that also argue for decriminalisation of sex work, like Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), and there we have a solid place to start the discussion at least. But I’m afraid to say that often there are hidden agendas, like promoting the “Swedish Model” or arguing that sex work in itself is inherently harmful and then it is really hard. If the anti-trafficking movement showed more interest in at least listening to what we have to say we could possibly at least prevent some of the rescue raids that keep happening in certain countries that are harming people more than exploitative labour situations.
What legal improvements or changes would ensure sex workers’ rights and help abolish sex trafficking and sexual exploitation? Can the two groups be ensured their human rights and the protection of the law simultaneously?
As I said earlier, it would be much saner to use a framework based on human and labour rights. That and decriminalisation of sex work would be way better tools to tackle both. It’s not like exploitation or any form of abuse happening in the sex industry is legal in other industries, therefore it’s safe to assume that regulations around labour and laws protecting human rights could also be used in regards to our rights, health and safety. We are really not that different so it is a bit absurd thinking we need to be protected by special laws.
For anyone else who wants to be involved, what can other people do to help?
Contact your local sex worker organisation and ask them. And keep your own gut feeling out of the conversation. Just because you wouldn’t do sex work doesn’t mean it is true for everybody else. Personally I would never go to a swingers club, but I don’t assume there is something wrong or damaged with people that enjoy it.
What are your plans for the future?
Just continuing what I’m doing. It’s my work, passion, hobby and way of life.
What websites would you recommend for people who would like to know more?
www.nswp.org has a really huge resource section.
- To read The Huffington Post “Activist Spotlight” article on Pye Jakobsson click here.
- Meg Munoz, Former Sex Worker, Trafficking Survivor, Ally and Rights Advocate, Discusses the Advantages of the Sex Workers’ Rights and Anti-Sex Trafficking Movements Working Together
- Jes Richardson, Sex Trafficking Survivor, Former Sex Worker and Anti-Sex Trafficking & Sex Workers’ Rights Activist, Discusses the Advantages of the Sex Workers’ Rights and Anti-Sex Trafficking Movements Working Together
- Tara Burns, Survivor of Labour Trafficking in the Sex Industry, Sex Worker and Sex Workers’ Rights Activist, Discusses the Advantages of the Sex Workers’ Rights and Anti-Sex Trafficking Movements Working Together
- Jemima, Sex Worker, Discusses the Advantages of the Sex Workers’ Rights and Anti-Sex Trafficking Movements Working Together