SWUAV is a peer-based organization of current and former sex workers in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. We believe that sex workers’ rights are human rights, and we work toward systemic change, including legal reform, so that all sex workers are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. SWUAV has a strong representation of indigenous women, and we recognize the legacy of colonization in the current-day social conditions experienced by indigenous communities in Canada.
SWUAV’s mission is to be an organization that can speak directly from the perspective of sex workers in the DTES about issues relating to health and safety as well as general living and working conditions. We believe strongly in the principle of “nothing about us without us.” Central to SWUAV’s organizational purpose and structure is the idea that sex workers can feel supported personally and politically in an organization of peers, and that the issues and ideas most relevant to our day-to-day survival can be at the forefront of the group’s agenda.
SWUAV works for systemic change – including fighting against poverty, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia and other forms of oppression that contribute to the violence and lack of safety for sex workers. SWUAV works on a number of levels to achieve these goals: on the structural level, working to create legal and policy reform that will end the criminalization of sex workers, and improve access to equal rights, including labour rights. At the community level, SWUAV works to build alliances with other sex workers, health, legal and service provision organizations who support sex workers in the DTES. On an individual level we work to raise awareness among our membership of ways in which we can keep ourselves and each other safe.
SWUAV has an outreach team that regularly accesses sex workers in known sex work areas, primarily in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Our outreach team distributes condoms, harm reduction supplies as well as violence prevention information. We conduct bi-weekly sex worker support meetings, with the objective to provide safe space for sex workers to discuss issues of concern. We work with local and national organizations to promote an evidence-based approach to the Canadian sex industry.