Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Sex work and medical marijuana activism share common ground. Both parties understand that their cause is based on a victimless crime, needlessly stigmatized by society. Both parties have been on the wrong side of the law and have witnessed wasted lives and countless dollars in needless arrests. And both movements benefited immensely from Robyn Few, who passed away on September 12, 2012 from a long struggle with cancer.
Robyn Few, a native of Kentucky, USA, ran away from home at age 13 and later became an exotic dancer. After marrying and having a daughter in her twenties, she began to take college courses in the hopes of earning a degree in theater arts. She went to California in 1993 to pursue theater and become an activist. Acting and activism not being the highest paying jobs, Few turned to prostitution to pay the bills in 1996. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate and caregiver for medical marijuana and AIDS patients and has gained quite a reputation in the Bay Area activist community as an effective lobbyist for the issue. In June of 2002, the FBI arrested Few, under the direction of the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Using the Patriot Act, Ashcroft was able to equate terrorism with prostitution and get additional funding for the very expensive investigation. She was convicted on one federal count of conspiracy to promote prostitution and received six months house arrest, which she finished serving in June 2004. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel allowed Few to continue her activism and volunteer efforts while under house arrest.
Dubbed the “patriotic prostitute,” a campaign centered on the idea that prostitution should be decriminalized to protect women from violence began in October 2003 with The Sex Workers Outreach Project. SWOP is an outgrowth of the anger and frustration that Few feels as a result of her federal bust. “Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice. Until prostitutes are no longer criminals why would they come forward and allow themselves to become targets for law enforcement? Decriminalization is the beginning of the solution; it’s not the solution itself” — says Few.
Robyn Few was the Director of SWOP-USA and co-founder of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, held on December 17th each year. SWOP helps sex workers and their organizations organize to protect their rights and fight against stigmatization and discrimination. It published media manual, citizen lobbying handbook and decriminalization fact sheets. Its volunteers and staff provide consultation on local, national and international campaigns and organize trainings on topics including lobbying, media, action planning, civil disobedience and strategy.