Lately, Queen Elizabeth has made moves that are uncharacteristically very cool. First, she welcomed the first black woman in contemporary history into the British monarchy (hi, Meghan Markle), making sure to befriend her dog along the way. And now, she’s even switching up whom she rewards for their hard work.
According to the Washington Post, the queen honored a sex work activist by giving her a dame title, an honor also bestowed upon Helen Mirren and Anna Wintour. Think this one would go unnoticed, Elizabeth? Nah.
Catherine Healy is the honoree, and as the Post reports, she was hugely influential in the decriminalization of prostitution in New Zealand in 2003. She’s the founder of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, an organization run by sex workers that supports other sex workers. She will officially live her life as Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, an honor she received “for services to the rights of sex workers.”
In sum, Healy has worked to make sure that law protects those who choose to engage in sex work. While still employed as a teacher in the ‘80s, she became a sex worker herself and quickly learned how unjustly women who were arrested for prostitution were treated, with officers telling victims of rape and sexual harassment that it was their fault. Through her work with the Collective, she helped pass the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003, which made the practices of sex work legal.
Obviously, Healy is more than exited about the Queen’s nod. “I’m very touched,” she told the Post. “Looking at the different kinds of people who are put forward for these honors, in no way did I think I would ever be a recipient. I’m not sure what the queen would be thinking about this, but certainly it’s not secret that I have been a sex worker, and obviously my work is pushing for sex workers’ rights.’”
Pretty sure Her Royal Highness thinks Healy’s work is brilliant.