The last two weeks have not been a disappointment in closing out a decade in sex workers' rights, as even more steps were taken towards change.
This year marked the sixteenth International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which saw events held from Washington D.C. to the Czech Republic. Check out the hashtag #IDEVASW for pictures and articles from the events.
But the week also brought home just how present violence is within the community, especially for trans women/femmes of color. On December 19, the world saw the passing of Yahira Nesby, a 33 year old woman from New York:
The world also is feeling the loss of BIPOC, two-spirit artist and activist Angel Rose from DC. Rest in Power, Angel:
Both women will be remembered and deeply missed by their communities.
The Feds Take a First Step
But also on December 17, some members of Congress marked the day with a landmark bill, asking the Department of Health and Human Services to look into the impact of sex workers' health and safety when they lose access to online platform. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Ro Khanna (Go San Jose!) and Rep. Barbara Lee (Call and say thank you, Oakland!) with support from much of The Squad, and will be introduced into the Senate in the coming year by Presidential-candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Ron Wyden. As many have noted, Sen. Warren voted for SESTA, but noted that her support for the current bill reflects a duty to understand "any impact [FOSTA-SESTA] may have had on the ability of female escorts to protect themselves from physical or financial abuse."
The bill, which looks at both the impact of FOSTA/SESTA and the loss of Backpage.com, will add to the research already being conducted by sex workers on the ground such as the recently-wrapped Hacking/Hustling and specifically directs researchers to speak with community and service organizations which work with people in the sex trade.
This comes just on the heels of an incredible step of Ayanna Pressley introducing a resolution for wide-spread criminal legal reform, including decriminalization of sex work. If you have a minute in your day, please call her office and say thank you. You can imagine the flack they're getting from the other side, and those calls really do matter.
China Ends Forced Labor for Sex Workers
China has announced that as of December 29, it will end its twenty-year long program of "custody and education" for sex workers who have been arrested. The program, which commits sex workers to forced labor under the guise of re-education of skills has been widely criticized by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
Maybe the Untied States will be next in line, and question the use of forced services for sex workers here in the states? Recently, both court-mandated drug rehabilitation programs and the Alameda County's local jails have been sued for forced labor.
French Sex Workers Continue the Fight
Despite years of sustained advocacy, France passed an End Demand-style criminalization law a few years ago, resulting in the same harms and dangers that sex workers have reported in every Nordic-Model country. This last week, 250 French sex workers have taken their fight beyond the country's borders and filed a complaint with the EU's Court on Human Rights to try and combat the new law.
Nigerian High Court Rules Arrests for Sex Work Unlawful
Earlier this year, 52 women were arrested when Nigerian law enforcement broke into their homes during a wide spread raid. A court has ruled that this has violated their right to privacy and that sex work is not a crime and ordered the court to pay each woman N100,000 in compensation.
LA's Push for a Sex Workers' Task Force
This year, advocates in LA have been pushing a proposal for the West Hollywood City Council to form a Sex Workers' Task Force to look at experiences of abuse and exploitation. This first attempt for passage has stalled, as the proposal was withdrawn in the face of pushback from various City Council members.
Florida Still Trying to Save Face
After the embarrassment of this year's attempts to identify victims of trafficking in massage parlors (which is leading to the prosecution of the workers and costly court battles), Florida prosecutors are looking to combine the multiple misdemeanors for solicitation into a felony - an incredibly rare move for this kind of thing.
Just a quick reminder that Florida cares so much about exploitation and trafficking that the state de-funded its Department of Labor several years ago, and none of the pearl-clutching saviors have made a move to change.
Rest in Power, Jamie Lee Hamilton
On December 22, long-time Canadian activist Jamie Lee Hamilton passed at age 64. Hamilton spent her life advocating for indigenous people, sex workers, and the LGBTQ community, becoming the first transgender candidate for political office in Canada.
In only hours, the calendars will shift and we'll all start screwing up dates when we type them.
The last two weeks have been a pretty solid encapsulation of the last ten years: Incredible gains, incredible heartbreak, and policymakers who are soooooo close to getting it and maybe a little bit closer than they were before. May your last few hours of 2019 be that of satisfaction, renewal, joy, grief and the warmth of love and community:
Back to the grind. After some cheap prosecco.