The last week has been a testament to the movement towards global decriminalization of sex work. It may have gone by fast, but it's been truly incredible few days.
In The United States:
Today, the NYC-based coalition DecrimNY will introduce the most comprehensive decriminalization bill in the country's history into a state legislature. The bill would strike laws which criminalize selling, buying and promoting, among others, from the New York penal code. While the coalition doesn't anticipate a vote this session, the introduction alone is a milestone moment.
Last Monday, DecrimNow, a coalition of sex workers, allies and advocates based in DC, re-introduced a bill to repeal a number of statutes which criminalize the sex trade in the district. The bill already has four co-sponsors, and the coalition has a growing list of allies and supporters. One thing that makes this bill unique is that because the District of Columbia is not a state, once the bill passes the city council, it will have to go through Congress - which means this is a fight which will not only take local advocates, but sex workers and co-conspirators from every state to fully realize.
In Nevada, a bill which would have banned brothels in the state officially failed.
This Tuesday, California is holding a hearing on a bill which would offer immunity from prostitution charges for those who have been victimized or witness to victimization in the course of trading sex. If you're in CA - find your rep, call, and ask for their support!
In South Australia (a state of Australia), the push to decriminalize sex work took another huge step forward, as the bill repealing a number of criminalizing provisions got a thumbs up after a second reading from the Upper House of Parliament. The bill will go through a third reading next, but supporters are confident it's going to be passed by the legislature.
The Asijiki Coalition, a group of sex workers and allies in South Africa, thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa, for committing to decriminalize sex work in the country. The group delivered a red umbrella and a sunflower to the capital (and if you're an organizer/activist, Asijiki has some of my favorite fact sheets on the planet about sex work).
Saturday saw Vancouver-based sex workers and allies gather for their annual Red Umbrella march.
Mexico City also made a move to decriminalize sex work in that country's capital. The legislature voted 38 to ZERO to pull a city statute which fined sex workers and their clients if neighbors complained. Like the United States, there is no federal law so each jurisdiction has their own regulations regarding the sex trade, but unlike the US, laws vary a lot as far as what is covered. This means that it's an even more legal grey area than many other places. It's a stunning step forward (seriously ZERO votes against), and deserves an extra moment for some context that make it especially remarkable. Go with me for a second (or don't - there's a rad Pride picture at the bottom if you want to scroll):
One of the main reasons being cited for why the law should come off the book from lawmakers themselves has been to fight trafficking. One council member described his vote as "a first step that has to lead to regulation of sex work, to fight human trafficking and strengthen the rights of sex workers." Criminalization's contribution to trafficking is something almost no politicians mention, and is in direct opposition to both Mexican federal policy and the rhetoric of the US State Department, who has spent millions on doing bilateral anti-trafficking work with Mexico (the citation there is to the Attorney's General Reports on US Anti-trafficking efforts - they're all a few hundred pages and dry AF, but they're packed with info and the appendices show where a good amount of anti-trafficking funding is going).
Mexico has a federal anti-trafficking law which is read so broadly that any third parties can be considered traffickers and conflates all experiences of sex work with trafficking into the sex trade (it's not much different from Massachusetts, where they don't require force/fraud/coercion for anyone in the sex trade - regardless of age or experience). This means that everyone who operates in a management role can be a trafficker under the law.
Most prominently, sex worker activist Alejandra Gil, is currently serving a 15 year sentence for trafficking, though the accusations are basically that she was a madame. Prior to her arrest, Gil was president of APROASE, a Mexico City-based sex worker outreach and HIV-awareness organization. While pulling this provision off the books won't challenge the law directly, pointing towards the harms of criminalization in the name of trafficking does pose an existential challenge to the way that Mexico is going about their anti-trafficking work, especially what is done at the behest of the US government.
The US State Department has invested hugely and for years into anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico specifically. This includes extensive training of Mexican law enforcement on US-developed tactics for anti-trafficking work, funding law enforcement directly, and "building relationships" across the border. We already know how the State Department feels about sex work, and the over-focus that US law enforcement has on sex trade despite rampant exploitation of migrant workers in a range of other industries. This step towards decriminalization in the face of that push is a huge fuck you to the US's continued colonization through policy and funding, and a commitment to the lives of sex workers in Mexico City.
And along side other health and rights groups, the International Commission of Jurists, comprised of 60 judges and jurists, released a report recommending the decriminalization of sex work as an important part of addressing harms against the LGBTQ community. Other recommendations include barring conversion therapy and instituting protections for trans folks.
This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Of course, it can't be all good. In the wave of ways that internet platforms actually are contributing to harms against sex workers, policies of banning sex workers' accounts from platforms like instagram are leading to direct exploitation - sometimes for thousands of dollars.
And for those who are hearing about how the Nordic model protects workers because it only goes after clients, a judge in the End Demand-promoting country of Ireland sentenced two sex workers for nine months under the charge of running a brothel, as both worked out of the same space. Both are migrants and one is pregnant.
A Rwanda-based sex worker service organization, AGAP, had their office space attacked this week, and was forcibly evicted. The organization focused on outreach to local LGBTQ sex workers, and shared space with a church. The organization was forced out "in the name of the gospel," and is committed to finding a new way forward to serve the community.
And, so as to not end on something shitty: a reminder for everyone hitting up marches and parades and really great, cruise-y happy hours this month:
Back to the grind. It's been a hell of a week, y'all.