States Open With a Bang

In the still-cold months of every year, as state legislatures start to stir again, many lawmakers across the country are about to pop their heads out into the air, look around, and see if we'll have three more months of whorephobia.

(Trigger warning: lots of whorephobia here around STI transmission)

But it's not all bad! Vermont's house just voted overwhelmingly (124-19) in support of a bill which would grant immunity for prostitution-related charges when reporting a crime [WCAX Vermont]. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is likely to pass.

Another article on how the Super Bowl "trafficking" arrests weren't [Miami New Times].

California, which just took impressive steps in support of sex workers' rights last year by passing both an immunity law and banning the use of condoms as evidence, is already seeing the backlash from legislators who again want to exercise control, not respect, for porn performers in the state. Rep. Christina Garcia introduced a bill which would require the fingerprinting of all porn performers, as well as a training [NBC News] on the industry.

And in another example of bills being introduced to speak over sex workers instead of uplifting sex workers, Decriminalize Sex Work, a group led by accused sexual predator (by many, many people with similar stories, including sex worker organizers) Rob Kampia, admitted it was the group behind a possible ballot initiative in DC to decriminalize sex work in direct opposition to the leadership of Sex Workers Action Coalition [The Washington Post], a local group led by trans women of color who have or currently work in the district.

And both Connecticut and Virginia are turning their sights on massage parlors for crackdowns. Fingers crossed they figure out why this is a terrible idea sooner rather than later.

Not All Politicians

Some politicians aren't letting up - Sen. Ron Wyden, co-lead on the SAFE SEX Worker Study Act, penned this op-ed about why politicians are getting it wrong [The East Oregonian] when it comes to big tech.

And two different candidates are worth a look (in addition to Rachel Rossi in LA's DA race and Audia Jones' Houston bid). Stephanie Smith is looking to unseat Republican Rodney Davis in Illinois' 13th, and Travis County Attorney candidate (Austin, TX) Dominic Selvera is asking for the city to divest from the criminal legal system. Happy Primary Season!

Still Bedfellows?

This last year has also seen greater cracks in the foundation of two of the most anti-sex worker spaces of the last several decades: trafficking and traditional (white) feminism.

Melissa Gira Grant broke down how the Trump Administration is showing that there might be more splintering in the anti-trafficking movement [The Nation] than previously thought, even as the administration continues to enact state violence against migrants, LGBTQ people and threaten the funding of traditional NGOs.

Within the second wave feminist space of the National Organization of Women (NOW), sex work has also surfaced generational breaks, as the organization fights to balance its anti-sex work president with chapters who support sex workers' rights to life and safety. [The Daily Beast] (Remember when NOW President Toni Van Pelt said she spoke for all NOW Chapters at the DC decrim hearing? That didn't go over so well, especially for the local DC Chapter who was in support of the bill.)

Around the Globe

And while we have been following the many developments in the United States, globally there has been major victories and losses in the world of sex workers rights.

Canada has, once again, found that laws criminalizing the  sex trade are unconstitutional [CTV News]. The laws were found unconstitutional in 2014, saying that criminalization was an affront to sex workers' right to safety (we don't have anything like that in the US in our constitution, so couldn't mount the same case here). In the wake of that case, Canada went back to the drawing board and instead of listening to sex workers on what should be put in place, instituted the Nordic Model. This case is specific to some of the third party statutes, including making money from the sex trade. While it will most likely be appealed, it's a huge step forward and a big win for the health and safety of sex workers in Canada.

[Related: Canadian MP Laurel Collins speaks to about sex work and the law.]

Other countries, though, are taking major steps backwards. In Tel Aviv, the last three known strip clubs were shut down by police [The Jerusalem Post] for their contribution to sex work, citing zoning laws. Monday, sex workers who had lost their jobs gathered in front of the shuttered club to protest their loss of income, and having many of the same frustrations we're all familiar with:

“I think my phone must be broken,” she said, “because nobody from the  Feminist NGO’s called me to offer help [to pay the bills] after my club was closed down.”

In Amsterdam, a city known for its red light district, a years-long conversation about the state of that identity. In the last few years, the city has clamped down on windows and tours, and now they might be proposing to move one step further [CityLab] and send the red light district to be more nondescript in the suburbs.

Bangladesh took a step towards the important cultural work of seeing sex workers as part of what makes a community whole and rich, and for the first time gave a traditional Islamic funeral to a sex worker [BBC] who passed away. Hadima Begun was 65 and leaves behind a son, Mukul Seikh, and her 35-year-old daughter Laxmi, who is also a sex worker.

Getting Together

March 3 is International Sex Workers Rights Day and groups around the country and globe are coming together to celebrate.

And a new group forming in Detroit!

Back to the grind!