With so much going on these days around the issue of sex work, it’s impossible to keep up. In this space, I’m going to be collecting and sharing some of the news happening around the issue of sex workers rights and try and share some context that might be helpful. I won’t be able to hit everything, but hopefully once a week I can give you a smattering of how alive this movement is right now and get you as excited as I am when I read through these things.
Decrim Conversations in the news
Decriminalization of sex work is quickly becoming the new subject du jour for presidential candidates to make an often confusing statement. So far we’ve seen questions put to Harris (used the word decriminalization, but also a history of pushing more criminalization), Sanders (no answer), Gabbard (decriminalization of consenting adults), Hickenlooper (worth exploring, likes regulation), and Castro. Pete Buttigieg even talked about how Jesus hung out with sex workers and became my favorite person running for office right now. While it’s exciting to see the topic pop up, there is no federal law that would decriminalize prostitution – that still must happen at the state level. There are, though, important changes that a Presidential administration could make in anti-trafficking enforcement or immigration enforcement for people with prostitution-related charges.
The conversation is also coming up in more local races, such as the Queen District Attorney – someone who can have a strong and immediate effect on the criminalization of people who trade sex and their communities. As it stands, Tiffany Caban is the only Queens DA candidate who has a stance on full decriminalization, and has stated “Sex work is work.”
But of course, the US isn’t the only country where this is coming up in elections. In South Africa, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition’s (SRJC) is asking the three major political parties to increase their support of sexual and reproductive rights, including the decriminalisation of sex work. (So far, none of the parties have a clear stance on decriminalisation in their official platform.)
Changes proposed for Nevada brothels
In Nevada, multiple bills have been introduced to change the industry in the only state with a form of legalization. One bill introduced in the Senate looks to ban brothels from the state (10 of the 17 counties have a brothel), though a similar bill introduced last year failed miserably. On the Assembly side, another bill was introduced to “create a legislative committee to study the working conditions of brothels and determine the extent to which Nevada’s brothels “provide for the health, safety and general welfare of sex workers.”
Interested in testifying on this bill to create this study? Sex workers in NV are organizing to give input this Thursday, March 28.
Folks working in brothels: Your voices need to be present on this!! https://t.co/nnVJQPRGK2 Testimony/your experience needed in this brothel study. Committee should hear from workers. @vause_violet @thealicelittle @TeganTate @VioletOctober @SWSupportLV @LVSWC Tag others?— Summer Hart 💕 (@OUSweetheart) March 22, 2019
Change and advocacy can take many forms, and in the UK, we get to see one of those exciting steps. For the first time in Scotland, sex workers are going to be able to join the GMB, a multi-sector labor union which has long stood up for sex workers’ rights. While the country adopted the Nordic model in 2017, workers hope this will be one step towards legislative change.
Want to learn about when dancers unionized in San Francisco? Check out the classic documentary Live Nude Girls Unite! - trailer here.
Elsewhere in the UK, though, some elected officials are investigating the kind of statements that folks who trade sex didn’t realize you even had to study to prove: that when people who are economically precarious have their benefits cut, many turn to survival sex.
Calls to action:
- Do you live in DC? Do you have a client who lives in DC? Sign this petition to push the DC City Council to decriminalize sex trade.
- If you’re in New York next Friday, March 29 – head to Flushing at 6pm where the local organizing group Red Canary is doing side walk teach-in on the unique experiences of one of the most erased, policed and silenced groups in the sex worker community – Asian migrant sex workers. You can follow them on Twitter @RedCanarySong:
Friday 3/29, 6PM, at Flushing Public Library! We're hosting a “Community Sidewalk Teach-In,” countering carceral narratives/punitive “solutions” being offered by city officials! Support self-organizing of Asian+Migrant Massage Workers in Flushing! #CopsOutOfParlors #MigrantPower pic.twitter.com/M82AEbmQGK— Red Canary 红莺歌 (@RedCanarySong) March 21, 2019
And finally, get to know Mother Karina in this interview where she talks about her 25 years of activism in LA for the trans community, including why we need to decriminalize sex work, and Elena Reynaga, who has decades experience hustling and organizing sex workers in Argentina.
And back to the grind,