Decrim Now, DC
The largest story from the last two weeks was that the Judiciary Committee of the DC City Council held a hearing on decriminalization of the sex trade after two years of work from the Sex workers Action Coalition. The hearing, which can be seen here, lasted more than 14 hours (so it can only be seen by masochists), with sex workers from the coalition and allies sharing the many reasons why decriminalization is a step towards supporting the health and safety of people in the sex trade. But the hearing did not go unnoticed, and the day became a who’s who of anti-sex work groups [New Republic], who shared a range of misinformation and fear mongering claims. While there is no subsequent vote scheduled on the bill [Washington Blade], advocates remain undaunted. The hearing comes on the heels of months of town hall hearings, canvassing, and coalition building in the District.
The day had many powerful moments of testimony from local activists and made a grand mark on the history of sex worker rights in the US. There's plenty to see on Twitter if you check out @DecrimNowDC.
This also happened at the same time an article came out detailing the sexual violence [Washington City Paper] that the MPD (DC’s local law enforcement) uses to conduct “human trafficking operations” (Trigger Warning on the article.) Groups like the Polaris Project touted their connection to the city’s Human Trafficking Task Force, where MPD is a member, during their testimony.
Currently, the bill, the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, is in the Judiciary Committee of the Council. The next steps are for the bill to be marked up, where changes to the drafting could be made, and a vote. If the Committee passes the bill, it would then go to the full Council. The Committee is accepting written testimony through Nov 1 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And on the very same day in New York, the City Council took a step they said would move towards the closing of Rikers Island by putting $8.7 billion into four new, smaller jails [NY Daily News]. The group who opposed the measure, No New Jails, is one of the campaigns DecrimNY stands with in solidarity, and earlier this year Layleen Polanco passed away at Rikers [The Cut] while being held in solitary confinement [Slixa Blog] on a charge of not successfully completing her diversion program.
Sadly, on the 17th, we also lost a champion for civil and human rights [The Hill] in the House of Representatives, Rep. Elijah Cummings. Cummings was head of the Oversight Committee, taking on issues like police violence and rights protections.
And around the world?
One UK survey showed a full doubling of the number of students engaged in sex work [The Independent], from 2% to 4%, in just two years.
Mexican sex worker group La Brigada is pursuing their own decrim efforts [OZY] after Mexico City announced that they are looking at including the trade in a new effort to regularize several forms of informal labor.
New Yorkshire has taken the step to include sex workers in its hate crimes policy.
This interview with Theirry Schaffauser, 20+ year sex worker activist who co-founded Les Putes, a French sex worker organization.
In Queensland, Australia, a proposal was just withdrawn [The Guardian] which would have expanded the powers of police to secretly film sex workers within private premises. Police surveillance of sex workers is an issue which lurks in the background, often unchecked, when it comes to policing of the sex trade. This year, the Robert Kraft case surfaced how easy it can be to get the footage itself [New York Times], and how sloppy law enforcement is in figuring out whether or not they’re violating people’s rights, and the passage of last year’s Trafficking reauthorizations included a provision to expand wiretapping for prostitution-related activity.
And while no one seems to think legalization is the way to go, the Dutch apparently missed the memo, and has proposed banning sex work for everyone under the age of 21 [Daily Mail] and imposing a licensing structure for all sex workers in the country.
Out into the Internet
Facebook has also announced that it’s tightening its policy on “sexual solicitation” [Daily Dot] to include more things which will get you kicked off the platform, while sex workers are struggling to stay [Buzzfeed News] in the space. The move comes while Zuckerberg defends the company’s policy to post false information [CNN] as long as it's posted as a Trump ad and using a white supremacist organization as a “fact checker" [Mother Jones] in the years following the company's involvement in the 2016 Russian campaign [NPR] to steal the election and a genocide in Myanmar [New York Times].
But if you're pissed and are into public humiliation of men by women and femmes, here's something to warm your heart:
And in what I consider some of the most frustrating parts of the conversation of regulating the internet, there are actual bad actors connected to websites victimizing sex workers connected which go far beyond questions of content monitoring. Recently, 22 women have come forward to talk about the exploitation they faced [VICE] with the company GirlsDoPorn. Several involved with the company have been indicted.
Coming up to D17
We're only a few weeks away from one of the biggest global events in sex worker rights: the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. SWOP-USA has mini grants available for local groups looking to host an event with applications open through Oct 30. Apply below, and check out the website for information and a place to include names and stories of the loves and family we've lost.
Looking forward to the year we don't need to have these anymore.
Growing the Community
In these times with so much going on, there's no better time to find your folks; check out these events and meetings coming up:
Y'all are glorious and beautiful, and the work you do is important.
Back to the grind.
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