DSW Supports the Continued Legal Fight Against FOSTA/SESTA

August 23, 2019

Next month, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the appeal of Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al v. The United States of America, a case that seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). FOSTA modified the Communications Decency Act Section 230 to permit civil and criminal suits against third-party platforms/websites that promote or permit prostitution or trafficking. DSW, along with many other sex workers’ rights, civil liberties, and human rights organizations vehemently oppose this law. Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s initial challenge to FOSTA was denied in U.S. District Court in 2018 on the grounds of standing, and they have since filed this appeal. DSW General Counsel Melissa Broudo co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of a dozen allied organizations in support of Woodhull’s challenge to the law back in February of this year.

Plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction and put a halt to future enforcement of FOSTA, meaning no one could be arrested and charged until the case is decided. The chilling effect is undeniable and has already threatened the livelihood of sex workers and pushed many to work in less safe conditions. This is a bad and dangerous law.

DSW General Counsel Melissa Broudo co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of a dozen allied organizations.

DSW Participates in Woodhull’s 2019 Sexual Freedom Summit

August 18, 2019

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey attended the 10th annual Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit hosted in Washington, DC. She connected to sex worker rights activists and sexual freedom advocates from all over the country. Attending panels, presentations, and performances, Kaytlin was able to get a broad perspective on the issues plaguing sex workers and their allies in different states.

Kaytlin was especially moved by DC’s Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS) and the transgendered women willing to speak to the systemic issues that bar them from fully participating in some advocacy organizations. She connected with criminalized sex workers in Nevada, got to hang out with living legend Carol Leigh, participated in an incredibly informative discussion about using a human rights framework to advocate for sex workers’ health and safety led by Dr. Jill McCracken, and had many conversations about strategy and pushing for a better future for all of us.

Sex workers are not a homogenous group. We come in all colors and creeds, we come to this work for different reasons, and we have wildly different experiences—but allies from across the political spectrum can work together toward a future where our lawmakers listen to sex workers and stop the arrests.

Kaytlin Bailey smokes a cigar with Ceyenne Doroshow, strikes a pose with Carol Leigh, and hangs out with Amber DiPietra & Ceyenne (clockwise from L, August 15-18, 2019).

DSW Makes Its Case at National Conference of State Legislatures

August 6-8, 2019

Melissa Broudo, DSW’s general council and RI coordinator, and Kaytlin Bailey, DSW’s communications director, met with state legislators from all over the country at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting, which was hosted this year in Nashville, TN.

DSW handed out fliers, t-shirts and buttons, and we started conversations with lawmakers pressing the point that the best way to end violence and exploitation within the sex trade is to stop arresting consenting adults engaged in sex work. To demonstrate the difference between trafficking and sex work, we compared the high-profile cases of Jeffrey Epstein—a serial predator who preyed on children and should have been stopped years ago—and Robert Kraft, a single 70-year-old man who payed a 40-year-old legally licensed masseuse to rub a different part of his body.

DSW was very well received. We ran out of t-shirts within the first hour and ran out of buttons on the first day. Legislators from across the political spectrum and country were ready to talk about decriminalization. Many lawmakers seemed to understand that this is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. Several legislators pledged to begin forming coalitions and pressing their colleagues using the information we presented.

Kaytlin Bailey & Melissa Broudo mind DSW’s booth at the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Nashville (August 7, 2019).

Tiffany Cabán Concedes Queens DA Race

August 6, 2019

Tiffany Cabán came within 60 votes of winning the Queens DA race, running on a platform of decriminalizing and decarcerating nonviolent offenders such as sex workers. She specifically pledged her support to the sex work community. After a lengthy recount process, she conceded on August 6.

Despite her loss, Cabán was able to push sex workers’ message of destigmatizing, decriminalizing and decarcerating. She pushed her opponent Melinda Katz and all Queens residents to rethink how we police our communities.

DSW General Counsel Melissa Broudo and one of our legal consultants, Marguerite Schauer, volunteered their time to oversee the extensive recount process of this extremely close and important election.

NY elections committee reviews all ballots cast in the DA’s race (July 25).

Nevertheless She Existed: Kaytlin Bailey Presents a Sex Worker From History

July 31, 2019

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey participated in Nevertheless She Existed, a live show and podcast produced at Caveat Theater. She told the story of Phryne, a famous courtesan in the classical Greek period who defended herself against blasphemy charges by disrobing in front of the all-male jury and declaring her perfect body a gift from the gods. She won her case.

This show specifically highlighted the contribution sex workers have been making to their communities for literally all of human history. Junior Mintt reminded us what an undeniable powerhouse Josephine Baker was in her lifetime. Solange Azor talked about one of the founding mothers of the sex worker rights movement, Margo St. James, who created COYOTE, and Anna Bianco talked about the incredible achievements of Theodora, who became empress of Rome in 527 after spending some time in a brothel in the Roman Empire.

Kylie Holloway, Kaytlin Bailey, Junior Mintt, Anna Bianco, Solange Azor & Molly Gaebe at Caveat Theater perform for Nevertheless She Existed (from L to R, July 31, 2019).

Hawaii Passes Historic Change to Prostitution Law

On July 2, 2019, with the passage of SB1039, Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to allow a person to have a prostitution conviction erased without being a victim of trafficking. The previous law only expunged sex-work convictions after 6 years if there was conclusive proof of coercion or victimization. Sen. Laura Theilan (D) said that "The days of the scarlet letter are over. People who have been in prostitution should not have an onerous burden on them once they leave that job."

DSW supports the law but cautions its encouragement of conflating sex work with victimization. The best way to combat trafficking and promote safety remains full legalization so that sex workers who wish to find new employment can do so without shame or stigma, regardless of their reasons for entering the trade.

Hawaii Governor David Ige signs SB1039 into law on Tuesday, July 2. (image: CNN.com)

California To Pass Bill for the Health and Safety of Sex Workers

On July 1, 2019, the California Assembly passed SB 233 54-13. SB 233 is an act to amend section 1162 of the penal code by prohibiting the arrest of a person for misdemeanor drug- or prostitution-related offenses if that person is reporting a specified crime including assault, domestic violence, extortion, human trafficking, sexual battery or stalking. It also repeals section 781.1 of the Evidence Code, which allows condoms to be admissible as evidence in the prosecution of prostitution crimes. The bill was first introduced in February 2019 by sponsor Sen. Weiner (D), who has said the legislation is "about protecting victims and increasing public safety. … The last thing we need is for sex workers to be further victimized when they report a crime." The ease and safety of condoms access is also a driving factor. A study by Human Rights Watch found that fear of arrest often overwhelmed workers’ need to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy. A Los Angeles-based sex worker reported using plastic bags (Clark-Fory, 2019).

SB 233 is en encouraging first step towards combatting the vulnerability of sex workers and “creating a social and political environment in California where people can seek help when they are victims of violence” says Dr. Alexandria Lutnick, senior research scientist with Aviva Consulting). Many cities, such as San Francisco and New York, have taken local action to implement these policies already, but it is important that they be initiated xx state for community and individual protection. The bill is now in the Senate with assembly amendments pending. DSW's directors have sent letters of support encouraging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign SB 233.

State Senator Scott Wiener (photo: sd11.senate.ca.gov)