Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact: Kaytlin Bailey, Communications Director
kaytlin@dswork.org (m) 919-649-7725

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 27, 2020

Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

Super Tuesday, March 3, is also International Sex Worker Rights Day.

International Sex Worker Rights Day began in 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta-based sex worker rights group that represents more than 65,000 male, female, and transgender sex workers. Durbar is a Bengali word that means unstoppable.

Sex workers and their allies across the world celebrate March 3 as International Sex Worker Rights Day, an annual and international event. On Super Tuesday, sex workers and their allies will be among the primary voters in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The majority of voters across the political spectrum support sex worker rights; we deserve a candidate who does too.

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) has updated its presidential candidate report card ahead of this historic day. Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Sex workers vote.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/2020-presidential-campaign.

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Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact J. Leigh Brantly, Research & Project Manager
jleigh@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 6, 2020

Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), the largest organization in the country focused solely on decriminalizing sex work, released its presidential candidate “report card” on Thursday, February 6, 2020. The organization is encouraging primary voters to use the issue as a litmus test for candidates who claim they want to reduce prison populations, support human rights, and promote health and safety within our communities.

Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Every candidate claims to want to reduce violence and exploitation in the sex industry. We graded the candidates based on whether or not the policies they support will help us achieve those goals. Voters should know how candidates think about policing the oldest profession.”

All three frontrunners, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren, scored a “C” from the sex worker rights group. Michael Bloomberg received the only outright “F” because of his degrading public remarks and punitive policies. Data from the New York Division of Justice Services (DCJS) showed that arrest rates for prostitution were 30% higher during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. Demographic data reveals that the spike in arrest rates almost exclusively targeted black Americans.

Melissa Broudo, general council for DSW, spoke to campaigns while preparing this report. “We were thrilled that many candidates were open to this conversation. In my nearly 20 years advocating for decriminalization, this is the first time this issue is part of the national conversation.”

Data for Progress released a poll on January 30, 2020, showing that an “outright majority of all voters support decriminalizing sex work.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/issues-advocacy/2020-presidential-campaign.

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DSW Ranks Presidential Candidates

February 6, 2020

In light of the recent poll by Data for Progress, revealing that a majority of US voters support the decriminalization of consensual, adult prostitution, it is clear that sex work policy reform has become a national issue. Many Democratic primary candidates have expressed “openness to the decriminalization of sex work.” Others position themselves under what they describe as decriminalization but, in effect, ranges from prohibition-style criminalization to government regulation. Others have failed to voice an opinion on this critical issue.

DSW has released its report card grading each candidate on whether and how they intend to protect the safety and health of sex workers. We assigned grades to each candidate based on their stated policy positions, voting records, public statements, and private conversations.

Reason magazine featured DSW’s rankings in an article by Elizabeth Nolan Brown. To see how the democratic primary candidates stack up on these issues, visit DSW’s page here.

FEBRUARY HERO

Marsha P. Johnson Honored by Governor Cuomo as He Endorses “Walking­ While­ Trans” Repeal

February 1, 2020

Marsha P. Johnson is the first to be honored by DSW’s monthly hero campaign. Ms. Johnson, who passed away on July 6, 1992, was a queer liberation activist and one of the most prominent figures in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. She worked as a prostitute for much of her life and is a fixture of the intersection between transgender, gender non-confirming, non-binary, and LGBTQI liberation and sex worker rights. Marsha’s legacy is critical to movements fighting for New York’s most vulnerable communities. Throughout her life, she spoke out against oppressive policing; advocated for sex workers, prisoners, and people with HIV/AIDS; and founded one of the first safe spaces for transgender and homeless youth.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced that he would rename East River State Park after Marsha P. Johnson during his speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York gala. In the same address, Governor Cuomo formally endorsed legislation to repeal a loitering statute known as the “Walking While Trans Ban.” Walking While Trans has historically enabled law enforcement to arrest transgender women, particularly those of color, for merely walking down the street or wearing provocative clothing. This harmful and discriminatory law is responsible for a significant number of prostitution-related arrests in New York City.

The governor’s endorsement is an essential step towards repealing Section 240.37 of New York State’s penal law, an initiative sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester). The repeal failed to pass last session after being stalled in the Senate Codes Committee. The #WalkingWhileTransBan coalition applauded the governor in a written statement. They said, “We look forward to working together with the Governor to ensure Black and LatinX women and TGNC [transgender and gender-nonconforming] communities are no longer arbitrarily targeted for gender-based stop-and-frisk policing.”

New York City is taking important steps to address its history of erasure and criminalization of TGNC individuals of color. The NYC police department updated its patrol guide last year to ban the targeting of individuals based on “gender, gender identity, clothing, and location.” Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that the city would be building a monument on Christopher Street dedicated to Johnson and fellow transgender activist Sylvia Rivera.

The re-dedication of East River Park and recognition of Johnson’s and Rivera’s work are sorely needed to educate communities about the true history of gay liberation in New York and beyond. Pride has historically been portrayed as an exclusively white, gay, and cisgendered male movement. Statues of LGBTQ individuals, particularly those of color, are markedly absent from the city’s monuments.

There is no better way to honor the legacy of this fearless visionary than to protect the rights of the communities she spent her life championing. If you are a New York State resident, in honor of Ms. Johnson’s life and legacy, and to help build a safer and more just community for all, please urge your representatives to repeal Walking While Trans. You can do so by contacting your two state legislators through DSW’s Take Action page.

Marsha P. Johnson protests Bellevue Hospital’s treatment of street people and gay people, circa 1968-75. (Photo: Diana Davies/NY Public Library)

From left to right: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Jane Vercaine, Barbara Deming, Kady Vandeurs, Carol Grosberg, and others lead a protest at City Hall (Photo: Diana Davies/Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) addresses the crowd at the Marriott Marquis during the February 1 Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York gala. (Photo: Matt Tracy/Gay City News)

Marsha P. Johnson (Photo: Netflix)

Majority of Voters Support Decrim

January 30, 2020

A national poll released by Data for Progress (DFP) found that an outright majority of voters support the full decriminalization of adult consensual sex work. Two-thirds of voters aged 18-44 support decriminalization. Full decriminalization has been widely recognized by human rights organizations as the best way to protect the health and safety of people working in the sex trade; expand labor protections; protect immigrants, LGBTQ, and gender rights; and fight trafficking. The report, which included the poll results, was written by DFP fellow Nina Luo in partnership with the ACLU, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Human Rights Campaign, HIPS, the Transgender Law Center, and others.

“Decriminalizing Survival: Policy Platform and Polling on the Decriminalization of Sex Work” contextualizes national and state level shifts towards progressive sex work policy. The executive summary notes, “For the first time in presidential primary history, 2020 candidates have competed for a progressive position on the sex trade. … A recent resolution introduced by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley calls for decriminalization. Legislators, supported by community groups, have also introduced decriminalization bills in New York and D.C., and sex workers are mobilizing to do the same in cities and states across the country.”

DSW is humbled and encouraged to have clear public support for sex work decriminalization. We implore voters to take the rights and safety of sex workers, and other affected communities, into account when they go to the polls this year. DSW has analyzed the policy positions of all the Democratic primary candidates and released the results on our website to help voters make an informed decision.

This graph from Data for Progress’s report shows the age distribution of support for the full decriminalization of sex work.

The front page of the report displays collaborating organizations. (DFP, 2020)

Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
January 27, 2020

Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Sex workers and their allies have won an important victory in their ongoing constitutional challenge to FOSTA/SESTA, a federal law that is having a destructive impact on the health and safety of sex workers and their communities.

“This is the most important case pending in federal court,” said Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for DSW. “Sex workers are feeling the brunt of this law now, but so are harm reduction advocates, massage therapists, and human rights organizations.”

At issue is the FOSTA/SESTA law, enacted in 2018, which imposes severe criminal penalties for the operators of web sites that allow discussions of prostitution, which caused many dating web sites to close.  As a result, sex workers who had been using websites to schedule and screen their clients have since resorted to more dangerous tactics, such as soliciting on the street or relying on third parties such as pimps.

“Allowing sex workers to schedule and screen their clients online improves the health and safety of our communities,” said Melissa Broudo, DSW’s staff attorney who coordinated DSW’s amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs.

Studies show that when Craigslist Erotic Services allowed adults to negotiate consensual sex with each other, the female homicide rate dropped by 17%. When sex work was decriminalized in Rhode Island from 2003 to 2009, reported rapes dropped by 30% and gonorrhea by 40%.

“The evidence couldn’t be more clear,” said Broudo. “Allowing adult consensual sex workers and their clients to connect online makes the work safer.”

On Friday, January 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs’ case can proceed to trial, where a federal judge will decide whether FOSTA/SESTA interferes with the constitutional rights of website operators and their users.

“Sex workers have been waiting for our day in court for over 100 years,” said Bailey.

Opinion: Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
January 24, 2020

Sex workers have been waiting for our day in court for over 100 years. And finally, we’re going to get it. On January 24, sex workers and their allies won a significant victory in our ongoing constitutional challenge to FOSTA/SESTA, a federal law that attempts to erase the oldest profession from the Internet.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs’ case can proceed to trial, where a federal judge will decide whether FOSTA/SESTA interferes with the constitutional rights of website operators and their users. If you use the Internet, this law affects you. And if people’s health and safety is important to you, you should be siding with the sex workers in this case.

FOSTA/SESTA, enacted in 2018, imposes severe criminal penalties for web site operators that allow discussions of prostitution. The law is being broadly interpreted to include massage therapists, harm reduction service providers, and sex worker rights activists.

Sex workers who had been using websites to schedule and screen their clients have since resorted to more dangerous tactics, soliciting on the street or relying on third parties, such as pimps. Some are using offshore platforms on the dark web that, unlike Backpage and Craigslist, do not cooperate with law enforcement.

Prohibition doesn’t work. The more we push the sex industry underground, the more dangerous it becomes. A meta-analysis reviewing 30 years of data published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and John Hopkins University found overwhelming evidence that repressive policing of prostitution causes less health and safety among sex workers. We cannot help people we are trying to eradicate.

FOSTA/SESTA attempted to erase places on the Internet that sex workers had been using to mitigate the risks of our trade for years. Immediately after this law took effect, the St. James Infirmary in San Francisco reported a 700% increase in street-based prostitution. Sex workers and harm reduction advocates have reported a marked rise in homicides, suicides, overdoses, and desperate people doing desperate things to survive.

Studies show that when Craigslist Erotic Services allowed adults to negotiate consensual sex with each other from the privacy of their homes, the female homicide rate dropped by 17%. When sex work was decriminalized in Rhode Island from 2003 to 2009, reported rapes dropped by 30% and gonorrhea by 40%.

Allowing sex workers to find and negotiate with potential clients online before exposing ourselves to risk reduces violence and STDs. This is not conjecture or theory — studies prove what sex workers have been saying for a century.

On January 25, 1917, 300 prostitutes in San Francisco marched in the street to protest the imminent eviction of the brothels where they lived and conducted their work. They told the moral reformers and politicians that eviction would only make their lives worse and their work more dangerous. They were right. And on January 24 — 103 years later — federal judges gave sex workers and our allies the chance to make our case in court.

-Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications for Decriminalize Sex Work