DSW Joins Community Organizers at a Trans/Sex Workers Rights Mixer

October 4, 2019

The New York State Gender Diversity Coalition convened at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar to exchange ideas about how to support gender diversity, equality, and sex worker rights in New York. This new coalition of sex workers’ rights and LGBTQIA* activists highlights the important overlap between DSW’s mission and the rights and safety of the LGBTQ community.

The event was organized by The New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG) and The Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights (SOAR) Institute, co-directed by Melissa Broudo and Crystal DeBoise of DSW. NYTAG and SOAR have a veritable history of fighting for both of these communities in the New York area and beyond. DSW was honored and excited to join them at this event.

Activists march for sex-worker and trans rights in Stockholm, Sweden, in October 2019. (Photo: Twitter/SWARM)

DSW’s Melissa Broudo and Frances Steele join with the organizers and attendees of the Brooklyn event.

This alliance continues to be incredibly important to the policy we are striving towards. On October 2, LGBTQ advocates in Washington, DC, delivered a letter to DC Council members advocating for the full decriminalization of sex work on the grounds that it is “critical to the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ community.” There will be a hearing on October 17 in DC on the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019. If passed, the bill will decriminalize sex work in our nation’s capital. Kaytlin Bailey will testify at the hearing.

NY Should Allow Trafficking Survivors To Clear Criminal Records

October 1, 2019

A good prostitution-related bill that passed the Assembly side of the NY legislature in June is still pending in the state Senate. This legislation — known on the Senate side as S981A — would fully vacate the criminal convictions of human-trafficking victims.

In 2010, NY became the first state to enact a law that allows human-trafficking victims to vacate certain criminal convictions related to sex work. This law was a good first step, but it didn’t go far enough to protect the rights and safety of trafficked individuals. While the 2010 law recognizes the social, psychological, and financial consequences of labeling victims as criminals, its scope is limited: The law allows only sex-related trafficking survivors to clear convictions — not consensual sex-work convictions, and not convictions for non-sexual forms of labor exploitation.

Human-trafficking victims are often arrested for offenses that extend beyond prostitution, such as drug possession, trespassing, or possession of a weapon. DSW General Counsel Melissa Broudo was featured in The New York Times in 2015 for her pioneering work in this field. Broudo contended that criminalization makes it more difficult for trafficking victims and consensual adult sex workers alike to build a life outside of the industry because of employment and housing discrimination. And convictions have especially severe consequences for non-citizens, because those convicted of prostitution-related offenses are often deported.

DSW enthusiastically supports the NY legislation, which was introduced by Jessica Ramos (D) on the Senate side. It’s vital to take a harm-reduction, human-rights approach when fighting for justice for trafficking survivors.

Sen. Jessica Ramos (D) and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D) speak about the bill they are co-sponsoring in Albany. (Photo: Danielle Blunt/Queens Eagle)

Demonstrators march in support of vacatur legislation in Jackson Heights, July 2018. (Photo: Andy Katz/Brooklyn Eagle)

The bill, as proposed in April (via NYSenate.org)

Twenty Years Later, Data Show That the Swedish Model Harms Sex Workers

September 29/30, 2019

Twenty years after Sweden passed the Sex Purchase Act of 1999, the country hosted “Sex Work, Human Rights, and Health: Assessing 20 Years of the Swedish Model” in Stockholm. The conference brought together activists, researchers, and policymakers from around the world to discuss the impact of the 1999 law, which criminalized the purchase of sex (arresting clients) while permitting the sale of sex (not arresting sex workers).

According to a report released by the organizers of the conference, Sweden’s law has “contributed to [the] increasing stigmatization and vulnerability of women, and people of all genders, contradicting the proclaimed feminist-humanitarian principles of the lawmakers.”

Fuckforbundet, a sex-worker rights organization founded by and for sex workers, organized the conference and published the report “Twenty Years of Failing Sex Workers: A community report on the impact of the 1999 Swedish Sex Purchase Act.”

The report explains how sex workers’ living and working conditions have deteriorated since 1999 because of the Swedish government’s “widespread systematic attempts to eradicate the sex industry.” Rather than empowering women, the Swedish model increases the stigmatization and vulnerability of workers in a criminalized industry. This criminalization is particularly dangerous for immigrants and women of color.

Before the conference concluded, hundreds of activists marched through Stockholm’s streets to demand that the Swedish government protect sex workers. Protesters explained to reporters from PinkNews UK that criminalizing clients contributes to the stigmatization of those in the sex industry.

Notably, the Swedish government has yet to a systematic evaluation of the law. Despite this lack of research, the policy has spread to other countries, including Norway, Iceland, Finland, Canada, and Northern Ireland.

In 2014, a study commissioned by the Norwegian government concluded that sex workers in Norway today suffer from diminished bargaining power and increased safety concerns, instead relying more on abusive third parties.†

The results from Norway prompted Amnesty International to conduct its 2016 study of sex-worker rights, which recommended the full decriminalization of sex work in order to “respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of sex workers.” These findings have been backed up by scholars of multiple disciplines, whose work can be found on the “resources” page of DSW’s web site.

†Bjørndahl, U. (2012). Dangerous Liaisons. A report on the violence women in prostitution in Oslo are exposed to.

Marchers carry red umbrellas, the international symbol of sex workers’ rights, at the Stockholm demonstration. (Photo: Twitter/SWARM)

The sex workers’ rights movement wants sex work decriminalized globally. (Photo: Twitter/SWARM)

The cover page of the report by Fuckforbundet

DSW in the News

September 19: DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey was invited onto Newsmax TV with John Tobacco and Frank Morano to chat about sex work, Robert Kraft, and why handcuffs almost never help.

September 22: Kaytlin Bailey appeared on “Morano in the Morning” to expand on the Robert Kraft case, why it matters for sex workers’ rights, and field calls from listeners.

September 30: “No Such Thing As Love,” a podcast hosted by Jesse Jolles and Claire Burns (two hilarious writers, comedians, and outspoken feminists), invited Kaytlin Bailey to come speak about her own experiences in sex work, confront stereotypes and stigma, and explain why decriminalization is the answer for the health, safety, and human rights of women everywhere. Listen here.

“End Demand” Doesn’t Work in Ireland

September 18, 2019

The Human Trafficking and Exploitations Act of 2015, mimicking Sweden’s end demand model, criminalized the purchase of sex rather than the sale of commercial sex in Northern Ireland. The hope was that targeting demand would cut back on trafficking. After years of aggressive implementation, the policy has failed to achieve any of its stated goals.

Sex workers know that criminalizing any part of their work will force them into unsafe and unstable work environments and limit their ability to negotiate. Three years after its implementation, the effects of the law were investigated by a research commission from Queens University Belfast. It was clear that this model neither diminishes trafficking nor supports the health and safety of workers. The findings of the independent review were presented by the UK Department of Justice on September 18.

The key findings of the study show that:

* The law has had little effect on the demand for sexual services. Sex workers reported a surge in business in the period following its introduction.

* Based on the premise that criminalization would end demand for commercial sexual services, there should have been a greater “tailing off” of sex worker advertising during the period following implementation. This has not occurred. Instead, there has been a 5% increase in the number of sex work advertisements since the law passed.

* Between 2015 and 2018, there has been an increase in the number of reports of violent crimes committed against sex workers on the Uglymugs.ie website. Assaults increased from 3 to 13, sexual assaults have gone from 1 to 13, and threatening behavior increased from 10 to 42.

* Sex workers have also been victims of higher rates of anti-social and nuisance behavior and reported higher levels of anxiety and unease.

* Only 11% of clients said that the law would cause them to stop purchasing sex, and 76% of those surveyed felt that it had no impact on the ease with which they purchase sex.

The data suggests that end demand policies are correlated with an increase in abusive behavior and violence directed at sex workers. This contributes to increased feelings of marginalization; it makes workers less likely to report violence and even more vulnerable to abuse by police. Lastly, the goal of eradicating trafficking has gone unrealized. The law has not affected the rate of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The Nordic Model has been erroneously heralded as the moral gold standard in combatting sex trafficking across the globe. Advocates for the Nordic Model aren’t listening to sex workers; they prefer to think of them as helpless, voiceless victims. Help DSW fight to end trafficking and promote health and safety for sex workers by decriminalizing sex work.

Decriminalization works. Let’s fight for it.

Katie McGrew and Dearbhla Ryan of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland are pictured at a candlelit vigil to end violence against sex workers. (Photo: Fergal Phillips/The Independent)