Empower Foundation Support Statement on LEAD

Dear Sen. Hancock, Greetings from Thailand. Empower Foundation is a Thai sex worker organization with 30 years experience of promoting justice and opportunities for sex workers. More than 50,000 sex workers in Thailand have joined us since we first began in 1985. As sex workers we work on top of a mountain of laws and policy. The proposed SB 1110 seems to be yet another policy created to punish women for working to survive and build a better life. We understand that people are concerned about prostitution but policy such as SB 1110 has been tried and failed for centuries already. Criminal law and punishment as protection has failed to end prostitution anywhere, ever. Criminalization has however caused persecution and suffering to millions of sex workers. SB 1110 seems an extension of this.

Access to services is a basic human right for everyone. If they are the right services provided in the right way then sex workers will access them ourselves. If you need to threaten us with jail in order to make us go, then isn’t it time to reform the services? It’s not necessary to approve of sex work in order to put aside the use of criminal law as a weapon to control and punish other women. You can still make strong policy to reduce poverty, racism, violence, stigma, corrupt law enforcement etc. We do understand that you have not had the proper resources and expert support needed to develop policy on sex work. Sex worker organizations must be at the forefront of reforms and policy.

The good news is that in 2016 it is easy to connect. The global sex worker network (nswp.org) has a wealth of evidence from over 230 member organizations in 72 countries. Closer to home our extended family of the US PROStitutes Collective, Black Trans Lives Matter; Coyote, Rhode Island; English Collective of Prostitutes; Erotic Services Providers Union; Kate Zen, Migrant Sex Workers Project, Canada; Red Umbrella Project, Margaret Prescod, Founder, Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike all stand ready to inform and guide you. Please set SB 1110 aside, step away from punishment & invite sex workers to the table.”

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