|● The criminalization of sex work has a devastating impact on the lives of sex workers, overwhelmingly women, and their families. It increases vulnerability to violence, discrimination and exploitation, and stigmatization. Millions face arrest, imprisonment, deportation, being separated from their children, denied health care, housing, jobs and education. Sex workers who work the street and sex workers of color are disproportionately impacted: nationally, almost 42% of those arrested for prostitution 18 years and over are Black, and Black youth make up over 50% of those arrested. Many sex workers are formerly incarcerated people. Convictions can bar access to other jobs and prevent sex workers from leaving prostitution.
● Prostitution is a survival strategy to deal with poverty, discrimination, debt, low wages, unemployment, exploitation and homelessness. Many sex workers are mothers struggling to support children or who have had their children taken from them. Many are trans discriminated against and young people who have left violent families or been placed in foster care.
● Most sex workers who are raped or sexually assaulted don’t report as they face being arrested or at best ignored. Sexism, racism, police harassment and brutality are common. Police demand free sex and take advantage of sex workers’ illegality, as in the ongoing Oakland police scandal of over 30 Bay Area police having sex with a young woman, while conducting stings against street workers, mainly women of color. Serial murderers often start by killing prostitutes knowing they are more likely to get away with it.
Sex workers have been campaigning for the decriminalization of prostitution for decades and our movement is gaining support. New Zealand decriminalized prostitution in 2003 with verifiable improvements in sex workers’ safety and rights. Amnesty International (AI) recently passed ground breaking policy in support of decriminalization along with many other prominent organizations . Legislators in New Hampshire proposed decriminalization earlier this year. Instead of supporting this, a national strategy of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs is being rolled out treating sex workers not as workers entitled to rights but as sick people in need of “treatment”. A recent campaign initiated by US PROStitutes Collective and supported by sex worker organizations in California, nationally and internationally, and by others, has called for the clauses that relate to sex work to be removed from LEAD.
We the undersigned support sex workers call for:
- Implementation of Amnesty International’s recommendation for governments to decriminalize sex work, and to tackle poverty by providing resources so that sex workers can leave prostitution if they want to.
- LEAD programs to exclude sex work clauses – sex workers need rights not “treatment”