This is an unprecedented political moment for the rights of sex workers, due in large part to the sustained organizing of sex workers themselves. Signs of this are everywhere—last month, Kamala Harris spoke approvingly of decriminalizing the sale of sex between “consenting adults,” a move that Melissa Gira Grant, a longtime journalist covering the industry, wrote“represents a major win for sex workers,” Harris’s past work as a prosecutor notwithstanding. Weeks earlier, Decrim NY, a new coalition pushing for the full decriminalization of the sex trade in New York was launched, led primarily by sex workers, anti-violence activists, and LGBTQ service providers. As part of that effort, newly elected New York state senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar announced they plan on introducing legislation to decriminalize the sex trade later this spring. All of this in the span of months.

As Molly Crabapple noted recently in the New York Review of Books, sex workers began organizing around full decriminalization in earnest in 2018:

That April, the US Congress passed FOSTA/SESTA, twin bills that stripped sex workers of the ability to advertise or seek support online by making websites criminally liable for their postings. This impoverished the community, forcing some workers back to pimps or onto streets, where they faced arrest or assault.”

In response, sex workers—both young women and longtime activists—got together and mobilized to fight for full decriminalization of their work.

The complete decriminalization of the sex trade is an approach that has gained traction in recent years, with even groups such as Amnesty International callingfor “the decriminalization of all aspects of adult consensual sex work due to the foreseeable barriers that criminalization creates to the realization of the human rights of sex workers.” But as with every successful movement, there has been a backlash, led by longstanding feminist organizations that continue to assert that sex work is, to use the words of Gloria Steinem, a form of “body invasion.” Full decriminalization, no matter the studies that have been conducted, the first-hand experiences of many sex workers or people otherwise targeted with anti-prostitution laws, and the endorsements from human rights organizations, is still seen as a radical idea, and more to the point, one that some feminists believe is antithetical to the needs of women.

Read the full article:

The fight to decriminalize sex work exposes old feminist divides by Esther Wang

March 12th, 2019