Some sex workers and their allies are feeling left behind by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who have both unveiled wide-reaching policy platforms on criminal justice reform this week that don’t include a single mention of decriminalizing sex work.

The senators are two of just five 2020 Democratic candidates with a public position on sex work. Though shortly after his campaign launch, Sanders said he didn’t “have an answer” to questions about whether he supports decriminalization, in June, a spokesperson for Sanders told VICE that he believes “decriminalization is certainly something that should be considered.” The statement came within 24 hours of a statement from Warren, who has said she’s “open” to the policy. It was the first time either of them expressed openness toward the “decriminalization” framework sex workers have been calling for. (Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, as well as Representative Tulsi Gabbard, have said they support decriminalization outright.)

But as sex-work decriminalization becomes an issue quickly entering mainstream political discussion—including among presidential candidates—advocates for decriminalization say it’s not enough to simply be “open” to the idea or to consider it. They want to see concrete policies that take workers and advocates seriously as a constituency, and address the ways they say their community is under near-constant attack from the criminal justice system.

 

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Aug 20th, 2019