Sex workers today join with other feminists and human rights activists to voice their opposition to a Trump-inspired ‘anti-trafficking’ law – the US version is known as SESTA/FOSTA (1) – ahead of a debate on mirroring them in the UK, which will be held in the House of Commons on Wednesday (2). The proposed legislation would attempt to kick sex workers off the internet, banning them from advertising and making it harder for them to accept payment.
The protest is being held in Parliament Square between 1pm and 2pm on Wednesday July 4th, and is co-hosted by the ECP (English Collective of Prostitutes), SWARM (the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement), and migrant sex worker organisation X:talk.
These proposals would make it more difficult for sex workers to screen clients, and share information about dangerous clients among themselves, or to connect with each other for support. Removing US sex workers’ ability to advertise online and so find clients independently has already pushed them in greater numbers into the arms of managers, many of whom are exploitative.
This law has also forced some US sex workers to work on the street. Street based sex workers bear the brunt of criminalisation and police abuse. A law that pushes more sex workers onto the streets would make even more people vulnerable to violence and arrest.
Ava Caradonna, a spokeswoman from X:talk, said:
“This law is being pushed on the basis that it will tackle trafficking – in fact, it will make the lives of migrant sex workers harder, and increase our vulnerability to violence. When you take away our ability to work independently and share safety information, we are pushed into more exploitative and dangerous situations. The exploitation of migrants in the UK sex industry is a huge problem, but this exploitation is caused by harsh immigration laws, where people are prevented from working in the mainstream economy and risk deportation if they come forward about abuse. This is compounded by terrible prostitution law, which forces us to work in the shadows, at risk of arrest and without labour rights. If politicians were serious about tackling the exploitation of migrants in the UK sex industry, they would reform immigration law to give all migrants more rights and more security, and decriminalise sex work in order that we could work safely, collectively, and with access to labour rights. Instead, politicians are desperate to pile on more and more criminalisation, seemingly oblivious to the fact that criminalisation is the problem, not the solution.”
Jen, a sex worker and activist with SWARM, said:
“It’s extraordinary that people who call themselves feminists are promoting the exact same legal model which the Trump administration has used against sex workers. We know already that SESTA/FOSTA is endangering vulnerable women and forcing them into the hands of managers and abusive partners. It’s also shifting power from sex workers to clients: clients in the US are bragging about how they know sex workers can’t afford to make basic safety checks now.
“Agencies which try to identify people who have been trafficked also object to these proposals. They know it makes life more dangerous for the most vulnerable – which can never be a viable ‘anti-trafficking’ strategy. The promoters of this law cannot have missed the damage it has already done to people who sell sex in the States. The only conclusion we can come to is they simply want to impoverish and endanger sex workers because they hate commercial sex more than they care for our welfare.”
Niki Adams, a spokeswoman with the ECP, said:
“Women go into sex work to refuse the poverty that some MPs seem to think we should quietly endure. We go into sex work so we can refuse the low-waged, often exploitative, work in the jobs which are the alternatives to prostitution. Many of us are single mothers working to support families and have been hounded off of benefits by punitive sanctions. If MPs like Sarah Champion want to save us from sex work, she should outlaw our poverty, not prostitution. And support our demand to decriminalise sex work so that we can be safe from arrest.”
X:Talk: Ava: 07981070417
ECP: 020 7482 2496 // firstname.lastname@example.org
- SESTA/FOSTA explainer: www.vox.com/culture/2018/4/13/17172762/fosta-sesta-backpage-230-internet-freedom
- The debate has been brought by Sarah Champion MP, and is held 2.30pm to 4pm in Westminster Hall, July 4th. https://calendar.parliament.uk/calendar/Commons/All/2018/7/4/Daily