The Sex Workers Outreach Project New York City (SWOP-NYC)/Sex Workers Action New YorK (SWANK), as the only membership-based, community organization of sex workers in New York City, has concerns regarding the recent efforts to eradicate the adult services section of the website Backpage.com. Recently passed City Council Resolution 1226 encourages efforts that increase marginalization of sex workers and subjects those in the sex trade to unnecessary violence by pushing the industry further underground. We feel that the crusade against Backpage.com is misguided and disregards human rights-based approaches and best practices to fighting exploitation and coercion.
As sex workers, we understand the nuances of the sex industry intimately and are committed to creating an industry free of coercion and exploitation. Alienating the population most knowledgeable of the industry is unwise. Bringing sex workers to the table in this discussion would be a huge step toward producing more informed policies with fewer unintended consequences and empowering people in the sex trade. We encourage the public and politicians alike to engage in dialogue with sex workers.
Enclosed in this packet are our stories in our own voices, explaining why we are against the ill-informed attack on Backpage: it is harmful toward our community, and will not accomplish anything in the fight against human trafficking except to create another obstacle in identifying and supporting victims. This packet also includes our suggestions:
(1) We recommend that the city fund emergency shelter resources for homeless and housing unstable youth. This prevention tactic is widely supported and will make a real impact in keeping youth out of the sex trade.
(2) We also strongly encourage the city to de-prioritize prostitution and prostitution-related arrests. Fear of arrest for those directly or tangentially involved in the sex industry decreases the likelihood that persons involved in or aware of exploitative situations will come forward.
We provide you with our stories, opinions, and informed suggestions. We believe these submissions to be the most relevant and time-sensitive solutions to rectifying the negative consequences of the criminalization tactics currently used to address the sex industry. We also believe our recommendations to most adequately preserve the social justice concerns and human rights of all who are involved in the sex trade, willingly or otherwise. We encourage you to embrace these human rights-based solutions that are grounded in the principles of dignity and respect for all of your constituents.
We thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to working together in the future.
Sex Workers Outreach Project – New York City (SWOP-NYC)
Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK)
June 20, 2012