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Supporter Of Providing: A Safe Haven For Sex Workers



Supporter Of Providing

kamala harris naked I’m a strong supporter of providing a safe haven for sex workers.

In a February 2019 interview with The Root, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris declared, “I’ve always been.” Sex workers, on the other hand, will tell you a different narrative.

“I’m ecstatic that we now have a black vice president.” Alex Andrews, the cofounder of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars and former board member of SWOP USA, remarked, “I wish it was anyone else but Kamala Harris.” When Harris was the district attorney of San Francisco and the attorney general of California, Andrews and others complained about the “abuse” she subjected sex workers to.

She helped the Oakland Police Department cover up a lot of the misdeeds that they were doing in regards to sex trafficking,” she added, referring to Harris’s refusal to intervene in an explosive case in which multiple police officers had sexual contact with underage sex worker Celeste Guap, whose attorney had specifically requested Harris’s assistance.

Those cops had nothing to do with Kamala Harris. She was a willing participant in the exploitation of this young woman.” In 2008, when Harris was the District Attorney, he opposed decriminalizing sex work, stating it would “throw out a welcome mat for pimps and prostitutes to come on into San Francisco.”

Andrews isn’t the only proponent of sex workers who feel conflicted. “Wow, this is the first black woman on a major party ticket,” remarked Zola Z. Bruce of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center (SWP).

A lot of black cis women, gender nonconforming folks, and trans women simply don’t realize that a black woman can hold such a prominent position.” “There are some issues,” Bruce continues, “because we know she hasn’t always been supportive of trans people, and she hasn’t always been supportive of sex workers.” I simply believe that in order for us to see a great change in our communities, we must also see her change.”

On Harris’s prosecutorial background, much ink has already been poured. The fact that the vice president–conduct elect’s recently contradicted her professed beliefs on sex work is significant. She launched a campaign to shut down Backpage, a classified advertising website popular with sex workers, in 2016, dubbing it “the world’s top online brothel” and claiming the site made “millions of dollars from trafficking.

While Backpage profited handsomely from sex work advertisements, its “adult services” listings provided a safer and more open platform for sex workers and their clients to conduct consensual transactions than had previously been accessible. The FBI shut down the site in 2018 after Harris’s grandiose mischaracterization prompted a Senate investigation.

“The loss of Backpage has wreaked havoc on our community,” Andrews added. The website enabled sex workers to work in a safer environment by allowing them to evaluate clients and advertise their services online. “Seeing the aftermath is incredibly upsetting,” said dominatrix Yevgeniya Ivanyutenko.

A lot of people lost their capacity to earn a living in a safe manner.” Many people were forced to go out on the street or do things they would not have done otherwise.

Harris should “apologize to the community,” according to M.F. Akynos, the founder and executive director of the Black Sex Worker Collective. She needs to own up to the fact that she messed up with Backpage and damaged a lot of people’s lives.”

After becoming a senator, Harris cosponsored the now-famous Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which was signed into law by President Trump in 2018 alongside the House’s the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).

FOSTA-SESTA exploited a loophole in the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230, the so-called “safe harbour” clause that exempts websites from liability for user-generated content (e.g., Amazon reviews, Craigslist ads).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that Section 230 is the “most crucial law defending internet free speech,” calling it “the backbone of the Internet.” Publishers of websites are now held accountable if third parties place sex-work adverts on their platforms.

That meant the elimination of a number of platforms used by sex workers to vet prospective clients, most notably Craigslist’s “personal encounters” section, leaving an already vulnerable labour much more vulnerable. (The Woodhull Freedom Foundation sued to overturn FOSTA on First Amendment grounds, and it won an appeal in D.C.’s district court in January 2020.)

“I submitted a number of information about decriminalization and how much SESTA-FOSTA would damage American sex workers and open them up to assault,” said Cara (an alias), who was working as a sex worker in San Francisco and a member of SWOP when the bill passed. She was completely disregarded by both senators.

The bill clearly hurt sex workers while also failing to eliminate sex trafficking. In her Fordham Law Review essay “FOSTA: A Hostile Law with a Human Cost,” Lura Chamberlain said, “Within one month of FOSTA’s implementation, 13 sex workers were reported missing, and two were dead from suicide.” “Independent sex workers were subjected to an avalanche of unwelcome solicitation from people who offered or demanded to traffic them.

Many more were raped, assaulted, and forced to flee their homes or become unable to feed their children.” According to a 2020 poll of FOSTA-effects, SESTA’s “99 percent of internet respondents said that this law does not make them feel safer,” and “80.61 percent say they are now having difficulty advertising their services.”

FOSTA-SESTA may be repealed under the Biden-Harris government, which prides itself on being sensitive to professionals and scholars. That is, assuming Biden and Harris are willing to change their minds.

“I hope that both Biden and Harris have the courage of character to acknowledge and admit that they were incorrect about how to tackle human trafficking,” Kaytlin Bailey, the communications director of Decriminalize Sex Work until this October, stated (she now hosts the Oldest Profession podcast). “I have no illusions that one of them will take the initiative on this issue, but I hope they will.”

Harris stated in a 2019 Root interview that she supports decriminalizing prostitution, a significant shift from her 2008 position: “We should really consider that we shouldn’t criminalize consensual behaviour, as long as no one is harmed.” She didn’t go into great detail, but her statements implied she would favour the so-called Nordic model, which criminalizes “johns” but legalizes selling sex.

R.J. Thompson, managing director of the SWP, observed, “Career politicians usually do what is trendy or popular.” “And, unintentionally, the foundation we’ve established in this movement has got us to a point where the Nordic model is really viable in our country…. And that concerns me greatly because it is a very dangerous position…. It is detrimental to workers.

It is directed at our customers and clients, and it directly competes with us for work. It makes us more exposed to assault as sex workers, further obscuring sex work, but it also exacerbates and makes individuals more subject to human trafficking, which they claim to be against in the first place.”

Some sex workers believe Harris will be pressured to abandon the Nordic model. “I don’t think she’s smart enough to think that arresting our clients makes anyone safer,” Bailey added. “We’re praying for the best, but fearing for the worse,” Andrews continued. Andrews cites evidence from New Zealand, where sex labour has been legalized for the past 15 years.

Every piece of evidence demonstrates that exploitation, violence, and abuse have declined drastically” in New Zealand, she said. “Moreover, the Nordic model, which is employed in Switzerland, has resulted in an upsurge in violence and exploitation.”

It’s uncertain whether Harris would favour complete decriminalization of employees and purchasers. However, there is some progress at the state and local levels, where the majority of prostitution arrests take place. “I believe we need to see bold local leadership on decrim, such as what is taking place in New York, D.C., Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington,” says the author.

It protects sex workers from prosecution if they report a crime and prevents evidence from being used as proof of sex work. Andrews believes that decriminalising sex work would follow the marijuana decriminalisation paradigm, with grassroots movements driving change. And, according to Thompson, the SWP is “working to pass full decriminalisation laws in many states.” He is concerned, though, that “we may wind up with a Nordic model.”

While a vice president does not have the authority to amend state laws, many people believe that during the Biden-Harris administration, worrisome suggestions may resurface. The EARN IT Act, which ostensibly aimed to prevent child sexual abuse online by allowing states to sue website operators for hosting child pornography on their sites (even if it was uploaded by third parties),

would have made it illegal for websites to have end-to-end encryption unless they provided the government with a “key.” It was dubbed “FOSTA on steroids” by Bailey and Andrews. While EARN IT was defeated in the previous Congress, experts are concerned that similar legislation with the potential to punish sex workers will be introduced in the following parliamentary session.

Harris also has the chance to support Senator Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) SAFE Sex Workers Study Act, which has the support of Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) (D-Ore.). If the bill succeeds, it will “mandate the first government study exploring how the closure of websites in conjunction with SESTA/FOSTA affects the health and safety of those who rely on consensual, transactional sex,” according to Khanna’s bill announcement statement.

Some sex workers and advocates are eager to work with Harris if she supports the SAFE Act or changes her views on sex work, even though many I spoke with were weary of trusting California’s “top policeman” when their lives have been criminalised. “If she put forward some sort of proposal that got sex work decriminalisation enacted across the US, that would make up for it, and I’d be her dedicated stump speech provider and elevator speaker,” Cara remarked.

It would be a terrific opportunity for her to say, ‘I got it wrong,’ and it would be a great way for her to deliver restorative justice to the individuals she harmed with her policies.” Please accept my apologies.”

Sex workers aren’t asking for much from Harris: they just want to be treated like any other group of Americans. “You don’t have to like sex work to appreciate the people who do it,” MF Akynos said. “You have to listen to them and ask for their perspectives.” Sex workers make up a greater segment of the population than most people realise.

I’m not sure how many sex workers she’s actually talked to about the realities of our existence, either personally or directly.” When you talk to people who have worked in the sex industry, it makes a huge difference. Thompson stated, “We come from every ethnicity, religion, educational background, and financial class.” “You know someone who works in the sex industry.” And it’s because of the stigma that you don’t know.”

While Harris’ inauguration will be historic, many people are waiting to see what she does next. “In this country, we have such low standards that we will take any representation we can get,” Thompson remarked. “You could jail me as a white man or as a Black Indian lady, and I would still be going to jail,” Mistress Velvet explains. It makes no difference who you are.”

Work on the project has already begun. The Adult Performance Artists Guild has already scheduled six meetings with senators for early this year in order to ensure that bills like EARN IT and the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act, which were drafted on December 4 in response to Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times op-ed about PornHub, do not resurface in Congress.

Harris has already been singled out by sex workers. “My mother taught me that no matter how you earn a livelihood, whether you’re a caregiver or truck driver, grocery store clerk or small business owner, every profession has inherent value and importance,”

Harris said in a video shared to Twitter on January 9. Workers in the sex industry pounced on her. “Do you agree, then, that sex labour has inherent value and worth?” questioned a woman who identified herself as NY Dominatrix. Harris did not respond.

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