(Screenshot from CNN video.)

Racism, much? (Screenshot from CNN video.)

After several years of working in nonprofit agencies that take a harm reduction approach to working with drug users and sex workers, I’ve observed many similarities between the war on drugs and the war on trafficking. As the drug war has lost popularity, the war on trafficking has gained momentum. Both the war on drugs and the war on trafficking are housed within the criminal justice system, operating through punishment and incarceration. Both wars seek to eliminate their abstract opponents by attacking communities of drug users and sex workers, composed mainly of poor people of color.

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What a fantastic day! (image via Flick user purplesherbert)

What a fantastic day! (image via Flick user purplesherbert)

Season Two of True Detective maintains the original’s fixation on sex workers. I’m wary, but love me some Tim Riggins, so I’ll be watching!

Tits and Sass contributor Juniper Fitzgerald is the latest in a chorus of voices pointing out that the current trafficking hysteria is just history repeating itself.

Children from families in poverty are also people with agency, struggling to get by just like the rest of us, often exploited by the very social service organisations assumed to be helping them: this and other revelations at the link:

“It made me wonder how someone can go to school every day while coming down off methamphetamine, having been out doing sex work the night before – and never have that picked up by anyone at the school?”

Some of the participants told Ms Thorburn they had been abused by organisations set up to assist them, with claims of sexual exploitation and sexual assault. This resulted in them returning to the streets and shunning any further assistance.

More on that, and a little more.

File this one under grotesque abuses of power: Guards at the detention center on Nauru paid the asylum seeking female inmates for sex, circulated videos of the acts among themselves, and then claimed it was all square because prostitution is “legal in Australia.”

Bree Olson does have a point: when we’re outed, there’s nothing left for us but the sex industry. Don’t expect those feminists who talk about rescue to have your back—the silence will be deafening.

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For her fourth installment of Big Mother Is Watching Youa guide to prominent anti-sex worker activists and officials, Robin D. takes a look at the major advocates of the 2009 re-criminalization of indoor sex work in Rhode Island, where it had previously been protected by a legislative loophole. She also outlines heavyweight anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project’s major past and current staff members. 

Katherine Chon, Polaris Project President and Co-founder

Katherine Chon. (Photo via Katherine Chon's Linkedin account)

Katherine Chon. (Photo via Katherine Chon’s Linkedin account)

Katherine Chon co-founded Polaris Project with fellow Brown University graduate Derek Ellerman immediately upon their graduation from the Ivy League school in 2002. While sex worker rights organizations operate on shoestring budgets, Polaris operates on about $4 million dollars a year. Chon had read an article about sex trafficking in Korean spas in her home state of Rhode Island and decided that Something Needed to be Done. So, she filed a pro-criminalization memo with the Rhode Island state legislature and launched her NGO. You might remember that at the time, indoor prostitution was not illegal in Rhode Island, and that it was re-criminalized in 2009: “Rhode Island’s lax approach towards the sex industry in recent years has made the overall situation worse,” Chon wrote then, in a blog post entitled “One of the Terrible Two.” The other  of the “terrible two” she is referring to is Nevada.

Anti-trafficking advocates often claim that they don’t support criminalizing sex workers, just the people around sex workers. But when the rubber meets the road, their actions put the lie to these claims. Rhode Island is a clear example. Chon and her Polaris Project were up in arms about indoor prostitution being legal in Rhode Island, claiming it tied law enforcement’s hands too much. If we can’t arrest and deport sex workers and trafficking victims, they argued, how will we compel victims to testify against their abusers? Sex workers’ lives are destroyed through open criminal records and deportation. So, some of us believe law enforcement’s hands should be tied a little more when it comes to their treatment of sex workers and trafficking victims. Professor Ann Jordan or American University wrote, in a memo to the Rhode Island Senate,

Through extensive experience with trafficking cases, [Director of the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Section of the Civil Rights Division, Robert] Moossy has learned that women who are trafficked into prostitution are typically afraid of law enforcement because they fear being prosecuted for prostitution and deported and because they often are highly traumatized. Thus, mass arrests of women for prostitution are extremely unlikely to lead to the identification of trafficked women. Instead, Moossy advises patience, intensive and extensive covert investigations and working with non-governmental organizations that are likely to come across trafficking victims. Law enforcement must assure these organizations that they are only interested in going after traffickers, not their victims, in order ultimately to have the successful prosecution of traffickers. The bill [to recriminalize indoor prostitution in Rhode Island] clearly attempts to use threat of prosecution for prostitution as a blunt instrument to convince women to testify against traffickers. It is extremely disturbing to learn that there is some support for the proposed law because it would allow the police to detain women (apparently for their ‘own good’) so that they can be interviewed as possible trafficking victims.

[…]

Women in prostitution need nonjudgmental support and assistance, not arrest, detention and prosecution.

There are many reasons the Rhode Island recriminalization bill could never have and did not help victims of trafficking, as the Sex Workers Project elaborates on in its memos and releases relating to the legislation. But why did Chon and her allies consider everyone else in the sex trade expendable in the first place?

Chon also participates in whipping up false sporting event-related anti-trafficking hysteria.

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achelseacatsandstacks

Bear knows I had to hustle hard to scrape together my rent money, and he protects it accordingly. —Chelsea Lane

Sex workers, submit pictures of your furballs and funds here.

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Pinocchio, man! (Courtesy of Sylke Ibach)

Glenn Kessler is on a roll debunking the hysterical claims of prohibitionists, and this week he slams the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13″ stat with four Pinocchios.

In the latest example of anti-trafficking laws destroying futures rather than saving lives, we have two Oregon teens, one of whom is expected to be sentenced to four years in federal prison, after which she can’t access FAFSA or expect most jobs to hire her.

So, if disabled men also pay for sexual services, what happens to them when paying for it becomes a crime?  Good question!

Last week’s episode of Carte Blanche, a South African reality show, introduced Gita November, site co-ordinator for South African sex work organization SWEAT, without any condemnation and in fact called her “inspirational.”

The production team behind 8 Minutes says they weren’t expecting the independent sex workers they got, which is still no excuse for how they treated them—and, as the article notes, they weren’t equipped to help trafficking victims either, so it’s just good all around that the show got cancelled.

Last week was the annual Red Umbrella March, which carries new urgency in Vancouver as Canadian workers face End Demand repercussions, although Vancouver police have stated they will not be enforcing the new law.

Faisal Riza, a queer sex worker in Indonesia, is doing harm reduction outreach and education among Indonesian sex workers. Although the climate in Jakarta is less oppressive and homophobic than in the past, it’s an ongoing struggle.

Sex workers from all over Europe, many representing hundreds of thousands of workers in unions, gathered in Lyon to lobby for decriminalization and against the End Demand model, which threatens their lives as well as their livelihoods. [READ MORE]

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