On 28th June, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch, The Internet Archive, and two individuals have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, 2017).
Regional updates: North America and the Caribbean
Sex worker organisations have been negatively impacted since FOSTA-SESTA was passed in April, with Desiree Alliance announcing it has cancelled its 2019 conference in light of the risks the law has created for sex workers. The statement on their website reads:
Last weekend in Halifax at their biannual national convention, the Liberal Party voted yes to a resolution for consensual sex work decriminalisation. The resolution was presented by the party’s youth caucus, the Young Liberals of Canada, and is part of several resolutions that push for a more progressive Liberal Party. The Liberal Party are currently the largest party in Canadian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Trudeau.
Efforts to resist the closing of strip clubs in the US are ongoing. Recent police raids have prompted a spotlight on New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) in recent months, as NOLA-based sex workers speak out against “tough on crime” politics affecting their right to work safely.
On 27th February, the House of Representatives passed a new Bill affecting sex workers in the United States: H.R. 1865 [Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017], known as 'FOSTA'. This bill makes it a federal crime for online platform providers to 'facilitate sex trafficking', also criminalising the users of these sites.
A little more than a year ago, Romina Rosales, a Latin migrant 43-year-old sex worker, started “Queens of the Underworld”, a non-profit organisation based in L.A., California. According to their website, the organisation “provides community for women-identifying and femme sex workers that serves as a resource for learning coping-skills and self-care”.
It has been almost two years since the offices of Rentboy were raided by the New York Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security on 25 August, 2015. Six employees were arrested alongside CEO Jeffrey Hurant, but changes against every except Hurant were dropped after a the case became the subject of national attention with condemnation coming from LGBT and Human Rights organisations such as Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch.
In the state of Alaska in the United States, a legal battle over the right of police officers to engage in sexual conduct with sex workers before arresting them is bringing public attention to a national issue. Two bills HB112/SB73 introduced earlier this year would add an addendum to expand the definition of sexual assault to include instances of “peace officers” engaging in sexual conduct or penetration with a perpetrator that they are in the process of investigating.
The 19 May is the start of the bi-annual San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film and Arts Fest (SWFAF) taking place across San Francisco and Oakland, California. SWFAF was started in 1999 by Carol Leigh, also known as Scarlot Harlot. She is a film maker, archivist and activist who coined the term 'sex work' during a conference in 1979 or 1980 as an alternative to the phrase 'Sex Use Industry'. She wanted to place emphasis on the agency of the provider rather than the customer, and the term has become broadly used across the globe.