Regional updates: North America and the Caribbean

NSWP, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, emphatically condemns the actions of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security and federal prosecutors in New York for the raid on the offices of Rentboy.com and the arrests of seven of its staff members.

This action appears to be a blatant, morally-driven discriminatory attack on gay consensual sex. The New York Times Editorial Board have stated that the criminal complaint that resulted in this raid was so saturated with sexually explicit details, it’s hard not to interpret it as an indictment of gay men as being sexually promiscuous.’ Many USA activists, LGBT community members and commentators have highlighted the increasing climate of homophobia that they identify as having accompanied the tenures of Mayor De Blasio and the Commissioner of NYPD, William Bratton.

NSWP’s opposes all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work (including sex workers, clients, third parties, families, partners and friends). The term ‘third parties’ includes managers, brothel keepers, receptionists, maids, drivers, landlords, hotels who rent rooms to sex workers and anyone else who is seen as facilitating sex work. Sex workers and our allies actively campaign for full decriminalisation of sex work for a number of reasons, including promoting safe working conditions and labour rights for sex workers; Increase access to health services and reduce sex workers’ risk of HIV and STIs; Increase sex workers’ access to justice; Reduce police abuse and violence; Help to tackle exploitation and coercion when it does occur.

Sex workers need to be able to communicate openly with clients and managers without constantly fearing arrest, police harassment or worse. Sex workers often use advertising websites to screen clients for their own safety.

The timing of this raid could not be more acutely out-of-step with the overwhelming body of evidence and the findings of international bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, who recommend that governments should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and The Lancet which recently published a special series on HIV and Sex Workers, which also recommends the decriminalisation of sex work.

Amnesty International’s global movement recently voted to adopt a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers, including the full decriminalisation of sex work at their International Council meeting this August. Amnesty joins a growing list of other major international agencies such as the World Health Organization, Human Rights Watch and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women in the call for decriminalisation of sex work.

You can download this 2 page statement below.

1st September 2015 by NSWP

In Charleston, West Virginia, a sex worker killed a man in self-defense, later to discover that he may have been a serial killer.

The 45-year-old man, named Neal Falls, arranged to meet the woman, identified only as Heather, through Backpage.com. When he arrived at the woman's home, he was armed with a gun and allegedly asked ‘Live or die?’ when she opened the door then began choking her.

31st July 2015 by NSWP

In mid-July, a 20 year-old transgender sex worker was shot dead in Georgetown, Guyana, apparently following an altercation with a client, which, some reports say, may have been a case of mistaken identity.

27th July 2015 by NSWP

The online classified web site Backpage.com, long used by sex workers as a low-cost means of advertising their services and screening clients, has announced that it is allowing users to post ads for free to the adult services section of its site.

13th July 2015 by NSWP

In the aftermath of Canada’s new “end demand” style policy on sex work, migrant sex workers (including those with legal status) are being swept up in crackdowns and police sweeps, which they say are endangering them.

3rd July 2015 by NSWP

On Tuesday the 30th of June, MasterCard announced that its credit cards can no longer be used to pay for ads on the Backpage.com website, following a request from Chicago’s Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, who claimed the site is used by sex traffickers. The following day Visa announced that it, too, would no longer allow its credit cards to be used to make transactions through the website.

3rd July 2015 by NSWP

Thirty-five mayors from across the United States, including Bill de Blasio in New York City, Rahm Emanuel in Chicago and Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles, have lent their support to a growing campaign for an “end demand” style of law enforcement to be used against the clients of sex workers.

3rd July 2015 by NSWP

Sex workers in Canada held a national day of action across the country on Saturday, the 13th of June. The third annual Red Umbrella March was especially significant this year, following the introduction of new sex work legislation late last year.

3rd July 2015 by NSWP

At the end of last month, SWOP Houston formed, describing themselves as “a non-profit resource for community-building, organizing, and sharing support … run by and for sex workers”. To celebrate their launch, SWOP Houston held a kick-off brunch on the 2nd of June, which all current and former sex workers in the area were invited to attend.

3rd July 2015 by NSWP

When Canada’s Justice Minister Peter MacKay presented the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (the Conservative Government’s new plan for legislating on sex work, implemented late last year), he presented, as a major selling point, the promise of providing funds to people in the sex trades who wish to exit the industry.

28th May 2015 by NSWP