On December 17, 2019, the 16th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, a bill that looks at the impact on the health, safety and dignity of sex workers who lose access to internet platforms.
In 2018 Congress passed SESTA/FOSTA, a bill which vastly expanded the civil and criminal liability of websites for hosting information related to the sex trade -- all without clarity on how to obey the law. In response, dozens of websites closed, displacing sex workers who utilized those websites to stay housed, fed and safe. This bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study to assess the unintended consequences of losing access to internet platforms on people who trade sex and their communities. It is a bold first step in looking at the impact of anti-trafficking legislation and actions on people who trade sex -- something sex workers have been discussing for years.
CHLP is happy to be among the more than 70 organizations that have signed a letter to members of Congress in support this bill that centers the lives of people engaged in commercial sex. It is long past due that we understand how criminalization and isolation are putting sex workers at risk of violence. Criminalizing sex work causes real harm without any benefits for public health and safety. The additional jeopardy of criminalizing even solicitation as a felony when a sex worker is living with HIV is unacceptable. More than a dozen U.S. states and territories have unique felony punishments for PLHIV who are convicted of prostitution or solicitation offenses.
The introduction of this bill today honors #IDEVSW and contributes to the dialogue centering the dignity of people who trade sex. IDEVSW events are happening across the globe, see this website for a list of events and names.