On Monday, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) released “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, & Justice.” SWOP-USA stands in solidarity with M4BL. Within the vast and nuanced policy briefs, M4BL called for:
The retroactive decriminalization, immediate release and record expungement of all drug related offenses and prostitution, and reparations for the devastating impact of the “war on drugs” and criminalization of prostitution, including a reinvestment of the resulting savings and revenue into restorative services, mental health services, job programs and other programs supporting those impacted by the sex and drug trade.
Similar to the War on Drugs, the War on Trafficking has expanded the reach of the criminal legal system and resulted in highly punitive responses to consensual sexual exchange. Instead of comprehensive, non-judgmental services and living wage employment opportunities, resources are funneled into law enforcement-led sting operations and “rescue” missions.
Like M4BL, SWOP-USA recognizes that the criminalization of sex work disproportionately impacts communities of color and LGBTQ folks. Race, gender identity, sexual orientation, poverty, and policing intersect. Folks engaging in street-based and survival sex work are hypervulnerable to police harassment, police sexual violence, and arrest—particularly Black transgender and cisgender women, femmes, and girls who are profiled as sex workers. According to the FBI Crime in the U.S. report, in 2014, nearly 42% of adults, and 52% of youth under the age of 18, arrested for prostitution were Black. Meanwhile Black people make up only 13% of the U.S. population. Indeed, sex work decriminalization is a racial justice issue.
Whether folks are engaged in the sex trade by coercion, choice, or circumstance, they deserve dignity and respect, not violence and stigma. This is why the decriminalization of sex work is vital to the vision for Black lives. We applaud M4BL for elevating this cause and the various organization that do this work day in and day out. We look forward to working together to push sex work decriminalization forward.