FEDERAL RAID OF EROS-GUIDE PUTS SEX WORKERS, IMMIGRANTS AT RISK
On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raided a Youngsville, NC call center operated by Eros-Guide, a listing service widely used by adult providers to advertise their services and find work. Along with the shutdown earlier this year of adult advertising on Backpage, another listing service, this development compounds sex workers’ already-high risk of dangerous working conditions and economic precarity.
The raid was conducted under a warrant that alleged “cross-border illegal activity,” underscoring the crucial intersection of sex workers with immigrants and other groups made vulnerable by marginalization. Individuals frequently turn to sex work because their immigrant and/or other marginalized status excludes them from other jobs and sources of income. Immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ people engaging in sex work are especially likely to be endangered by government shut-downs of resources such as Eros-Guides, which provide workers with a relatively safe forum in which to advertise and connect with clients.
Tuesday’s raid and similar law-enforcement events force sex workers into increasingly dangerous conditions, while doing little to curtail the sex trade or protect trafficked individuals. Without online spaces such as Eros to continue making a living, sex workers are forced further underground, into street-based work or organized crime spaces. This erases workers’ independence and reduces their earning potential, while placing them at greater risk of violence from pimps, clients, and law enforcement.
SWOP-Chicago joins the international sex-workers-rights community in condemning the criminalization of sex workers and their clients, and calling for the full decriminalization of the sex industry. Only decriminalization can address the endangerment and marginalization of sex workers, while keeping control of the market and working conditions in the hands of workers themselves. SWOP-Chicago embraces a harm-reduction model in advocating for the human rights of sex workers, while providing direct services to Chicago’s sex work community in the form of street-based outreach, free legal clinics, and support groups.