US Sex Workers Celebrate Canadian Victory

US Sex Workers Celebrate Canadian Victory:
Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA and other US groups join in celebration with Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC) and all Canadian Sex Workers

This week Canadian sex workers won a constitutional challenge when an Ontario court struck down key Canadian anti-prostitution laws, saying that they contribute to the danger faced by sex-trade workers.

Three sex trade workers asked Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to declare legal restrictions on their activities a violation of charter rights of security of the person and freedom of expression.  On Monday, the Court struck down the three sections challenged by members of the group Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), Sections 210 (prohibiting bawdy houses), 212 (1j) (living off the avails of Prostitution), and Section 213 (prohibiting communication in public view for the purpose of prostitution).

The invalidation of Section 210 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits “bawdy houses”– that is brothels and indoor sex work venues–will mean that sex workers “can ensure [their] safety by working together indoors,” according to SPOC. Section 212 (1j) of the Criminal Code prohibits living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution. Although the Code was developed to protect sex workers from third parties involved in prostitution SPOC commented that,  “[i]n practice, it makes us and our live-in partners, and even elderly parents we support, susceptible to being charged, and serving up to ten years in jail. The invalidation of Section 212 (1j), will allow our families to finally stop fearing arrest. Our employees, such as receptionists, drivers, etc. will no longer fear criminal prosecution.”

Rights Based Organizations in the United States Support the Reforms

Laws against “living off the earnings” of sex workers, solicitation and indoor sex work are common in many countries around the world. Sex workers’ legal victory in Canada gives hope to workers in other countries that these laws can be invalidated and their safety and welfare improved. Organizations working with and defending the rights of sex workers in the United States joined their voices with SPOC to celebrate this victory.

“We recognize the long time work of Sex Professionals of Canada and the contributions of the many sex worker rights organizations, activists and allies around Canada. We are also grateful to Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young and the students at Osgoode who worked on this case,” says Liz Coplen, SWOP USA Board Chair. “We hope that the US will learn from our Canadian neighbors,” added  SWOP USA Founder, Robyn Few as she celebrated the victory in her home in California.

“Over 30 years of dedication brought Val Scott, along with Amy Lebovitch, Terri-Jean Bedford and SPOC (Sex Professionals of Canada) to this pivotal moment in our history,” says long time sex worker activist Carol Leigh and director of the BAYSWAN, California. “We respect their hard work and dedication to make a change for rights.”

“Although there is a long road ahead, we are pleased that there is a high court recognition of what sex workers have been experiencing and explaining, that these laws that purport to protect women actually serve to drive sex workers of all genders further underground, hinder us from accessing services, and allow abuses to be perpetuated against us without recourse,” commented Dylan Wolfe of SWOP-NYC.

“We welcome the reforms in Ontario,” commented Penelope Saunders, Coordinator of the Best Practices Policy Project. “These changes will help defend the safety and security of sex workers and others in the sex trade, and will benefit their families and loved ones. Furthermore, striking down section 213 means that the police will have less cause to harass others in the community such as the homeless, youth, transgenders, and minorities.”

Canadian Judge’s decision based on facts, not misinformation

Justice Susan Himel, the deciding judge in the case, concluded that policy reform can increase safety for sex workers and people in the sex trade, writing that there are “ways of conducting prostitution that reduce the risk of violence towards prostitutes.” Judge Himel discounted misguided arguments from prostitution prohibitionists that sex work is inherently harmful and affirmed critiques of research carried out by leading prostitution prohibitionists describing it as not meeting the “standards set by Canadian courts for the admission of expert evidence.” Justice Himel also found that many of these individuals “were more like advocates than experts offering independent opinions to the court” who “at times…made bold, sweeping statements that were not reflected in their research.”

Academics in the United States concur with the judges view. “As scientists we already know that there are certain ways to conduct prostitution that reduces the risk of violence, disease, coercion and increases the safety to workers and the public at large. This ruling at last cuts through the misinformation spread by those ignoring the science,” says Professor Barb Brents, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Cris Sardina, a SWOP USA board member and co-coordinator of the Desiree Alliance praised the judge for using facts, not misinformation. “Around the world sex workers struggle against violence, campaigns of misinformation, manipulated statistics, sensationalistic campaigns and plain untruths by the some of the same experts who testified in opposition to the SPOC,” she said. “I’m very pleased Judge Himel based this decision on evidence, not hysteria.”

This week’s ruling represents a significant and historic victory in the international struggle for Sex Worker’s right to live and work with safety, dignity and without violence.

Erotic Dancers Deny Prostitution Charges

Erotic Dancers Deny Prostitution Charges
Reporting: Mike Puccinelli

Two suburban women accused of prostitution are defending themselves. They say they were not selling sex. The studio was raided on Tuesday, and the women were charged. But they tell CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli they committed no crime.

New Dance Expressions: It’s a business where, according to their Youtube ad, “you and a gorgeous instructor come together.”

But Prospect Heights police say what’s on sale here 24/7 isn’t instruction –but sex.

“That’s a lie,” dancer and manager Marisol Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and her co-worker, Veronica Rodriguez, were both busted Tuesday night for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover Cook County Sheriff’s deputy. The two women are not related and say their business isn’t involved in illegal sex. They say it involves erotic dance in private rooms.

“An erotic dance might be a striptease,” dancer Veronica Rodriguez said. “I mean, none of the girls are required to go naked.”

Both women say they have no criminal records and are being wrongly accused.

Veronica Rodriguez said. “I’m completely mortified. … I feel ruined.”

Police say in a back room Veronica Rodriguez offered sex for $1,200. The officer said he wanted to get another girl in on the action.

Rodriguez denied she tried to broker a deal. “I never said that,” she said.

“We offered an erotic dance,” Marisol Rodriguez said. “We offered to do a dance together. But we did not agree to anything illegal.”

She is a mother of four. She says she’s talking now to prove to her children and others that she was unfairly targeted by publicity-hungry police.

“They’ve ruined my life and they’ve ruined the lives of my children, and they’ve just dragged us through the mud,” Marisol Rodriguez said. “We may never bounce back from this.”

She says after crying for two days, she’s now ready to fight to turn this week’s tribulation into what she says will be vindication in open court.

Both women say they have actually called police when customers offered to pay for sex. Police say they know people who claim they were offered sex for a price at the studio, but not Veronica or Marisol Rodriguez.

(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Statement on Craigslist Law Suit

SWOP-Chicago does not condone the actions of the Cook County sheriff towards Craigslist. These actions are meant to persecute adults engaging in consensual sexual acts for money and goods of value. Creating criminal records for sex workers bars them from other forms of employment outside of sex work and may limit their ability to seek housing and other services.

This law suit is also a tremendous waste of tax payer resources during a time of severe economic turmoil in the state of Illinois and the country as a whole. The state of Illinois is currently facing a $9 billion dollar (and growing) deficit. Based on an analysis by Julie Pearl in 1987 and adjusted for inflation, in 2007 alone, the state spent over $14.6 million dollars on prostitution arrests. These figures do not take into account the cost of supporting jailed sex workers and the cost to human services agencies who serve these populations and the children of these individuals.

The resources involved in this law suit and in prostitution stings are much better used elsewhere.  The money and resources would be better spent providing health and human services to sex workers and other citizens of the state of Illinois who should receive services, rather than be prosecuted for lack of other viable options. Or, at a minimum, they should be used to go after the 22,005 unsolved burglaries, 12,424 unsolved aggravated assaults, 71 unsolved murders, 12,535 unsolved robberies, 104,226 unresolved property crimes, and 13,475 unresolved motor vehicle thefts[1],[2].

Suing Craigslist to end the marketing of erotic services will not address the issues. If recent FBI stings are any indication, very few, if any, children and minors involved in forcible, coerced, or trafficked prostitution are found by Craigslist targeting and crack downs. Ending Craigslist’s erotic services section will do nothing to stop the exploitation or forced, coerced, or trafficked people, and will divert valuable time and money away from the effort.

The Cook County sheriff is doing no one a service, not the tax payers, not the sex workers targeted. We at SWOP-Chicago strongly urge residents of Illinois to protest this egregious waste of their taxes and public resources and to consider what is truly best for the health and welfare of individuals who advertise erotic services on Craigslist.

Original Article- Sheriff Tom Dart Sues Craigslist

To contact the Sheriff’s office:

Cook County Sheriff’s Office
50 W. Washington
Chicago, Illinois  60602
(312) 603-6444
sheriff@cookcountysheriff.org

44 arrested in FBI sting

For your daily dose of fucked up, I give you Operation Cross Country. SWOP-LV on Bound, not Gagged posted about this. When I wrote about this on my personal blog, I didn’t realize it had happened in Chicago. Basically, you have FBI agents arresting sex workers solicited on Craigslist. Ostensibly, they’re targeting child prostitution and trafficking.

The numbers say otherwise. Forty-seven children have been rescued, whereas five hundred eighteen adult sex workers have been rested. That’s over ten times the number of adults arrested as children rescued. These adult sex workers, as SWOP-LV points out, are lured into stings from Craigslist and other such sting tactics. These are presumably not people related to the crimes of trafficking, given this information. Seventy-three pimps have been arrested, presumably the people responsible for the trafficking.

So what you have is the FBI arresting sex workers on felony charges for what actually is a state-level misdemeanor. In the story SWOP-LV links in Boston, seventeen FBI agents arrested two sex workers. That’s right, two. Five total for the night. In Chicago, five people who run services were arrested, five were customers, and thirty-four were sex workers. Adult sex workers. No children were found.

Excuse me just one moment. You have got to be fucking kidding me!

To target child prostitution and trafficking is one thing. To scapegoat sex workers and crackdown on prostitution in the name of preventing trafficking is a horse of a different color. It’s a waste of money and it’s a waste of tax-payer resources. And if you really care about “rescuing” sex workers, why the fuck are you giving them felony records?

Operation Cross Country is not about ending the exploitation of children and those who are trafficked against their will. It’s using this exploitation as a smokescreen for persecuting sex workers on the altar of sex panic.

If you are a sex worker, escort, prostitute, or other person arrested in this sting, I encourage you to contact SWOP-Chicago by phone or on our hotline. We have a number of legal resources and moreover would be glad just to talk to you.

CLEARLY They’re Unhappy

Thanks to Amber L. Rhea for the CNN article link. Crossposted at La Libertine’s Salon.

Wow. I just read this amazing statistic that said nearly half of all respondents in a survey would leave their industry in the next three years if they had an alternative. IF THEY HAD AN ALTERNATIVE!

What horrible industry do these poor dears want to leave? Should we assemble an extraction team? Maybe criminalize the industry so that they can leave via a jail sentence? What does this say about others who DO NOT want to leave this craphole of a job? They must be brainwashed, early childhood trauma surrounding the workings of the industry. Maybe it’s even worse: they’re propping up the status quo of the exploitation of this industry. I mean, how could they think differently if nearly HALF of their colleagues want out? Surely, they must be crazy. SURELY they must be out of their minds to want to continue work that others find less than satisfying, frustrating and dehumanizing. Their clients must be horrendous and demanding, imagine it!

Must be prostitution, right? I mean, that’s what Farley (who would convert 49% to 90% using some sort of unholy radical magic), Dines, Jensen, et. al. have people thinking.

No. It’s the medical industry:

(CNN) — Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative.

If you read Farley’s site and the opinions spewed by her other colleagues and by the ignorant public, you’d swear prostitutes were the only ones who ever want to leave their industry and who may, yes, be desperate to. There are a whole bunch of people who feel trapped by their legal professions. They have family or themselves to support and especially for doctors who make a helluva lot more money than most, a lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to. But unlike many, especially, street prostitutes, doctors have:

1. A college education*
2. Investments, if they were smart
3. A clean arrest record (most likely)

Doctors don’t have to worry about, “what do I put on my resume to explain what I’ve been doing for the past x years” the way sex workers do. Their profession isn’t criminalized and despite the criticism of doctors, it is NOT stigmatized. And yet, half but NOT ALL doctors want out.

And the doctors who stay in, who would call them “delusional” or “brainwashed” because they find satisfaction in their jobs? Who may, yes, encourage others who have the talents to be a doctor to become one!

But it’s only those poor, poor sex workers who hate their jobs, want out or are crazy if they don’t.

*EDIT: Yes, many people, including prostitutes have college educations but most people stop at a baccalaureate. And it’s getting more expensive. Docs, on the other hand, have advanced, professional degrees. BIG difference!