Thanks to Chris and Elizabeth at SITPS for hosting a very interesting forum!

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Summary Statement, Special Forum on Sex Work, Trafficking and Human Rights

With the participation of over a dozen prominent sex worker advocates, researchers and writers, we’ve had a very productive week! If you’re into numbers, during the forum we had about 4,000 visits from nearly 3,500 unique visitors for a total of nearly 10,500 page views. While the forum officially ends today, the forum topics will remain on the site and active so we can continue the conversations as we like.

The forum addressed a range of topics from labor rights to immigration, and from variations in individual experiences in sex work to the way that consumers in the sex industry are understood. We think that the following are some of the most important points to emerge from the discussions:

  • Sex work must be destigmatized and ultimately decriminalized in order to protect sex workers, their clients, and their communities.
  • Negative attitudes toward sexual freedom itself are part of the problem and need to be addressed at the individual and cultural levels.
  • Sex work meets the economic needs of the people who perform it and meets social, sexual, educational, and emotional needs of those who consume it. The problems with sex work lie not in the work itself but in the cultural stigma surrounding it, and in the exploitive economic systems that sex work, along with most work, is performed.
  • There is a huge divergence between the reality of “human trafficking” and the portrayal of it by media and political figures. This divergence includes hugely inflated numbers based on studies with flawed methodology; an over-emphasis on “sex slavery” at the expense of more common labor exploitation, like manufacturing of consumer goods and domestic help; and a paternalistic view of sex workers and migrant workers in general as the “other.”
  • U.S. anti-trafficking policies actually make it harder to find and help real victims because resources are diverted to antiprostitution efforts, which do not help the majority of real trafficking victims. Those efforts also interfere with public health projects in other countries by refusing USAID money to any group that does not actively work against prostitution.
  • Human trafficking needs to be understood in the context of international (and intra-national) labor migration patterns and in the context of global inequality. Much of what we call trafficking begins as voluntary migration from one economically depressed area to a less depressed area. Barriers to legal migration make those workers vulnerable to other human rights abuses.
  • Politicians and media personalities scapegoat sex workers and their clients in such a way as to direct attention away from larger social and economic problems like poverty, consumer culture, racism, sexism, and the growing gap between the wealthy and everybody else.
  • Sex workers are not a homogeneous group and they should not be treated as one.
  • Research that relies on poor methodology needs to be publicly criticized. Policy should be directed by reliable, valid research.
  • Academic researchers, activists, sex workers, and consumers need to talk to each other and listen to each other. And policy makers need to listen to all of them!

3 Responses

  1. […] an online forum about sex work, trafficking and human rights. It’s well worth checking out. Here are some of the most important points that emerged: * Sex work must be destigmatized and […]

  2. This was a great idea, fun to participate in and hopefully will spawn intelligent conversation around the blogosphere.

    It couldn’t have been easy to organize, so THANK YOU to Elizabeth and Chris.

    When’s the next one?🙂

    XX

  3. When’s the next one? It was such a success we’ve been thinking about making it an annual kind of thing. (We also want to do forums on other topics, but an annual forum on this topic would be useful, I think.)

    Thanks so much for participating in the forum! It was a success because of the great contributors🙂 And BNG and Desiree Alliance had a lot to do with that!

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