Nevada’s Failed $5 Tax on Prostitution

As the sex industry in Nevada, as elsewhere, is thriving amid the financial crisis, state senator Bob Coffin proposed a $5 tax on all acts of prostitution in the state’s legal brothels.

In an article published online for the UK’s Guardian, Melissa Ditmore tackles the failed taxation scheme, and points out the fact that people in the legal, as well as illegal, sex industry do pay taxes.  A fact that is largely ignored by the rest of society. While many in Nevada benefit from the substantial licensing fees the brothels pay to rural counties, countless restrictions are imposed on brothel workers, many of which serve to isolate the workers  from their local community.

Taxing sex work is not a problem. Sex workers pay taxes like everyone else. Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl, and a member of Prostitutes of New York, said: “People outside the industry fantasise about prostitution, and their fantasy includes freedom from normal responsibilities. So one of the escapist myths is that sex workers don’t have to pay taxes. Of course they have to, and if they do not, the penalties are considerable.”

The Nevada counties prefer not to acknowledge the contribution made by licensed prostitution to their bottom line. Some counties and towns impose some extraordinary restrictions on commercial sex workers. The net effect of these regulations is to separate sex workers from the local community. Some jurisdictions require brothel prostitutes to leave the county when they are not working, while others take the opposite tack, forbidding them to leave the brothel where they work. Some do not allow the children of the women who work in the brothels to live in the same area.

Some of the revenue from the proposed tax would have funded new services for prostitutes, including a counselling service. If I were so isolated within the community in which I lived and worked, I just might need that counselling service. The problem is the fact that sex workers are treated as separate and unequal members of their communities. If the tax changed this, it would be cheap at the price.

New Report Examines the Use of Raids to Fight Trafficking in Persons

On Friday, January 9th, The Sex Workers Project, at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, released a new report, Kicking Down the Door, that analyzes the use of “rescue” raids in the fight against human trafficking.

The report “summarizes findings from interviews with 46 people with experience of such raids, including service providers who have worked with hundreds of trafficking victims, law enforcement personnel, and 15 immigrant women who have been trafficked,” and “concludes that so-called “rescue” raids are not an effective way to stop trafficking in persons and in fact can be counter-productive.”

From PlanetWire.org:

WASHINGTON DC, Jan. 9 – Law enforcement raids designed to rescue victims of human trafficking may do more harm than good for the victims and are ineffective or even counter-productive in curbing the practice, a coalition of advocates for sex workers said today. They urged President-elect Obama to adopt a rights-based approach to the problem.

The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, a New York-based coalition of service providers, researchers, advocates, donors and sex workers, released a report analyzing the experiences of 46 people involved in such raids during 2007 and 2008.

“The findings suggest that vice raids are an ineffective means of locating and identifying trafficked persons,” said Dr. Melissa Ditmore, primary author of the study, during an audio news conference announcing the release. “They are often accompanied by violations of human rights of the trafficked persons and sex workers and are therefore counterproductive to their own goals.”

Kicking Down the Door concludes with a lengthy list of recommendations for the US government, law enforcement personnel, and service providers. For some of us, these recommendations are common sense, but most of us also know that common sense isn’t really the cornerstone of policies involving sex work.

The Sex Workers Project (SWP) provides legal services and legal training, and engages in documentation and policy advocacy, for sex workers. Using a harm reduction and human rights model, we protect the rights and safety of sex workers who by choice, circumstance, or coercion remain in the industry. They released two previous reports, Revolving Door and Behind Closed Doors, which examined street-based sex work and indoor sex work in New York City, respectively.

Sex Workers, Human Rights, and HIV Testing

A posting from the New York City Human Rights Initiative blog, written by Melissa Ditmore.

Police-initiated testing? Let’s return to the rights-based approach!

I’m sorry to be the bad fairy while most people feel good about our achievements on World AIDS Day. Sex workers in Mongolia and Macedonia have reported being forced to undergo HIV testing subsequent to being arrested. Sex workers are rightly indignant: forced testing is a human rights violation and has been condemned by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS.

Proposition K on RH Reality Check

SF’s Proposition K: Changing the Landscape for Sex Workers

Sienna Baskin and Melissa Ditmore on October 28, 2008 – 8:00am
Next week, San Francisco voters will vote on Proposition K, which would prohibit the use of public funds to enforce laws criminalizing prostitution, and mandate that police investigate crimes against sex workers. The passage of Proposition K would change the landscape for sex workers in San Francisco in critical ways. First, by removing police officers’ power to arrest sex workers, it would reduce sex workers’ vulnerability to all of the abuses of that power sex workers currently experience: police profiling and harassment, sexual harassment and assault, rape, and extortion of sexual favors under threat of arrest by police officers, and entrapment.

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Sex Workers Denied Right to Safe Work

Another great piece by Melissa Ditmore at RH Reality Check: Sex Workers Denied Right to Safe Work.

Sex Workers Denied Right to Safe Work
Melissa Ditmore on October 17, 2008 – 8:00am

This December marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to livelihood is enshrined in the declaration. I mention this because it is one of the rights most often denied to sex workers.

Around the world, people turn to sex work in the hope that it will enable them to earn a living. But authorities and misguided anti-prostitution policies routinely deny them that right.

The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center has released two reports highlighting this fact. (See them here). Sex workers interviewed for these reports described becoming involved in commercial sex for financial reasons, and they described the difficulties faced by unskilled workers, especially transgender workers, in their efforts to earn a living wage.

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Anti-Prostitution Pledge Results in Discriminatory Treatment

Melissa Ditmore’s latest on the anti-prostitution pledge at http://www.rhrealitycheck.org:

Anti-Prostitution Pledge Results in Discriminatory Treatment
Melissa Ditmore on October 9, 2008 – 8:00am
Recently on RH Reality Check, I examined the damaging effects on sex workers of a new law against prostitution in Cambodia. The perception on the ground is that the law was passed so that Cambodia could avoid sanctions associated with the US Traffic in Persons report.
This is not the first time that sex workers have been sacrificed at the altar of US funding. Anti-trafficking funding and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) deny funding to any organization that does not have an explicit policy against prostitution and sex trafficking. Outwardly, this seems innocuous, but the restriction has been used in ways that seriously undermine public health and anti-trafficking efforts in the developing world. Denying services to sex workers is counter-productive in both areas.
In addition, the terms of the restriction have been left ambiguous, allowing some self-appointed experts to act as “police” for the US government in watching aid recipients for alleged missteps. CHANGE released an updated policy brief detailing the ways in which sex workers have been adversely affected by this restriction.

Research for Sex Work, Volume 10

Research for Sex Work is an annual journal dedicated to the topic of research on sex work. It aims to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, experiences, observations and research results with regards to sex work and HIV prevention in the broader framework of health and human rights. Although the title suggests otherwise, Research for Sex Work is not an academic journal. Readers and authors are from sex workers (support) organisations, HIV prevention projects, local and international NGOs, universities, research institutes, etc.

Volume 10 of the journal is now available online, in both English and Spanish. VAMP and SANGRAM of Sangli, India, were the production partners for this edition. The bilingual table of contents for this edition is listed below.

Editorial
Melissa Ditmore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Cover
Resisting Raids and Rescue
VAMP Collective and SANGRAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Los trabajadores sexuales en la India
enfrentan abuso en Ataques de incursiones

en la Colectividad de VAMP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
SexWorker Activists: Embodying Aberrance
Stewart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Activistas trabajadoras sexuales:
Expresando la Aberración

Stewart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
A participatory-action and interventional research
approach to HIV prevention and treatment
among women in survival sex work

Shannon and Bright . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Una aproximacion participativa e intervencionista
en la prevención del VIH y tratamiento en mujeres
que hacen trabajo sexual para sobrevivir

Shannon and Bright . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
“My one-way ticket to Kamathipura”:
Rights of sex workers compromised

Karandikar and Próspero . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
“Mi boleto de ida a Kamathipura”
Karandikar and Próspero . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
The PEPFAR “Anti-Prostitution Pledge”:
A Case Study from Nigeria

Elder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
El “Compromiso Anti-Prostitución” PEPFAR:
Un estudio de caso desde Nigeria

Elder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Sex worker organising in Madagascar
Greenall and Rasoanaivo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Organizando a las trabajadoras sexuales en Madagascar
Greenall and Rasoanaivo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
Unfriendly encounters
Freeland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Encuentros no amistosos
Freeland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Street SexWork and SexWorker Rights?
Blinding Connections

McCracken . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
¿Trabajo Sexual en la Calle y Derechos de las
Trabajadoras Sexuales? Conexiones cegadoras

McCracken . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Tribes Bangin in Da City
Jeffreys, Tapuhi, Abigail and Huynh . . . . . . . . . . .32
Announcements / Avisos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
Colofon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Back Cover