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It’s Legal to Sell Sex in Amsterdam, But Don’t Expect the Same Rights As Other Workers.

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Though the Netherlands has been a global leader in decriminalizing sex work, the stigma surrounding the profession remains.

Though the Netherlands has been a global leader in decriminalizing sex work, the stigma surrounding the profession remains.

As the neighborhood revitalization project pushed sex workers further away, it’s often no longer in the interest of many independent workers to be registered under Amsterdam’s Municipal Ordinance, as required by law to be considered legal. That’s because sex workers often face safety concerns, worries that their line of work might be made public, and fears of losing their homes, children, and other methods of income.

To tackle this problem, the local city council members Alexander Hammelburg of the center-left D66 party and Femke Roosma of the GroenLinks (GreenLeft) party are looking at implementing a new policy to increase the number of permits beyond the red-light district, in hopes of establishing more anonymous hotels, brothels, or “anything different from the standard windows,” equipped with external surveillance and emergency buttons, according to Hammelburg. But that approach clashes with what many sex workers are increasingly demanding: the ability to book clients online and work from home.

For many sex workers who have built a community in the area and for whom tourists are clients, the potential changes are seen as an attempt to make up for the window closures, rather than an adjustment to the modern sex industry in the digital age and an effort to grant them similar rights to those enjoyed by other independent workers.

As the development plan came to a close this year, the chasm between Amsterdam’s sex workers and the city council has only widened. “Sex work is constantly conflated with human trafficking,” said Velvet December, the advocacy coordinator for Proud, a sex worker-led organization based in Amsterdam. “This, and the dichotomy attached to it for categories of sex workers—the ‘happy hooker’ and the ‘poor victim’—leaves no room for the realities we face and to address the problems we see,” she added.

December, who works for De Stoute Vrouw (The Naughty Woman), the only lesbian escort agency in the country, echoes concerns that have long plagued the sex work industry. Sex workers are mostly seen as objects of desire or cause for criminal activity, and the industry is blamed for sexualizing women for profit, but in reality their calls for change are no different from those of non-sex workers. They just want a right to economic and moral autonomy.

Although the Netherlands is often lauded for integrating the sex industry into its labor market, the work itself remains on the periphery of the informal economy

Although the Netherlands is often lauded for integrating the sex industry into its labor market, the work itself remains on the periphery of the informal economy

, which December said is often referred to as “criminalization through the back door.” The problem for governments is not just seeking to improve the lives of sex workers but also ensuring that sex workers’ needs and priorities are considered and included in future policies.

Since Femke Halsema became Amsterdam’s first female mayor in July 2018—having previously served as a member of the House of Representatives for GroenLinks and as the party’s parliamentary leader—Proud has been included in more discussions concerning prostitution policy. However, other sex workers and business owners are concerned they are being blamed for criminal activity and forced out as a result of excessive tourism, as city councilors have considered setting a maximum on the number of people in the area, and restricting or regulating group tours, in response to the city’s increase from 26 million to 34 million tourists from 2013 to 2017.

At a time when online ads for sex work are increasingly taking precedence over walking the streets or renting a window, and with market changes allowing more sex workers to work from home—or in private, anonymous spaces—policymakers are considering increasing the number of permits beyond the red-light district. But they have yet to consider enabling sex workers to book customers online—a practice currently prohibited for sex workers by a General Municipal Ordinance. “We want to create extra opportunities outside of the tourist area,” explained Hammelburg, the city council member, suggesting that a transition into the digital sphere would only go so far as taking customers to permitted windows and brothels beyond De Wallen, reducing the tourist crowds in the area.

“You could still say that booking customers online, working from home would be illegal,” he said, “yet if you would do it from an official sex work space with a permit, it would be legal.”

“You could still say that booking customers online, working from home would be illegal,” he said, “yet if you would do it from an official sex work space with a permit, it would be legal.”

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Letter : In solidarity with Sex Workers SafeSpace London, ON

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Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights is a non-for profit community made up of members who are Sex Workers, advocates, allies, and former Sex Workers. Our main focus in Sault Ste. Marie is to provide harm reduction tools directly to Sex Workers anonymously and discreetly and to create a safe space for workers.

We have spent over three years providing public forums to the community to create sex worker rights conversations and to provide general information about Sex work and the criminalization that negatively impacts Sex workers in Canada.

As a collective we share important information with and amongst Sex workers rights organizations such as SWANS SUDBURY, SAFESPACE LONDON, the PACE SOCIETY in Vancouver – just to make a few. It is fair to say according to Sex workers that billC-36 (the legislation that governs prostitution) is unfair, unjust, unconstitutional, and harmful for sex workers and clients. Criminalizing and potentially convicting human beings for buying services from professional sex workers is dangerous to the sex work profession – if clients are scared to reach out to Sex workers then workers’ income decreases, which means Sex workers are more likely to start working underground for pimps or go from working from their own comfortable and safe homes to working in unsafe environments. It has come to our attention with a recent news article that has been circulating the internet that police in London Ontario are cracking down on buyers of services from sex workers and will be publishing buyers names publicly.

As a community, we are deeply concerned that threatening the clients of Sex workers will increase violence, harmful working conditions, and workers will now work underground which will create even more unsafe conditions. We stand beside SafeSpace London with their concerns in regards to how dangerous it is to shame, further stigmatize, and publicly humiliate clientele of sex workers. We believe in the dignity and anonymity of adult consensual services and we strongly disagree with further marginalizing Sex workers and clients. After all clients are your husbands, physicians, law enforcement officers, retirees, your parents, and even your siblings. Clients of Sex workers should not be criminalized or charged unless they endanger a sex worker in which the worker should have a right to report (but most workers don’t feel safe enough to report to police because we are stigmatized and condemned for the profession we’ve chose).

The police in Ontario have once again created a loud and visual division between Sex workers and the law enforcement. It’s no wonder many Sex workers in our communities do not trust the police. Sex workers rely heavily on income generation from our clients and if our clients are charged with buying Sex then we loose out on income, which means Sex workers won’t be able to pay rent, buy groceries, support their families and ultimately they become even more vulnerable to more unsafe working conditions. The city of Sault Ste. Marie still has not recognized or acknowledged the importance of having a safe space designated for Sex Workers which has created a misunderstanding and interpretation of how Sex work is an important and relevant part of our community here in the north.

The HOPE ALLIANCE in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario uses a saviour approach and is an anti human Sex trafficking organization that works closely with the police and therefore intimidates willing and confident Sex workers to access their services in the downtown core on Gore street where they run out of the neighbourhood resource centre.

The HOPE ALLIANCE was created to abolish Sex workers, not necessarily provide services, compassion, or support to local Sex workers. Sault Ste. Marie Sex workers stands beside SafeSpace London and supports them in their fight to combat police misunderstanding of the sex work profession. Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights has never been asked to join any forum or workshop on the efforts to combat human Sex trafficking, which is ironic considering Sex workers are the most important part of a discussion when it comes to making decisions about how to create safe working conditions for sex workers and how to end human Sex trafficking.

We stand in solidarity with SafeSpace London and all Sex workers’ Rights organizations across Canada and even globally. As proud members of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, we will continue to work diligently to make sure Sex workers are safe and heard. We believe that full decriminalization will benefit Sex workers and clients as well as the overall safety of the profession. We will continue to fight the good fight. Founder of Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights

https://saultonline.com/2019/02/letter-in-solidarity-with-sex-workers-safespace-london-on/
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State Lawmakers to Introduce Bills Decriminalizing Sex Work

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The grassroots effort to legalize sex work took a big step forward Monday when State Sens. Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried announced they would introduce a legislative package to decriminalize the industry among consenting adults.

Ramos, Salazar and Gottfried joined Decrim NY, a coalition of more than 20 organizations, at a rally in Manhattan on Monday to protect the rights of sex workers. Decrim NY advocates for repealing misdemeanor prostitution charges for consenting adults and clearing prostitution records for people who were charged in the past.

”I’ve seen sex workers on Roosevelt Avenue nearly my entire life. I’ve met some neighbors who simply want to erase the people working there,” said Ramos, chair of the state Senate’s Labor Committee. “Ultimately, sex work is work. Decriminalizing sex work will protect sex workers from exploitation, allow them to seek protection from trafficking, and will help victims of sex trafficking seek justice.”

The package of legislation includes an existing bill that would vacate all convictions where the offense was a result of being trafficked and another bill to repeal the “loitering for the purposes of prostitution statute.”

Loitering arrests increased last year for the first time in at least six years, Documented reported. Many of the people arrested for loitering for the purposes of prostitution are transgender individuals or undocumented immigrants. Under federal immigration law, a prostitution-related charge can prevent an undocumented immigrant from securing documented status.

“As a transgender woman who did sex work, I have experienced oppression and prejudice from the police, immigration authorities and even social service organizations because I was trading sex,” daid Cecilia Gentili, a member of Decrim NY’s steering committee, in a statement. “Until we decriminalize sex work, the people most impacted by criminalization — trans people, people of color, and undocumented people — will continue to be treated as less than the full humans they are.”

Decrim NY also calls on the city to take the money currently used to fund vice policing and mandated programs for people arrested for sex work and use it to fund harm reduction services instead.

“Full decriminalization best protects the rights and safety of people who trade sex … In reality, these laws target loved ones, family, landlords, drivers and other people providing care and services to sex workers, which isolates and stigmatizes people who trade sex. Oftentime peers in the sex trade help each other find clients and then get charged with trafficking,” said Jessica Raven, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project and a member of the Decrim NY steering committee.

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Sex workers demand meeting with Sen. Kamala Harris, question her commitment to decriminalization

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Activists say that Sen. Kamala Harris‘ stated support for decriminalizing sex work “rings false” given her history as a prosecutor and are seeking a meeting with the 2020 presidential contender to press her on the issue.

Ms. Harris signaled her support for decriminalizing the world’s oldest profession in an interview Tuesday, and activists on Wednesday sought to correct the record by arguing the former prosecutor is actually backing the “Nordic Model” — not actual decriminalization.

“The Nordic Model diverts resources from people who trade sex, including survivors of trafficking, to policing, raids, immigration detention and evictions. It fails to address the root causes of labor exploitation in the sex trades, which are poverty, LGBTQ discrimination and lack of access to affordable housing,” said Jessica Raven, executive director at The Audre Lorde Project and member of Decrim NY’s Steering Committee. “The Nordic Model perpetuates a false savior mentality that makes us feel good while actually failing to address why trafficking is happening and preventing it before it happens.”

Decrim NY is working with state lawmakers in New York on legislation to legalize prostitution, arguing the current approach does more harm than good.

“Decrim NY demands meeting with Sen. Harris so community members can share how criminalization impacts their human rights and safety,” the group said in a press release Wednesday. “Decrim NY also calls on all presidential candidates to support the full decriminalization of sex work to promote the safety, wellbeing, and health of all people in the sex trades.”

In an interview with The Root, Ms. Harris said, “We can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed.” She also talked about how she pushed as district attorney in San Francisco in 2004 to stop arresting

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