The State Department Requests Input… Sex Workers Respond

Every year, the Department of State puts out an annual call for input on the Trafficking in Persons Report. The report assesses the anti-trafficking efforts of each country, including the United States. Each country is ranked, and unsurprisingly, the US annually labels itself Tier 1, the highest echelon possible.

This year, sex workers and groups led by sex workers contributed to a letter which firmly announced — the worst actor for increasing exploitation and vulnerability to trafficking for people who trade sex was the United States government.

The response focused mainly on the impact of passing FOSTA/SESTA, as well as the seizure of Backpage.com, two actions undertaken by the Federal government in 2018, and the way that has directly harmed the health, safety and well-being of people who trade sex, including those experiencing trafficking and exploitation. These two acts, which resulted in worse labor conditions in venues, increases in vulnerability to exploitation, and increases in targeting by law enforcement.

Other concerns included a consistent conflation of trafficking and all commercial sexual exchange, lack of resources, inadequate service provision options, and requirements to cooperate with law enforcement.

While backers of FOSTA/SESTA and proponents of criminalization, including “End Demand” legislation, continue to celebrate these as wins, it is important to keep the focus not on their campaign value but the violence, victimization and exploitation they cause. This submission is only one piece of what is becoming a louder cry to listen to the only people who were correct in the impact these actions carry: sex workers.

To read the full submission, please click here.