The Unity Principles of the Women’s March on Washington are absolutely beautiful and needed, except for a statement that unintentionally undermines the rights outlined for so many groups. “Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our
labor protections, and we stand in full solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights.” *
Racism, sexism, and other biases that contribute to social injustices intersect with human trafficking. LGBTQ youth communities, migrant workers, indigenous women, and women of color are individuals who are statistically more vulnerable to human trafficking. Racism perpetuates human trafficking. **
Very few sex workers (as opposed to sex trafficking victims) exist in the United States. A sex worker is 18 or over, physically and emotionally healthy, has no history of abuse, is financially stable, answers to themselves alone (the absence of a “pimp”), and controls their own finances and schedule.
If those criteria aren’t met, then a person selling sex is likely a victim of sex trafficking.
Supporting “sex workers’ rights” places all of the other minority groups mentioned in the Unity Principles at a greater risk of exploitation. ***
One person’s empowerment does not take precedence over the exploitation of other people. Openly stating support for the commercial sex industry puts others at risk. Saying this is okay makes others believe (or at least falsely rationalize) that ALL situations in which a person is selling sexual services is consensual.
Looking at all the groups that are negatively affected by human trafficking and understanding the intersection of racism and bigotry with the “sex industry,” I can not support the “rights of sex workers.”
I am a feminist, and as a feminist I agree that no one should tell a person what they can and cannot do with their body. I urge you to apply this same logic to the issue of human trafficking — there are millions of people across the globe that do not get a say in what happens to THEIR bodies.
*Read the Principles Here:
**Furthermore, the intersection between domestic violence (and the mental health issues associated with surviving the abuse and the rationalization for staying), gender justice, racial justice, violence against women, racial and gender inequalities in the criminal justice system, LGBTQIA rights, rights for women of color and Indigenous women, and human trafficking is real. Addressing all of these issues is key in social progress and ending human trafficking in our nation and around the globe. Supporting racism, sexism, unequal rights for LGBTQIA individuals, and the sex industry is perpetuating human trafficking — whether or not that is an intended outcome. In this case, the attempt to include everyone causes more damage — the other groups and social issues discussed in the Principles of Unity are affected negatively by this inclusion.
***Further Reading on Intersection of Trafficking and Minority Groups
Trafficking of Children:
According to the US DOJ, the average age at which an individual enters the “sex industry” is 12-14 years. Actively supporting “sex workers,” gives buyers a way to rationalize paying to sexually abuse a child– “She looks 18.” “She says she’s 18.” Then in hindsight, “How was I supposed to know?” Others come to the trafficker’s defense, and blame the girl for “being untruthful.” An abused, trafficked child is blamed for the actions of an adult.
“Statistics show that as many as 90% of prostituted youth have been sexually or physically abused and many have run away from home to escape such abuse only to encounter far worse on the streets.” –GEMS
Trafficking Among Indigenous Women in North America:
“Native American women and girls trafficked into prostitution previously experienced sexual and physical abuse as children and adults at alarming rates. Service providers characterize childhood sexual abuse as the key experience “setting the stage for Native girls’ entry into the sex trade.” Of the prostituted Native women interviewed for Garden of Truth, 79% had been sexually abused as children, by an average of four men. Likewise, a Canadian study of 150 trafficked Aboriginal youth found that 80% had been physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally abused in their homes. This correlation is disconcerting given DOJ data showing that Native American women are over 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States generally. More than one in three [Native American women] will be raped in their lifetime, usually by a non-Native individual; the figure for the general U.S. population is less than one in five.” –Native American Women’s Resource Center Bring them to Justice
Normalization by Victims:
“Advocates say that Mary’s ability to normalize her life as a child prostitute is common among Native girls who have been frequently exposed to sexual abuse and violence. Research in the Shattered Hearts report also found that Native girls and women who exchange sex for food and shelter don’t consider the acts to be prostitution. They are simply doing what they have to do to stay alive, engaging in survival sex.” Native Girls Are Being Exploited and Destoryed at an Alarming Rate
Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth:
“LGBTQ youth face higher rates of discrimination, violence, and economic instability than their nonLGBTQ peers. When faced with fewer resources, employment opportunities, or social supports, LGBTQ youth who are away from home must find ways to meet their basic needs and may therefore enter the street economy, engaging in commercial sex to meet these needs. It is difficult for many individuals who have been trafficked to reach out for assistance, but this is especially true for individuals who fear that they will be mistreated or not believed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Studies have found that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in detention for prostitution-related offenses and report higher levels of police misconduct than their straight peers.” Read more here: Polaris Project
Racism and Human Trafficking:
“This Article explores the role of race in the prostitution and sex trafficking of people of color, particularly minority youth, and the evolving legal and social responses in the United States. Child sex trafficking has become a vital topic of discussion among scholars and advocates, and public outcry has led to safe harbor legislation aimed at shifting the legal paradigm away punishing prostituted minors and toward greater protections for this vulnerable population. Yet, policymakers have ignored the connection between race and other root factors that push people of color into America’s commercial sex trade.” Racial Roots of Human Trafficking
“Racism is woven throughout the horrifying tapestry that is human trafficking. To ignore that fact is to miss the mark completely. To advocate for the freedom of trafficked girls is to boldly acknowledge the connections between race, gender, and child sex trafficking.”