Sex workers and their allies gathered in New Orleans recently for the 6th annual Desiree Alliance Conference. Last held in 2013, the conference is organized to help sex workers.
This year’s conference was about 50 percent bigger than the one held in Las Vegas three years ago. There were about 300 attendees, about three-quarters of whom were current or former workers. The rest were allies, like myself.
It is important for people to understand the sex worker’s rights movement. It is shaping up to be the next great civil rights effort in the United States and elsewhere. But there are lots of problems to overcome, here in Hawaii and around the world.
Fears over human trafficking have been used to create a massive anti-prostitution moral crusade. Falsehoods about the nature of the industry are widely repeated, with sex workers seldom allowed access to media to rebut them. Broad-based laws that attack all sorts of harmless people have been passed and justified in the hysteria over trafficking.
Logically, rescuing a person from trafficking means getting them away from the trafficker. Sadly, in U.S. contexts, it means abolishing prostitution. An often self-serving rescue industry, funding for which is contingent on there being lots of trafficking victims to save, has grown around the country.
Although many people with good intentions have been drawn into these efforts, few of them actually understand the harm they are doing.
All sex workers want is the right to work safely and legally. Punish abuse by traffickers and others who do harm. Just leave the rest of the industry alone, please.