Human trafficking leaves no land untouched. In 2013 the U.S. State Department estimated that there are 27 million victims worldwide trafficked for forced labor or commercial sex exploitation. Since the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2000, global efforts have been made by the international community to address the growing problem. 32 billion industry, second only to illicit drugs. A 2012 study published in World Development, "Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? " investigates the effect of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows into high-income countries. Countries with legalized prostitution are associated with higher human trafficking inflows than countries where prostitution is prohibited.
The scale effect of legalizing prostitution, i.e. expansion of the market, outweighs the substitution effect, where legal sex workers are favored over illegal workers. On average, countries with legalized prostitution report a greater incidence of human trafficking inflows. The effect of legal prostitution on human trafficking inflows is stronger in high-income countries than middle-income countries. Because trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation requires that clients in a potential destination country have sufficient purchasing power, domestic supply acts as a constraint. Criminalization of prostitution in Sweden resulted in the shrinking of the prostitution market and the decline of human trafficking inflows. Cross-country comparisons of Sweden with Denmark (where prostitution is decriminalized) and Germany (expanded legalization of prostitution) are consistent with the quantitative analysis, showing that trafficking inflows decreased with criminalization and increased with legalization.
The type of legalization of prostitution does not matter — it only matters whether prostitution is legal or not. Whether third-party involvement (persons who facilitate the prostitution businesses, i.e, "pimps") is allowed or not does not have an effect on human trafficking inflows into a country. Legalization of prostitution itself is more important in explaining human trafficking than the type of legalization. Democracies have a higher probability of increased human-trafficking inflows than non-democratic countries. There is a 13.4% higher probability of receiving higher inflows in a democratic country than otherwise. While trafficking inflows may be lower where prostitution is criminalized, there may be severe repercussions for those working in the industry. For example, criminalizing prostitution penalizes sex workers rather than the people who earn most of the profits (pimps and traffickers). "The likely negative consequences of legalised prostitution on a country’s inflows of human trafficking might be seen to support those who argue in favour of banning prostitution, thereby reducing the flows of trafficking," the researchers state. "However, such a line of argumentation overlooks potential benefits that the legalisation of prostitution might have on those employed in the industry. Working conditions could be substantially improved for prostitutes — at least those legally employed — if prostitution is legalised.
In the summer of 2018, after more than a decade of housing instability, Nona Conner was facing homelessness again. She’d been evicted from the apartment she was staying in. Anxious to find another place to live, she restarted her old GoFundMe, titled "Black Transwoman Housing Crisis," to get the money together. She was relieved when there were enough donations for a security deposit and one month’s rent. It took her three months to raise it all. Before working at CASS, steady employment evaded Nona’s grasp nearly as much as steady housing. Born and raised in Southeast Washington, D.C., Nona was 15 when she ran away from a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive home.
She went downtown to K Street and started selling sex to make ends meet. Never miss the news and analysis you care about. "I tried getting several jobs. "It was their bias," Nona continued. Many sex workers in D.C. Nona — people who engage in sex work in order to survive or to supplement low incomes, especially after having limited options. Because racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and other forms of oppression marginalize people from accessing housing and employment, many survival sex workers are Black and Brown women, queer, trans and gender nonconforming people. Many sex workers are also disabled people who experience employment and housing discrimination.
For people with disabilities, sex work can sometimes offer more flexibility than other trades. Some are immigrants who don’t have the documentation required to get other jobs. These societal and economic barriers influence many people to go into sex work (as well as other occupations that mainstream society stigmatizes as "undesirable," such as low-wage domestic work, service work and manual labor). "There are a lot of obstacles that stand in the way of getting a job," Nona said. Nona’s experiences inspire her to fight to decriminalize sex work and support people in the sex trade. The DECRIMNOW campaign started as an effort by the Sex Workers’ Advocates Coalition (SWAC), a network of organizations in D.C.
D.C. Councilmember David Grosso to introduce the Promoting Public Safety and Health by Reducing Criminalization Amendment Act in the D.C. City Council in the fall of 2017 as an effort to decriminalize sex work in the district. Nona and other organizers canvassed and petitioned throughout 2018 to try to get D.C. City Council to bring the bill to a hearing. Although the Council didn’t bring the bill to a hearing last year, sex workers and their allies still have faith. Nona believes that people shouldn’t be criminalized and punished for doing what they need to do to live, especially since a significant number of survival sex workers turn to the sex trade to escape abusive situations. 20, and went to K Street to start working. I was finally free from the abuse," Nona said. "I was around people who were like me.
They’d been through abuse and that’s why they were there, too." Nona ended up working on the street for around 15 years, and she grew close with the other women along the strip. She said it was like a sisterhood. Engaging in sex work helped Nona pay for food each night. It helped her find places to stay. It helped her find people she could connect with and depend on. She believes that sex work is anyone’s right to do, even though she doesn’t like doing it. While some sex workers love their jobs, other sex workers — especially those who do sex work for survival after being denied access to other resources — don’t enjoy it at all. Like many jobs, the trade is just a way to get by.
Because our society stigmatizes Black and Brown trans people and sex workers as less than human, as "criminals," as "deviants," and as deserving of harm, many face hard times in the sex industry. "When I left home, it felt like a door opened and the whole world said, ‘You about to see what you’re gonna get a taste of, just be prepared! ’ And I wasn’t. I wasn’t ready by a long shot." Nona described what it was like for her as a Black trans teenager in the 1990s, fleeing an abusive family to sell sex along one of downtown D.C.’s busiest streets. "I wasn’t ready to be robbed, cheated by dates, stranded on highways, have weapons pulled on me. But that’s what I had to deal with," Nona said.
What feeds and compounds this harm is the criminalization and policing of sex workers and people profiled as sex workers. People who engage in sex work aren’t offered the same protections as others, and when harms do occur, they don’t feel safe reaching out for help due to the threat of discrimination, arrest and police brutality. Police can be particularly brutal toward people in the sex trade, especially Black and Brown women, queer and trans sex workers. Police in D.C. frequently profile Black and Brown trans and cis women and gender nonconforming people as sex workers, and the law allows them to unfairly target and arrest people in these communities. This targeting surged in the city after the passing of D.C.’s Prostitution-Free Zone law in 2006, which allowed the Metropolitan Police Department to label certain areas as "prostitution-free" to increase surveillance and arrests.
The Prostitution-Free Zone law was repealed in 2014 after intense organizing efforts from several trans and sex workers’ rights groups, but the general stigma and criminalization that bred the law in the first place continues. In the summer of 2014 in neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, police officers announced with excitement that they would live-tweet a prostitution sting, including the names and photos of the "suspects." D.C. 50 clients in one month during the summer of 2015. In the winter of 2018, two trans street-based sex workers reported that officers in both D.C. Prince George’s County were using the threat of arrest to coerce them, and other sex workers, into having sex.
Nona has had countless experiences with police; working on K Street for years gave her firsthand knowledge of police and criminalization dynamics. "A few of the officers were nice and would warn us about upcoming stings. They’d tell us to hide out, because for the next few hours they’d be locking people up on sight," Nona said. "But lots of officers were assholes. They didn’t read you your rights, wouldn’t tell you what was going on. They just locked you up. They roughed you up, called you ‘he’ and disgusting names. Stings and arrests don’t help people in the sex trade; instead, they make life infinitely harder. When sex workers have criminal records, they face more barriers to employment and housing.
Many landlords will refuse to house tenants with any criminal background despite the knowledge that this disproportionately affects Black and Brown people, who are treated unfairly in the criminal legal system. The same often happens with employers. Even arrests where the charges are dropped can have devastating effects on someone’s life. As a survival sex worker, being arrested means you can’t make money. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, living in hotel rooms, or otherwise need your money immediately, being in jail for even a few days could thrust you into homelessness. That’s not to mention those who have to stay in jail because they can’t afford bail, or people who put everything they have on bail and end up with nothing left when they’re released.
This system of criminalization, policing and incarceration makes it hard for Black and Brown trans, queer and gender nonconforming people to be safe and have their needs met. Nona knows this well: She’s been arrested several times. For her, surviving life’s circumstances sometimes felt like treading in quicksand. She didn’t have a safe home because of familial abuse, so she ran away. She couldn’t get a job or a home because she was Black and trans, so she did sex work and hustled to survive. She started getting arrested for surviving, leading to a criminal history, which made it even more difficult for her to get a job and a home.
She had to rely on sex work even more to make ends meet. "There are things I need to get for myself. I need food, I need shoes, I need a heater for my apartment. These things cost money," Nona said. A key difference between sex work and sex trafficking is that sex work is consensual, while sex trafficking is non-consensual or coerced. Sex workers should have autonomy over their bodies and how they use their labor. Since sex workers are immersed in the industry, they’re among the most likely to know who in the trade is being coerced, abused or exploited. However, due to the threat of arrest and police abuse, sex workers aren’t able to work with the appropriate agencies to ensure that victims of trafficking can get help.
And when sex workers give resources to someone who is being trafficked to help them, like money or a place to stay, they can be accused of facilitating trafficking. Sex workers are also not able to report harms that they themselves experience — harms like rape, theft, stalking and attacks — because of the very real threat of police abuse and harassment. The conflation of sex work and sex trafficking is not only dangerous for both groups — evidence shows that sex work criminalization in D.C. According to D.C. police records, of the 2,582 prostitution-related arrests that police made between 2013 and 2017, only seven involved trafficking.
Even though Nona is relieved to have a roof over her head — she’s currently renting out a living room in a house with a few other trans women — she continues to struggle financially. The hotel rooms were expensive. Transportation is expensive. Health care is expensive. The latter has been particularly costly for Nona lately: she’s still recovering physically and mentally from being stabbed nearly 50 times in 2017. Still, Nona is hopeful. "I recently started full-time at my job at CASS," Nona said, her speech gaining speed with excitement. "I could get an even better position there once I’m stably housed." Although she loves the community she has with her roommates, she still dreams of having a space of her own one day. "I’d love to be stably housed. Nona believes that the day will come.
The signs are all there. Her job, where she gets to flex one of her many talents — bartending — taps into her passions. The trans women she lives with, who play music, sing and dance around her, provide her with community. The messages of support that filter through her GoFundMe make her feel cared for. And being able to work with and advocate for trans women of color, people who do street-based sex work, and abuse survivors gives her hope. 20 to her name, searching for a place where she’d be loved and accepted for who she is. A place where she’d feel safe. "I’d love that," Nona said. To donate to Nona to help her afford housing and living expenses, please visit her GoFundMe.
Donations have been slow this month and we urgently need everyone reading this to take a moment to help us continue our work. Unlike most news sites, we don’t run ads, have a paywall or sell your info. We rely on your support to survive. Please, help us keep going by making a tax-deductible donation. It takes seconds (we don’t even need your address) and every dollar helps. Jordan N. DeLoach is a Black and queer artist, writer and organizer born and raised in Maryland. She uses art and writing to uplift the stories of Black queer, trans and gender nonconforming people. Visit Jordan’s website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
You must also be aware of laws which apply to all businesses. These include the Australian Consumer Law and those about business registration, tax and workplace agreements. Sex Work Ministerial Advisory Committee of issues and trends. Consumer Affairs Victoria, Victoria Police and local councils enforce the licensing, criminal and planning requirements of the Act, respectively. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police are responsible for enforcing the criminal law, including issues related to the sex industry such as sexual slavery and sexual assault. You can face a jail term if convicted. Consumer Affairs Victoria works closely with the AFP and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to investigate potential human trafficking in the sex industry. Victoria Police investigates other offences, including aggravated deceptive recruiting for sex work, and illegal brothels. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission - staff may inspect your brothel. You must protect sex workers from discrimination or harassment, such as bullying and violence, by clients. Australian Taxation Office (ATO) - financial records of licensees, managers and sex workers may all be checked by the ATO. Licensees who employ staff must pay income tax and GST.
Ellington has been held at the Kanabec County Jail since April 2 on a counterfeiting/fraud charge. He was scheduled to be released July 12, the Pioneer Press reported. "In those text messages, (Ellington) would discuss the commercial sex operation, various narcotic transactions and suspected ongoing fraudulent activity," the complaint states. Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith told the Pioneer Press the text messages were sent through a jail-issued iPod; Ellington paid for each text. "I don’t think there is a facility in the state that has the resources to monitor every single inmate’s communications," Smith told the newspaper said. We’re here to protect people, and we weren’t completely protecting people," Smith told the Pioneer Press. Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters. Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers.
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