The War on Sex Workers

The War on Sex Workers, Melissa Gira Grant

Out in Reason this month (February 2013), I’ve got a new feature, “The War On Sex Workers“:

Not all people who do sex work are women, but women disproportionately suffer the stigma, discrimination, and violence against sex workers. The result is a war on women that is nearly imperceptible, unless you are involved in the sex trade yourself. This war is spearheaded and defended largely by other women: a coalition of feminists, conservatives, and even some human rights activists who subject sex workers to poverty, violence, and imprisonment—all in the name of defending women’s rights.

This is by far the most controversial piece I’ve written. Before I get to that, some additional reading on items mentioned in the story:

• The Social Science Research Center at DePaul University’s study of the Chicago Police Department’s “johns” mugshots websites.

• Women With A Vision’s “No Justice” project, which ended the police practice of charging sex workers with “solicitation of a crime against nature,” which had forced them to register as sex offenders in Louisiana.

• Dr. Kumkum Roy, Director of the Women’s Studies Programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University, invited Gloria Steinem to speak on sex work during her trip to India as mentioned in my piece. She writes, after hearing Steinem and her co-panelists speak, “Ms Steinem and Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap refuse to recognize that unionized sex workers are voicing their own opinions—these women are dismissed as puppets of pimps and brothel owners—a gross simplification in view of the sheer numbers of women across the country who have unionised in a bid to claim human rights and dignity.”

• The 2012 Chicago Reporter investigation into the staggering increase in felony arrests of sex workers, “Escorted to jail.”

• Ann Jordan, interviewed for this piece, publishes at Rights Work, a project of the American University Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, which includes a valuable Fact Checker feature for researchers, journalists, and advocates.

• The Sex Workers Project continues advocacy and research around sound sex work policy.

• The Best Practices Policy Project also continues their work on bringing the United States in alignment with recommendations on sex workers’ rights made through the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.