Carceral State [police, prisons, borders, surveillance]
Capitalist Social Enterprises [privatizing social welfare]
*Heteronormative* "Family Values"
Law and Order to defend "our nation", & "our children" Rescue & Restoration of victims ["marriage,militarism, and markets" - Janet Jakobsen]
Anti-Sex Work Coalitions really came to my attention when I was asked to speak on my experience as an undocumented sex worker at a Human Trafficking informational event. Members of the Peace & Social Action Committee (PSAC) of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) church wanted to hear both sides of the arguments for sex work policy. Three representatives were picked advocating for full decriminalization of sex work, and three organizations/speakers were picked for the partial criminalization side. SWERFs notoriously ignore the voices of those they pretend to advocate for. All three of the organizations for the EqualityModel/Nordic Model refused to attend claiming that they wouldn't be in the same room as an undocumented immigrant.
The people and organizations that view undocumented immigrants as criminals are [Two of these groups are a part of the New Yorker's for the Equality Model steering committee]:
Kathleen Moran who is the Chair of the Partnership to End Human Trafficking (PEHT), a program of UNA-SNY
[They claim to be affiliated with the United Nations Association...to be clear The UN Association is not officially recognized by the UN. The UN supports full decriminalization of sex work. They do this to trick the public into thinking they have more credibility then they actually do.]
Shandra Woworuntu CEO of the social enterprise Mentari
Lima James from LifeWay Network
If you'd like to read more about what happened you can read my blog post here.
The New Yorker's for the Equality Model coalition claims that they want to protect marginalized people in New York especially women and girls of color, the LGBTQ+ population, homeless people and undocumented immigrants. This is a lie. I've joined in protest with VOCAL-NY, DecrimNY, Red Canary Song, and others, and I have seen the contempt they have for all of us. All of the institutions pushing for "the equality model"/Nordic model aren't allowed to serve undocumented immigrants. In general we can't get federal funding, access social services the way citizens can (often we can't access anything at all), and only 5k Trafficking Visas are allowed every year, and it never meets that cap. They aren't pushing for any significant changes to the system. Instead they are working with the system to increase policing, prisons, and borders so they can get more funding and "help" people selectively and within the confines of the law.
It's shameful that they would have the gall to claim that they want to protect undocumented immigrants based on their past behavior, and the fact that their institutions can't even house us because the beds are for citizens. Not only that, but many of these groups like Mentari and Not on My Watch for example, have personally marched to Albany to fight against transwomen of color and migrants advocating for the elimination of Walking While Trans Law (loitering for the purposes of prostitution). These charges particularly target street based workers, but they can also be used to target non conforming queer women of color like Tiffany Cabán, who was harassed/profiled because she was assumed to be a prostitute while going out with friends. None of this is new. The whole point of criminalizing sex work was to deter and control women. Magdalene institutions (which still exist today - look up Thistle Farms) would institutionalize "feeble minded women" which could be defined as any woman who stepped out of line. These were basically re-education programs, or rehabilitation programs for "prostituted women", "trafficked women", and sex workers. The way they were "saved" was through whatever methods the person running the institution would define "freedom". In almost all these programs that I have seen, they are run like jails and will actually keep the person stuck in involuntary confinement longer than if they just criminalized you and gave you a sentence in prison. Women of color and LGBTQ+ women were frequently institutionalized in Magdalene societies in New York, as well as women who were single mothers,those who tried to get divorced, who were deemed too sexual, abnormal and "hysterical". A lot of these ideas came out of the eugenics movement. Because of this most of the people sterilized during America's mass sterilization program were working class women of color, women who were considered "feeble minded" because of the objectification and sexualization of their identity by society.
These organizations and people representing these institutions are not our friends, and have made it very clear that they think we aren't worth listening to.
It is our hope that you will listen to us anyway.
Elizabeth Bernstein's input on the subject:
Although some anti-trafficking activists continue to work toward the goal of decriminalizing and securing economic rights for sex workers, the overwhelming thrust of current feminist attention has been oriented toward widening—rather than curtailing--the sphere of criminal justice intervention in the sex industry. This is particularly remarkable given that sex worker activists have insisted that they are far more likely to experience violence at the hands of police officers and social service workers than they are from clients and pimps.35 Recent state interventions on behalf of trafficking victims—including the passage of “safe harbor” laws for underage sex workers and the implementation of special prostitution and trafficking courts, which remand convicted prostitutes to mandatory social service programs—may appear on the surface to counter these trends, but in practice they serve to reinforce them. The stated aim of so-called “safe-harbor legislation” is to change how the criminal justice system treats minors in the sex industry. As such, safe-harbor laws understand minors in the sex trade to be de facto victims rather than criminals, and they depend on the implementation of programs that connect minors with services and resources (e.g., counseling, educational and vocational assessment, protective custody). This kind of service provision has often been facilitated through the creation of specialized prostitution and trafficking courts that combine assessments and court monitoring with the provision of social services.36 Yet scholars and activists who have carefully observed these programs note that they extend the length and restrictive conditions of involuntary confinement and enhance existing mechanisms of coercion through mandatory drug testing and guilty pleas.37 Others have pointed to the dissonance between the idea of sexually exploited youth and the experiences of the majority of underage sex workers who are independent, “defiant and oppositional to treatment,” and who habitually run away from service providers.38 Finally, Jennifer Musto points out that social services are offered to victims only insofar as “they are stabilized in being able to testify against their traffickers.” In this way, they “provide a pathway to fulfilling the criminal justice goal of effectively prosecuting trafficker pimps and expanding the carceral state.”39
As we have seen, although “trafficking” as defined in international protocols and in current federal law is capacious enough to encompass sweatshop labor, agricultural work, or unscrupulous labor practices on US military bases, it has been the far less common instances of sexually trafficked women and girls that have stimulated the most concern by feminist activists, the state, and the press.40 Feminist anti-trafficking activists from mainstream and politically influential organizations such as Equality Now and the Coalition against Trafficking in Women have themselves acknowledged that a focus upon sexual violation rather than the structural conditions of exploited labor more generally—in addition to their strategic partnership on this issue with evangelical Christians—has been crucial to transforming trafficking into a legal framework with powerful material and symbolic effects. As one of the founding members of the prominent feminist anti-trafficking NGO Equality Now explained to me during an interview, framing the harms of prostitution and trafficking as politically neutral questions of humanitarian concern about third-world women, rather than as issues that directly affected the lives of Western feminists, was pivotal to waging the fight against commercial sexuality successfully. At events such as the February 2007 anti-trafficking rally that I attended at Foley Square in New York City, the political efficacy of conjoining the threat of sexual violence with calls for an expanded carceral state apparatus was apparent, with political leaders and feminist activists in strong agreement that human trafficking was primarily an issue of family values, sexual predation, and victimized women and children. At the rally, anti-trafficking activists located sexual menace squarely outside the home, despite a once hegemonic feminist contention that homes and families are the most dangerous places for women and children to be. Various commentators who have critically assessed the rise of the anti-trafficking movement in the United States have attributed its ascendance to what they perceive to be the moralistic sexual politics of its two principal groups, “radical feminists” and conservative Christians.41 They have argued that both groups harbor “archaic and violated visions of femininity and sexuality,” a sexual ideology that is “pro-marriage” and “pro-family,” and that they share an antipathy toward non-procreative sex.42
Finally, as the human rights lawyers Anne Gallagher and Elaine Pearson have observed, “in countries and regions around the world, including Bangladesh, Central and Eastern Europe, Cambodia, India, Israel, Malaysia, Nepal, the Russian Federation, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand, it is common practice for victims of trafficking to be effectively imprisoned in government or private support facilities without being able to leave the shelter grounds beyond the occasional supervised excursion or trip to court.” While they note that shelters differ in terms of size, location, required length of stay, services provided, and populations served, in many cases, they report, the facilities are in fact little more than jails.82
- Elizabeth Bernstein, [Brokered Subjects: Sex, Trafficking & the Politics of Freedom]