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MASWAN and New Hampshire House Bill 287

On Tuesday February 20th, 2018, a MASWAN member testified at the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee in support of House Bill 287, a bill that would establish a committee to study issues related to changing prostitution laws in New Hampshire. This committee would be comprised of three members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and two members of the Senate, appointed by the President of the Senate. The proposed committee would investigate issues such as: the experiences of sex workers and victims of trafficking with law enforcement, the availability of services to sex workers and victims of trafficking, and the impacts of arrest, conviction, and incarceration on individuals arrested for prostitution offenses. The bill was originally written as a bill to oppose decriminalization but was rewritten on the recommendation of lawmakers and other stakeholders.

Opponents to the bill had a strong presence in the room and provided much of the hearing’s testimony to the four person Senate committee. These opponents included concerned citizens, a former victim of trafficking, and representatives from the NH Human Trafficking Task Force, Cornerstone Baptist Church, and NH Catholic Charities. They argued the proposal was inherently biased and conflates “occupation” with “prostitution.” Without being specific or citing examples, they claimed there had already been a study on prostitution in NH. Senators asked a range of questions, including whether organizations such as the NH Human Trafficking Task Force had been included in the suggested list of consultants (which is stated in the law as merely provisional), to which the task force representative answered that they had turned down the offer. Many myths about sex work abounded in their testimony, and although the senators generally asked balanced questions, one refused to believe that any police person in NH would commit any type of assault on a sex worker. 

Supporters for the bill included activists, sex workers, and academics, all of whom spoke of the need to study the effects of criminalization in NH and examine other legal models. As one testifier put it, this is an “opportunity” for NH to be a national and world leader in this area. The session closed out with powerful testimony from a young sex workers named Connor, who spoke on the spot about his fear of criminalization and his desire and excitement to be able to contribute to the amelioration of his working conditions. 

If the bill is accepted by the committee, it will  be passed to the floor of the Senate for a vote. At the outset of the hearing, Rep. Elizabeth Edward’s father, also a State Representative, gave moving testimony about a sex working friend who recently passed away. He testified that he had spoken to Governor Sununu earlier that week, and the Governor, previously opposed to the bill,  expressed a willingness to sign it. Unfortunately, by the end of the hearing, the Governor had signed into the hearing in opposition to the bill. This development is likely to forestall further movement of the bill. 

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What would SESTA & FOSTA do?

Check out this handy chart from our friends at Reframe Health and Justice on SESTA and FOSTA – and if you haven’t yet, BE SURE TO CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE! Call through the EFF’s easy Stop Fosta page here! 

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FOSTA is a disaster for sex workers

Call your Congressional Representative by Tuesday, February 27th to support sex workers’ rights to work!!

The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) will make it even harder to prevent trafficking and protect trafficking victims. And government will surveil and censor online free speech, including activist free speech, more forcefully than ever before.

Tell your reps that FOSTA is not the right solution to fight trafficking or to protect sex workers. FOSTA will make illegal safety practices such as screening for clients, organizing with other sex workers or trafficking victims, and hosting bad date lists (of clients who are known to rape or abuse). Basic harm reduction and anti-violence work will become a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Sites like Backpage already cooperate with trafficking investigations, but if this bill passes, traffickers will move their activities to the streets and to non-US hosted sites, making it even more difficult to find and protect trafficking victims. FOSTA further pushes sex work underground, doing nothing to address the conditions that make people vulnerable in the first place. Sex worker activists and allies are vulnerable to legal prosecution under FOSTA.

Call your rep today by going to www.eff.org and clicking on the article about FOSTA.

We will post updates about the progress of this bill and future opportunities to act.

 

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MASWAN at the BU SPH Symposium

Last November, MASWAN member Bobbi Taylor spoke at the Boston University School of Public Health Symposium, Understanding Commercial Sex Policy: A Global and Local Perspective. Bobbi’s speech is available on YouTube in its entirety

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MASWAN Member Bobbi Taylor on Sex Work & Trans Rights

MASWAN member Bobbi Taylor spoke about visibility, trans rights, and sex work with Madeleine Bishop at the Public Health Post. In the interview, Bobbi emphasized the role journalists can play in destigmatizing sex work, the problems that government identification can create, and how discrimination can prevent trans folks from getting jobs. Read the full post here! 

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Resources and Reading List

We have developed an extensive list of resources and pieces to read on sex work and feminism, trafficking, public policy, and decriminalization from a variety of different points of view and fields of study. If you have any suggestions or comments, don’t hesitate to send them our way! 

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News Update – July 2017

One of the things we’ll be posting regularly is a roundup of news stories about sex work from Massachusetts and the greater Boston area. If you see any stories we missed, let us know!

This article doesn’t quite tie these disparate pieces together: State Senator Mark Montigny’s body work bill, human trafficking, and the need to vacate sex work convictions.

“Human trafficking is a horrific crime that has ruined the lives of countless innocent people,” Montigny (D-New Bedford) said in a statement to the Herald. “We cannot afford to delay providing greater resources for survivors so that they can begin to reclaim their lives.”

That nice…but wasn’t Montigny’s 2011 legislation supposed to do the same thing? And provide a slush fund for victims? Montigny is trying to lump human trafficking, sex trafficking, and bodywork establishments under the same umbrella but once again, the victims and sex workers get the short end of the stick.

A Springfield, MA couple have been charged with running a prostitution business.

The article doesn’t give specifics on the charges against each individual, but without knowing any of the details of this case, I find it interesting that the female half of this couple charged with ‘inducing travel to engage in prostitution,’ ‘transporting an individual to engage in prostitution,’ and four counts of extortion is pleading to six years of time in prison, half of what her (male) partner is pleading to. It may not be true in this instance, but it speaks to gendered bias in sentencing in which women are perceived to be less capable of violence (and less intrinsically violent) than men are.

UMass Amherst’s College of Nursing is offering an online course in ‘how to spot trafficking’ this fall.

“The idea for the class is to help people recognize what human trafficking is. According to the class description, “human trafficking is a global problem, but it may hit closer to home than you might think.” Sabella said trafficking is considered a public health issue. Yet people might not recognize it or know what it is, she said. That’s where the class will help. Trafficking involves force, fraud or coercion, and can involve sex, labor or organ trafficking. The latter, she said, is more prevalent in other countries.”

Glad to see that different types of trafficking will be differentiated in this course. It’s probably too much to hope that they’ll be using Laura Maria Agustin’s work, or that they’d distinguish between trafficking and sex work, or that there’d be a healthy discussion of how sex workers are charged under trafficking laws, sometimes with self-trafficking? It’d be really great to see a class that explored the grey areas of sex work, consent, trafficking, and the law, especially one directed at service providers. Folks need help regardless of whether or not they fit within a neat profile of ‘victim.’

The MA State Senate has passed a bill to promote teaching sex education in schools. It’s going to the House, where Republicans are expected to push for a parental opt-in clause.

It’s pretty standard stuff…but I wanna know who was in charge of creating that link…it reads ‘anal-sex-ed-bill-passes-massachusetts-senate.’ Did the conservative folks over at the New Boston Post think that one through?

3 MA residents charged in Atlantic City with promoting prostitution and trafficking.

3 MA Jane Does are suing Backpage, alleging they were trafficked on the site, and additionally accusing Backpage of benefiting from and participating in child sex trafficking.

Bristol County jail is banning in-person visits and replacing them with the “cruel and counterproductive” system of video calls, and our boy Montigny has filed a bill to prevent it – still in committee.

 

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It begins!

We are thrilled to launch the Massachusetts Sex Worker Ally Network website!!! Stay tuned for updates about MASWAN meetings, news, current projects, and other information.