Unless you are allied with the sex workers rights movement, decriminalization and partial decriminalization may not mean much to you, though DECRIM is a hot topic!
Newly elect vice president Kamala Harris built a strong portion of her career on anti trafficking efforts, supporting what she has publicly called decriminalizaition and safety for sex workers. She actually supports what can best be deemed “partial”.
Is partial ‘decrim’ an actual solution or purely a problem?
Partial decriminalization also known as the Nordic Model is defined as a punitive process involving the arrest and conviction of those paying for sex without convicting the worker providing the service. This is defined as partial decriminalization, and a current example of this effort is the “Solicitation for Prostitution Registry”, a database now in effect as of 01 January 2021. Florida, for instance, has – as of January 25 – 77 men arrested for sexualized services, though it is unclear yet if they will be placed on the five year registry term.
In 2019 Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars Alex Andrews was quoted in Filter Magazine discussing analysis conducted by the Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs where a staff affirmed sex worker advocates’ fears: The Database “will collect and centralize information relating to those convicted of soliciting prostitution, regardless of whether the person subject to the solicitation is a victim of human trafficking or not.” She added: “What keeps me up at night is the amount of identifying information made publicly available on these registries.” For SWOP Behind Bars organizer Alex Andrews, the legislation is “mostly an anti-sex-work bill and [has] nothing to do with trafficking.” There is a concern that sex workers who group together to stay safer could be accused of trafficking and placed on the publicly available registry.
Lobbyist organizations such as Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) leading in the unified outreach efforts oppose the Nordic model, favoring the sex workers’ rights centered New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act (PRA 2003). SWOP Behind Bars supports the collective styles of both the New Zealand model, and the 65,000 member strong Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Durbar), where the government acknowledged sex work collective has created their own community support systems, even starting their own micro-banking system. New Zealand despite abolitionist arguments on the PRA decision is Tier 1 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) compliant.
Globally, sex worker advocates such as Canadian Triple X and NSWP oppose the Nordic model because of hurtful hidden language in the laws. Here in the United States, California’s Maxine Doogan of The ESPLER Project agrees. Especially since April 2018 implementation of The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) voices from diverse comunities of men, women and transgender workers and actvists have been heard.
For individuals included in the database, SWOP Behind Bars is preparing to file a class action lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the law.