Tag: trafficking

Monica Jones Speaking Tour

Human rights advocate Monica Jones will be traveling to the NYC area for meetings and events associated with the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking. Ms Jones will be speaking to her experience as transgender leader who was arrested by a misguided anti-trafficking initiative called Project ROSE and about the campaign she lead to raise awareness of the rights violations perpetrated by police, social workers and services providers in the name of ending “sex trafficking.” Her work on these issues sparked global awareness of the rights violations experienced by transgender women of color in the United States as a result of anti-trafficking policies. During her campaign she was joined by leading advocates such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and many others. A video of Monica and Laverne Cox at an event at the Herberger Theater Center organized the ACLU and sex worker rights organizations in defense of Ms Jones is available here.

Ms Jones is available for speaking engagements the NY/DC/PA area December 5 to 14, 2016. She is a dynamic speaker who has presented on transgender rights, HIV/AIDS, feminism, sex work, social work, and the law at events during the Commission on the Status of Women in NY, the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, International AIDS Conferences in Melbourne, Australia and Durban, South Africa, and the Association of Women in Development in Brazil. Ms Jones is the recipient of the SPARK! Authentic Life Award in 2015, was honored as one of the Trans 100 in 2015 and received the Diversity Advisory Committee of Phoenix College Award in 2012. Ms Jones is the founder of The Outlaw Project, an organization based on the principles of intersectionality to prioritize the leadership of people of color, transgender women, gender non-binary people and migrants for sex worker rights. She has presented at universities across the United States introducing students of all levels to key issues relating to transgender experience, rights, sex worker rights, workers rights, gender justice, the law and social work. Ms Jones may be contacted by email at monica6022006@gmail and by text/voice to (602) 483-9772.

monicajones2016speakingtour

US Sex Workers Respond to Visa & Mastercard Dumping Backpage

Sex workers and people in the sex trade are once again facing the brunt of misguided anti-trafficking efforts. Sex workers and people profiled as such face arrest and incarceration all in the name of “ending trafficking” and now low income people are being denied access to a place where they could advertise. Miss Andrie has written an excellent piece on the situation at Backpage, concluding that, “Like many ostensible anti-trafficking efforts, this will do very little to actually affect human trafficking. It will, however, impact free speech, and serve to make many sex workers’ lives more difficult.” Organizations across the United States, including BPPP, have united to publicize the issues in the following press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Derek J. Demeri| Atlantic City, NJ | 973.356.4456 | jdemeri20@gmail.com Lindsay Roth | Philadelphia, PA | 443.370.7626 | lindsay@swopusa.org

SEX WORKERS, TRAFFICKING VICTIMS MORE VULNERABLE AS VISA, MASTERCARD CUT TIES TO BACKPAGE.COM

Sex workers and advocates are denouncing a move by Visa and Mastercard to discontinue processing credit card transactions for Adult Services ads on BackPage.com. “This policy effectively disenfranchises thousands of sex workers across the country who do not have access to any other means of online-advertising,” said Lindsay Roth, Board Chair of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. “Those who may have worked independently prior to the policy change may now have to rely on third parties, including traffickers, in order to meet their needs.” “

Risk to violence is multiplied for workers who belong to other marginalized groups,” Derek Demeri of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance said. “This will especially impact women of color, queer youth, transgender women and immigrants who will no longer have access to web-based safety tools like client screening.” Demeri and other advocates report that multiple communities were deeply affected after last year’s closure of MyRedBook.com, a site where sex workers and their customers met and reviewed each other. Advocates say that like MyRedBook, BackPage.com enables people to work independently, reduces their dependence and vulnerability, and allows them to share harm reduction information online. Pushing these workers even further into the shadows cuts them off from social services and makes them more vulnerable to violence and coercion. “These efforts are misguided and will cause significantly more harm to those in the sex trade, including trafficked individuals,” said Kristen DiAngelo, a trafficking survivor who recently co-authored a study in Sacramento that showed 18% of street-based prostitutes interviewed in the last nine months had returned to the streets after the closure of MyRedBook.com.

Many are concerned about the root of the changes that are occurring in the name of “ending trafficking.” “It’s alarming when bank and credit institutions can decide how money obtained legally can be used based on their ideas of morality,” Monica Jones, a national transgender and sex worker activist in Phoenix remarked. Penelope Saunders, the coordinator of the Best Practices Policy Project, shares Ms Jones’ concern. “The general public has been mislead into believing that cracking down on civil liberties is a way of ‘saving’ women from trafficking,” she said, “but once people look more closely at what these so-called anti-trafficking restrictions actually do, they are appalled by the real consequences to low income people and the rights violations that ensue.”

Viable solutions to address human rights violations are well known in the social service sector, but often receive much less media fanfare than hyped stories of sexual exploitation. “If there is a genuine desire to end human trafficking,” Kate D’Adamo of the Sex Workers Project in New York states, ”Then there needs to be a focus on key factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking: access to public services, youth homelessness, and additional employment opportunities.” Opponents of the decision are circulating a sign-on letter amongst sex workers and supporters, in which they ask Visa and MasterCard to “Appeal to reason…” and reconsider their move to stop allowing transactions for Adult Services on BackPage.com. ###

 

Ill-informed legislation under consideration in Maryland

BREAKING 11:45am, March 25, 2015: We just learned that the Senate Bill has been withdrawn and the hearing cancelled. This is a great victory for human rights!

While lawmakers at the federal level are battling over a largely bad piece of legislation allegedly meant to address human trafficking, a proposal in Maryland to increase criminal penalties related to trafficking and prostitution will have a hearing on March 25. In the name of making human trafficking-related crimes felonies rather than misdemeanors, the Maryland Senate will hear testimony on Senate Bill 904. This is the counterpart to House Bill 241, which had a hearing last month. Aside from the fact that a criminalization approach is not effective in addressing coercion or exploitation, Maryland’s human trafficking law is even more problematic than many others. In 2007 lawmakers essentially amended the state’s pandering laws and renamed them “human trafficking” laws–meaning that human trafficking in Maryland only covers force, fraud and coercion in the sex sector, and trafficking in any other sector is not covered.

The proposed law would make the following, among others, into felony crimes:

  • take or cause another to be taken to any place for prostitution
  • place, cause to be placed, or harbor another in any place for prostitution
  • persuade, induce, entice, or encourage another to be taken to or placed in any place for prostitution

As noted by advocates like Power Inside who are speaking out against these bills (as well as those who have spoken out against similar legislation in other parts of the country) such a law would increase dramatically the criminal penalties associated with important harm reduction practices such as sex workers working together. A friend giving a ride to a sex worker, a boyfriend or a girlfriend acting as a lookout when a sex worker takes a date, or an older sex worker giving advice to a younger sex worker could all be liable for felony crimes under such a law, which would include up to 25 years in jail, a $15,000 fine, and no possibility to expunge the conviction.

If Maryland lawmakers are truly interested in helping people who experience force, fraud or coercion in the course of their work, whether in the sex sector, domestic labor, agricultural sector, or elsewhere, they should revise the law to properly define human trafficking. Even more importantly, they should focus on structural reforms that would make people less vulnerable to exploitation, such as increasing labor protections, raising the minimum wage, ensuring a strong social safety newt, promoting worker organizing among migrants and other vulnerable groups, and removing criminal laws associated with sex work.

Power Inside, Best Practices Policy Project, Sex Worker Project, and other groups are sending the letter below to the Maryland Senate and General Assembly encouraging them to table this bill and reconsider their approach.

TO: The Hon. Bobby Zirkin, Chair, and members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee; Hon. Joseph Vallario, Jr., Chair, and members of the House Judiciary Committee

FROM: The Undersigned Organizations

DATE: March 25, 2015

RE: Opposition to Senate Bill 904 and House Bill 241

As service providers, human rights advocates, and experts working on behalf of victims of human trafficking across the country, we appreciate the zeal with which the Maryland legislature has taken on the fight to end human trafficking. However, we believe strongly that SB 904 and HB241 are misguided and we oppose increasing penalties under subsection (a) of Maryland Criminal Code § 11-303 and urge the committees to release an unfavorable report on each of the respective bills.

Firstly, it is important to recognize that trafficking adults with the use of force, fraud, or coercion is already correctly a felony under MCC § 11-303(b)(2). This is in line with the definition of trafficking used by the federal government, and accepted as a model law by the American Bar Association, the Uniform Laws Commission, the United Nations, and experts in human trafficking. SB 904 and HB 241 are unnecessary to protect adult victims of human trafficking.

As it stands, MCC § 11-303(a) criminalizes activities that fall far beyond the widely accepted definition of human trafficking. If the amendments pass, basic safety techniques that those in the sex trade, including victims of human trafficking, engage in as a means of harm reduction would be considered felony human trafficking. For instance, two trafficking victims driving to and from jobs together would be considered felony human trafficking. This increased criminalization of an overbroad definition of trafficking will inadvertently escalate harm to adult victims of trafficking, as well as homeless and otherwise vulnerable adults involved in prostitution who rely on their peers for basic survival.

The increased penalties of these common harm-reduction activities have far-reaching consequences beyond longer and more costly sentences. Many Maryland residents who enter into prostitution have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of homelessness, health conditions, and survival related behaviors such as trading sex for shelter. As such, they may have lengthy criminal records for crimes that may eventually be expunged or sealed.  Human trafficking is not eligible for sealing or expungement. As such, anyone arrested and convicted under MCC § 11-303 for prostitution-related activities that fall short of the commonly understood definition of human trafficking will face life-long stigma and discrimination when seeking employment, housing, and education. This is especially true when considering that most employers, landlords, and other gate-keepers will not understand the broad range of survival activities that are considered “human trafficking” under Maryland state law. This unfortunate consequence of criminalization forces people to rely on the sex industry, even when seeking to escape it. This problem is only compounded if non-violent trafficking charges are increased to felonies.  Passing this law could wreak havoc on the lives of the most vulnerable, and we are deeply concerned about the implications.

We, the undersigned, oppose SB 904 and HB 241.

JOIN MONICA JONES ON APRIL 11: TAKE ACTION FOR THE RIGHTS OF TRANS PEOPLE AND SEX WORKERS

The Best Practices Policy Project, the Desiree Alliance, Global Action for Trans* Equality and INCITE! are calling for US-wide and international action on April 11, 2014 to support Monica Jones’ campaign for the rights of transgender people and sex workers.

Monica Jones, a human rights defender in Arizona and an advocate for the rights of transgender people and sex workers, was profiled and wrongfully arrested for “manifestation of prostitution” by a police sting operation and anti-prostitution diversion program known as “Project ROSE”. Ms Jones had been a speaker at a rally protesting Project ROSE—which is run by Phoenix police and Arizona State University’s School of Social Work—the day before. At the time of her arrest, she was not engaging in sex work, but was in fact walking down her street to the local bar.

On April 11 at 8.30 am (US Mountain Standard Time) Monica’s case will go to trial at Phoenix Municipal Court. She will plead not guilty and an action is planned outside the court to show the City of Phoenix Prosecutor that we won’t tolerate the systematic profiling and criminalization of transgender people of color and sex workers. The court date was postponed after Monica’s defense filed a motion challenging the constitutional basis of the manifestation law, and Monica promised to return with “twice as many people.” Last month, two sex worker rights advocates went to the United Nations in Geneva to bring international attention to Monica’s trial and the ongoing human rights violations occurring in Phoenix and across the United States.

We call on people and organizations across the United States, in the region and internationally to show your support for Monica Jones and the issues she cares about. We encourage individuals, organizations, and communities to acknowledge the day in whatever way they feel safe in doing to raise awareness, to learn and share about the issues (it could be through social media action, by sharing a meal, organizing a public action, writing a letter to the press, through art and so on).

Please email us at bestpracticespolicyproject @ gmail.com and director @ desireealliance.org to tell us about the action you plan and if you would like us to highlight your action on our websites. If you wish to add your organization’s name to this call, email us and we would be happy to do so.

More information about the case, Monica’s trial can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/477216822384806/

http://www.swopphoenix.org/monica/

http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/2014/01/10/phoenix-calling-the-united-nations-new-iccpr-report/

Since refusing to plead guilty to the charges she is innocent of, Ms. Jones has been targeted four additional times by police officers while walking around her neighborhood carrying out everyday activities such as bringing groceries home or heading to her local bar. Each time, the police use insulting and transphobic language and threaten her with arrest, despite the fact that she is doing nothing more than simply walking outdoors. Across the U.S. and in Phoenix, transgender people of color are routinely targeted for harassment and hate-motivated violence, by both police and the public, and are frequently profiled as sex workers by police. Transgender people are also targeted for cruel treatment in prisons, including by guards.

Ms. Jones states, “I believe I was profiled as a sex worker because I am a transgender woman of color, and an activist. I am a student at ASU, and fear that these wrongful charges will affect my educational path. I am also afraid that if am sentenced, I will be placed in a men’s jail as a transgender woman, which would be very unsafe for me. Prison is an unsafe place for everyone, and especially trans people.

Monica Jones should not have to go to court to fight wrongful charges resulting from a discriminatory and arbitrary arrest stemming from a department in which she studies. Sign the petition to have the charges against Monica dropped.