Visitors to Amsterdam have probably strolled De Wallen, its downtown red light district where female sex workers often stand in one of 300 windows to advertise their services.
According to Boy Culture, Amsterdam is celebrating Pride by putting male sex workers in the red light district windows to help highlight an important cause. It’s not only a much celebrated display of the city’s acceptance of queer sexuality, it’s also an awareness campaign by the non-profit brothel and sex worker advocacy group, My Red Light, and the escort site, HUNQZ.com.
The campaign is meant to highlight the need for greater legal protections for sex workers.
“Our view is that sex workers should be able to work freely, safely and in good working conditions and that they should enjoy the same rights as other independent entrepreneurs,” My Red Light writes. “Like in any other labour sector … violence, abuse and exploitation are also sometimes seen in the sex work sector. [We’re] committed to identifying and appropriately addressing [the problem.]”
While the campaign is meant to address issues in Amsterdam, the movement to decriminalize sex work is gaining traction in America.
In March 2018, federal legislators passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA/FOSTA) which caused the shut down of escort sites and public forums where sex workers shared safety advice.
As a result, some sex workers have been forced back onto the streets where harassment, extortion and abuse can occur by policemen or other passers-by. Arrests and injuries can separate sex workers from their families and economically devastate them. Some states charge sex work as a felony and make arrestees join a “sexual offenders registry” subjecting them to a lifetime of public scorn and discrimination.
Trans women and women of color are more likely to face arrest and violence for sex work.
Selling sex is illegal everywhere in America except in a few Nevada counties. But, “legislation to decriminalize sex work has been introduced in both DC and New York state, and several presidential candidates, including Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, have said they support some degree of decriminalization,” according to Vox.com.
While some countries abroad have opted for Sweden’s “‘Nordic model,’ which eliminates criminal penalties for selling sex but retains penalties for buyers,” advocates say that criminalizing one-half of the transaction still leaves workers and buyers subject to legal harassment.
While both the D.C. and New York City decriminalization bills recently failed, both the World Health Organization and Amnesty International have recommended that countries work toward decriminalization.