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250 Scientists Support Decrim
NEWS RELEASE | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dr. Barbara G. Brents, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Angela Jones, State University of New York
Dr. Kate Hausbeck Korgan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University
Over 250 Scientists Ask Biden Administration to Advocate for the Decriminalization of Sex Work and Repeal of FOSTA/SESTA
LAS VEGAS, NV (March 3, 2021) – Since 2001, sex workers, allies, and advocates have commemorated International Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3rd in an effort to raise awareness of the human rights abuses faced by sex workers. On this day, citing empirical evidence, researchers and scientists from around the world are calling on President Biden and Vice President Harris to support the decriminalization of sex work as part of their broader efforts toward criminal justice reform. “We decided to launch this campaign because, for too long, policies regarding sex work have been largely evidence-free, and we saw an urgent need to intervene in the debate by re-linking scientific research with public policy. And 250 researchers agreed and signed on to our letter,” said Ronald Weitzer, Ph.D., George Washington University, one of the four organizers of the Scientists For Sex Worker Rights campaign.
The majority of individuals involved in the sex trades are consenting adults. Yet, nearly 90% of the federal government’s $24 million “trafficking prevention” budget was used to arrest consensual adult sex workers rather than to detect coercion or assist victims. The FBI reported 1,392 arrests for trafficking into sexual labor in 2018 — of those, 1,242 were adults engaged in consensual sex work. “The data clearly shows that criminalizing consensual adult sexual services causes severe harms, which fall mainly on the most marginalized groups–women, people of color, transgender and non-binary workers, workers’ with disabilities, and economically marginalized workers, and does not prevent or minimize violence or abuse ostensibly identified with human trafficking,” said, Angela Jones, Ph.D., Farmingdale State College, State University of New York.
“The evidence now shows that the war on prostitution, even if intended to protect people, is backfiring. Study after study documents the negative impact criminalizing sex workers, their clients, and those who support them has had on the most marginalized communities. We can change that with science-based policies. Science should determine every single policy in this country, whether local, state or federal, intended to affect or protect anyone selling sex, whether by choice, circumstance or coercion,” noted Barb Brents, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Signatories to the letter represent some of the most published scholars and respected researchers in the field and come from the U.S. and across the globe. Their research unequivocally shows that decriminalization has enormous benefits for public health and workers. Where sex work has been decriminalized, such as in New Zealand, there has been no increase in the prevalence of prostitution since 2003, neither in the number of those providing commercial sex nor in those purchasing it; fewer reports of street-based sex workers, as many had moved indoors; increased reporting to the police of violence against sex workers; improved relations between police and sex workers; improved economic stability and labor conditions; better health outcomes for workers; and improved overall public health.
The letter applauds the administration’s “public commitment to science-driven policy” and implores the President, Vice President, their administration, and Congressional leaders, to take immediate, specific actions such as “Support and advocate for Congressional bill S.3165 SESTA/FOSTA Examination of Secondary Effects for Sex Workers Study Act… Given that a similar House bill, H.R.5448 SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, has been buried in committee since 12/18/2019, we are calling for serious action on the Senate study bill” because policies such as FOSTA/SESTA has had deleterious transnational effects on sex workers. The four organizers hope that governors and state legislators as well will heed the science on similar state-level bills.
“President Biden and his administration have an historic opportunity to create a commission comprised of leading social scientists, NGOs, and grass-roots sex worker-led organizations to partner with Congressional leaders and advance new science-informed policies that empower and support all individuals engaged in sex work,” said Kate Korgan, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Dr. Barbara G. Brents, Department of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Angela Jones, Department of Sociology, State University of New York
Dr. Kate Hausbeck Korgan, Department of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Ronald Weitzer, Department of Sociology, George Washington University
About the Scientists for Sex Worker Rights Campaign
The Scientists For Sex Worker Rights campaign is a campaign of scholars advocating for evidence-based policy on sex work and sexual commerce at the national, state, and local levels. The four organizers have PhDs in sociology and hold academic posts at universities across the U.S. They are some of the nation’s leading scholars of research on sexual commerce, and they have published numerous books and peer-reviewed articles on various aspects of the field.
For more information, see their individual websites at: https://brents.faculty.unlv.edu/, https://drangelajones.com/, https://www.unlv.edu/people/kate-korgan, https://sociology.columbian.gwu.edu/ronald-weitzer.
Link to the open letter