In observation of Black History Month 2020, we’re throwing back to the inspiring Women of Color Against the Sex Trade event sponsored by SPACE International and Roosevelt House that took place in NYC last December. Our Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé and our Youth Outreach Coordinator Melanie Thompson joined survivors of the sex trade from around the world for exciting and pertinent policy discussions.
Two panels centered the voices of seven prostitution survivors, all women of color, from Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia and the U.S. Survivor leaders shared their expertise on frontline service provision, policy and advocacy, and discussed how the sex trade is fueled by patriarchy, racism and colonialism. They shed light on the reality that the overwhelming majority of people in prostitution are marginalized women and girls, especially of color. Through their different perspectives as service providers and advocates in different global jurisdictions, the speakers highlighted the services that are necessary for people in prostitution and those who are ready to exit the sex trade. They also discussed how sex buyers, pimps and traffickers, brothel and illicit massage parlor owners cause people in prostitution physical harm and emotional trauma that is lifelong — harm that cannot be regulated away.
The event came at a crucial juncture. With New York State considering the best way forward to address prostitution, the survivor leaders honed in on the effects of criminalization, legalization and decriminalization of prostitution and the goals of an Equality Model law. They lent support to the Equality Model, which seeks to decriminalize solely those in prostitution and provide them with comprehensive services, including housing, medical care, trauma-informed counseling, educational opportunities, job training, and a way out of the sex trade should they wish to exit.