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RE: Counterproductive Provisions of SB 540/HB 851
Dear Florida Senators and Representatives,
As LGBTQIA advocacy organizations, organizations for people living with HIV, criminal justice reform organizations, and organizations that support the human rights, health and well-being of individuals in the sex industry—including those who are victims of human trafficking— we write to express our strong support for the laudable goals of Florida Senate Bill 540 and House Bill 851. We must also express our equally strong concerns regarding current provisions in the bills and provisions that could return despite being deleted. We urge you to work with organizations that directly serve trafficking survivors and sex worker rights organizations to revise these bills to decrease trafficking in the sex industry in a way that better serves victims of trafficking and does not increase harms to adult consensual sex workers.
While we share the goal of combating the serious problem of human trafficking in the sex industry, this legislation in its current form fails to address the critical needs of victims and survivors of human trafficking, such as providing safe and stable housing and employment opportunities, and long-term supportive services. Instead, this legislation proposed creating a “Soliciting for Prostitution Registry” or “Soliciting for Prostitution Public Database” which will have potentially devastating consequences for those currently in the sex industry or those who seek access assistance programs to exit the sex industry. This legislation also entrusts the Department of Legal Affairs (DLA) to create a new Direct-Support Organization (DSO) that does not mandate those who are directly impacted by the sex industry (both adult consensual sex workers and victims of trafficking) participate directly in the creation and oversight of the organization. Of the seven (7) person board of directors of the DSO, we emphatically recommend that a minimum of four (4) members have direct experience in the sex industry: two (2) who identify as victims of trafficking and two (2) who identify as adult consensual sex workers (who also may have experienced exploitation in the sex industry). The board is responsible for the direction of this organization, and individuals with experience in the sex industry must not only be represented on this board, but have a significant enough voice that their expertise is heard and valued. Legislators are not familiar with the sex industry directly, and therefore will have far fewer insights as to how to effectively manage this organization.
Many LGBTQIA people, people who use substances, and people living with HIV or AIDS face economic barriers due to discrimination in employment, housing, and education, in addition to rejection by their families, which leads many individuals to participate in survival economies, including the sex industry. This situation occurs even more frequently for transgender women of color and gender nonconforming people of color. Rather than focusing on criminalization and creating a registry or database, increased services (such as job training, vacature of criminal records, education, housing, and substance use rehabilitation) must be integrated into these bills and funded.
The proposed “Soliciting for Prostitution Registry” or “Soliciting for Prostitution Public Database” will not end human trafficking, rather it will subject both adult consensual sex workers AND trafficking survivors to greater danger and will make it harder to leave the sex industry. They may not be the intended targets of this registry or database, but they are often arrested on these charges. Any registry or database could subject sex workers, including those who have experienced and are experiencing trafficking, to this forced registration. Even if the registry or database applied only to clients, managers, and individuals who exploit others, we oppose this provision for three reasons: 1) The registry or database creates the potential for misidentifying sex workers and trafficking victims—particularly transgender women of color and migrant workers—as clients or procurers, which would result in their placement on this registry or database, limiting their future employment and housing opportunities as well as their access to supportive services, making it all but impossible to exit the sex industry; 2) This registry or database will drive clients further into the shadows, which makes it more difficult for adult consensual sex workers to safely screen clients and exposes sex workers and victims of trafficking to increased danger; and 3) By increasing fear and secrecy, this registry or database will embolden clients and exploiters to contact people in the sex industry and attempt to bring them under their control and abuse. Endangering people in the sex industry is a violation of their human rights. We strongly oppose this registry or database and urge you to keep it out of these bills.
We support Florida’s anti-trafficking and sex-worker rights advocates in their call for revised legislation that reflects community-informed best practices for combating human trafficking and supporting survivors, while avoiding unintended harms to survivors and adult consensual sex workers.
Arianna's CenterArizonans for Rational Sex Offense Laws (AZRSOL)Bay Area Harm Reductionbbydoll pressBrandy Stewart (individual)Colorado Entertainer CoalitionCOYOTE RIFamilies Advocating Intelligent RegistriesFlorida Action CommitteeNational Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws (NARSOL)National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)National Network of Community AdvocacyPennsylvania Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (PARSOL)Positive Women's Network-USARed Umbrella Justice (RUJ)Reframe Health and JusticeRestorative Justice CoalitionThe SERO ProjectSex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource CenterSex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind BarsSWOP AtlantaSWOP OrlandoSWOP Salt Lake CitySWOP SeattleSWOP Tampa BaySex Worker Solidarity Network (SWSN)The Support Ho(s)e CollectiveTampa Bay DSATampa Bay IWWTRANScending Barriers TransLatina Coalition FloridaTexas Voice for Reason and Justice, Inc. (TVRJ)We Are Dancers USAWoodhull Freedom Foundation