FOSTA: A Death Sentence for Sex Workers By Meghan Peterson and Bella Robinson Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) Rhode Island Introduction On April 11, 2018, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) were signed into law. While outside the Capitol building sex workers condemned the bill for its inevitable impact on safety, the bipartisan FOSTA-SESTA package sailed through the United States House and Senate. FOSTA/SESTA outlined new provisions to amend the Communications Decency Act to note that websites can be prosecuted if they engage “in the promotion or facilitation of prostitution” or “facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims." While supporters of the law claimed to target sex traffickers, its text makes no effort to differentiate trafficking from consensual sex work. Its passage was hailed by abolitionists as a victory in the fight against “sex trafficking,” an invisible force that anti-trafficking lobbyists claim victimizes innocent women and coerces them into the evils of sex work. Among actual workers, its passage was denounced as a death sentence for sex workers who were then further pushed underground and away from tools used to maintain safety and screening.
Sex workers across the US have previously protested against legislation intended to fight sex trafficking when US President Donald Trump signed controversial bills: the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) last year. Sex workers claimed the bills made them more vulnerable to exploitation.
JAN 10 • Thank you so much for your fair and balanced coverage of the 15th Annual IDTEVASW. Since 2012 SWOP and SAFE have strived to stand up and speak out in Philly on issues specific to stigma and gratuitous violence against sex workers. Folks are always amazed at how hard and painful this event is to do, yet in the end how truly blessed we are to be able to come together to do it. Many households in most areas of Greater Philadelphia, if not all of PA, are touched somehow by this issue. Talking about sex work and prostitution is hard. Living in shame and silence is harder. D/17 is not fun, though it is full of love. Truly. We are here because we have been there, and we care. Our voice is their voice. Thank you for covering the memorial. Words cannot even express the gratitude I feel right now. Philly is proving we got LOVE!
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The date of December 17th was selected for the observance because it was on that date in 2003 that Gary Leon Ridgeway, the notorious Green River Killer, was sentenced for his crimes. “Between July of 1982 and January of 1998 Ridgeway was responsible for the deaths of dozens of women and girls in King County, Washington, the county that includes the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. Many of his victims were prostitutes and others marginalized by society, such as runaways. Ridgeway was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms for his crimes plus 480 additional years; a plea agreement eliminated the possibility of the death penalty. The first International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was observed on the day he was sentenced and utilized art as sublimation through the conflicting emotions of relief, grief, anger and fear.