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Flawed “anti-trafficking” bill will endanger sex trafficking survivors

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Contact Name
Ash Orr (they/he)

SESTA/FOSTA are the wrong way to protect LGBTQ people and others in the sex trade

The National Center for Transgender Equality joins numerous organizations directly serving survivors of human trafficking in the sex trade to strongly oppose the dangerous “Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act” (SESTA, S.1693), and “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA, H.1865) now poised for a Senate vote. NCTE and 49 other LGBTQ, anti-trafficking, and harm-reduction organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the bills this week.

SESTA and FOSTA dangerously expand criminal and civil liability for third-party online hosts that “promote” or “facilitate” the sex trade. While NCTE shares the goal of ending human trafficking in the sex trade, this misguided legislation will put trafficking survivors and others working in the sex trade in greater danger.

Websites that sex workers and those who are being trafficked use to screen clients, share safety information, and negotiate safer working conditions will likely shut down or censor content for risk of liability. Removing these online platforms will not stop traffickers. Instead, it will push sex workers and trafficking survivors alike onto the streets to trade sex, jeopardizing their safety and making it far harder to identify traffickers and hold them accountable. 

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:

The Senate will put trafficking survivors and other LGBTQ people trading sex at greater risk by passing these misguided so-called “anti-trafficking” bills. That’s why we’re joining so many groups who actually directly serve survivors in opposing this legislation. More than 40 percent of Black transgender women we surveyed have participated in the sex trade, and we simply cannot afford to make careless decisions that will put members of our community in danger in the name of scoring political points.

Shutting down websites is not the solution to ending human trafficking. We must work with victim service providers and the people who are actually affected to craft careful solutions that actually make people safer. This bill won’t do that. It will make things worse. We call on Senators to reject it.

According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 12 percent of transgender adults have done sex work for income. Lifetime experience with sex work is much higher for transgender women of color, with 42 percent of Black transgender women reporting having done sex work for income. Transgender sex workers report high rates of violent victimization and abuse by police.

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