The Movement Is Growing: Decriminalization Will Win

The road to freedom is long, but we continue to see evidence of progress along the way.


There are signs that global attitudes towards the decriminalization of sex work are shifting. Slowly, more and more people are starting to understand that sex workers deserve justice and support.

More communities are starting to realize that criminalization pushes people in the sex trade underground and creates obstacles to safety, healthcare, housing, and more for both sex workers and sex trafficking victims; and that the decriminalization of sex work is a public health issue, a racial justice issue, a gender justice issue, and a LGBTQ+ justice issue.

Here are eight reasons why we think that desire for decriminalization and investment in resources is growing:

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  1. The first sex workers’ lobby day in the US in 2018. Sex workers and allies went to Capitol Hill to protest SESTA/FOSTA, laws formed under the guise of ending online sex trafficking that, in practice, shut down online avenues that sex workers used to keep safe, pushing sex workers back into the streets and the sex trades further underground.

  2. A coalition of over 20 organizations launched a campaign to decriminalize, decarcerate, and destigmatize sex work in New York this month. They launched with a huge rally and press conference, and several New York state senators and other elected officials announced that they would support legislation to decriminalize sex work in the state.

  3. A collective of nightlife workers and allies in New Orleans successfully shut down moralistic legislation that would have targeted Black and Brown trans and gender nonconforming people, sex workers, and the bars and clubs they frequent. In 2018, clubs and bars were frequently raided, and two New Orleans City Councilmembers brought forward an ordinance that would increase surveillance and close down bars and clubs in the city for things like "lewd conduct," "obscenity," "allowing a prostitute to enter," and other moralistic clauses that are typically used to discriminate. New Orleans sex workers’ rights organizers fought back and gathered petitions to ensure the ordinance would not pass through the council, and continue to build infrastructure to expand their fight for sex workers’ rights.

  4. Providence exotic dancers fought against the closure of Foxy Lady in 2018 and the criminalization of the dancers inside, who police raided for prostitution charges. Now in 2019, a Rhode Island elected official plans to bring forward legislation to study decriminalization of sex work.

  5. In the Fall of 2018, exotic dancers in San Diego won a settlement from the city for around $1.5 million after the dancers sued San Diego police for unlawful raids and demeaning searches.

  6. Organizations like Project SAFE in Philadelphia fight for decriminalization while educating the city on why decriminalization is essential for public health, like at the city’s Beyond the Walls: Reentry Summit and Prison Healthcare conference in October 2018.

  7. In 2018, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation team filed a lawsuit challenging FOSTA, a law passed last year that shut down many online avenues that sex workers use to keep safe. Despite obstacles, the legal team continues to push forward!

  8. As of 2019, there are 17 Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) chapters across the US actively fighting for justice and empowerment for sex workers, including in Tuscon, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Denver, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Asheville, Portland, Pittsburg, Seattle, and in Michigan, Hawaii, and Kentucky.

And all of that is just what’s happening in the US! New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003, and the United Kingdom, Uganda, South Africa, India, and more countries and places have people organizing to decriminalize sex work and provide people in the sex trade with resources.

We continue to build momentum. Let’s go win.

— the DECRIMNOW DC team