Calls to legalise sex work after raid


call_to_legalise_sex_workersFollowing yesterday’s crackdown on the world’s largest male escort site, a number of LGBT rights groups in the US have reaffirmed their belief that sex work should be legalised.

On Tuesday, federal agents raided the New York City headquarters of, arresting CEO Jeffrey Hurant and six employees. They have been charged with promoting prostitution across state lines and international borders.

American LGBT rights group Lambda Legal responded to the news by tweeting its support for the protection of the human rights of sex workers, a call backed by the Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In a joint statement last week, the groups said they applauded and supported Amnesty International’s recent controversial resolution backing the decriminalisation of sex workers.

“For many LGBT people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival, particularly for LGBT youth and transgender women of colour who face all-too-common family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education,” commented the organisations.

They, together with Amnesty, argue that the criminalisation of sex work has a negative impact of on the safety of sex workers.

“When LGBT people are prosecuted for sex work, they face alarmingly high rates of harassment and physical and sexual abuse behind bars,” said the groups.

One study found that 59% of transgender people in California men’s prisons report having experienced sexual assault while in custody.

“Laws criminalising sexual exchange—whether by the seller or the buyer—impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use and other boundaries, and force many to work in hidden or remote places where they are more vulnerable to violence,” noted Lambda Legal.

“Research and experience have shown that these laws serve only to drive the industry further underground, make workers less able to negotiate with customers on their own terms, and put those who engage in criminalised sex work at higher risk for abduction and sex trafficking.”

UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation have also recognised that criminalisation seriously hampers efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, noted the groups.

There are ongoing efforts to have sex work legalised in South Africa, with local groups like Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke National Movement of Sex Workers, the Women’s LegalCentre and Sonke Gender Justice also applauding Amnesty International’s new policy.

Lesego Tlhwale, a spokesperson for SWEAT, was quoted by Health24 as saying that in 2014 alone, there were 697 human rights violations against sex workers, including 65 assaults by members of the SAPS, five incidents of theft by police and 329 incidents of harassment by the police.

It was also reported that more than 30 sex workers were murdered – many of them brutally strangled and mutilated – in South Africa last year. is believed to host more than 10,500 escort profiles in more than 2,000 cities, including Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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