After the federal government raided and shutdown the popular worldwide male escort website Rentboy.com several LGBT and human rights organizations have blasted the authorities.
Coincidentally, just days before the raid a joint statement was released by the Transgender Law Center, Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality supporting a resolution by Amnesty International that calls for the decriminalization of sex work.
Here’s what they had to say:
“It is hard to see the harm done by Rentboy.com, but it’s easy to see the harm done by the raid on society at large. The criminalization of voluntary, consensual sexual relations among adults is incompatible with the rights to personal autonomy and privacy – internationally recognized human rights that everyone, including individuals engaged in sex work, is entitled to. Criminalization creates barriers for those engaged in sex work to exercise basic rights and to seek access to justice, health care, and other available services.”
Human Rights Watch
“NCLR strongly opposes criminal prosecution of sex work by adults. Experience and evidence have shown that criminalization serves only to make those who are vulnerable to harms associated with sex work even more vulnerable. The criminal charges against Rentboy.com by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are misguided and a terrible waste of resources. We are especially concerned about the negative impact on LGBT individuals who have been driven to sex work after being rejected by their families and experiencing other types of discrimination. NCLR strongly recommends that the federal government adopt a strategy aimed at providing essential supports – education, jobs, housing – to LGBT youth and adults who have been marginalized by these serious harms.”
National Center for Lesbian Rights
There are so many other important investigations that federal resources should be focused on right now instead of sex workers. Take the appalling murders of trans women of color – now at epidemic proportions across our nation. Sex work is a fact of life – it has been, it is and it will be as long as human beings are around. Criminalization puts the livelihoods, health and lives of sex workers in jeopardy. It’s time for our federal justice system to get its priorities straight and it’s time once and for all to decriminalize sex work.”
Russell Roybal, Deputy Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
“The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) joins human rights advocates in opposing raids against Rentboy.com… Arrests come only two days after Amnesty International’s call to decriminalize sex work and two years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down PEPFAR’s regressive “anti-prostitution pledge” in a 6-2 majority vote. MSMGF views the actions and the ‘homeland security mindset’ of the U.S. Justice Department as an affront to human rights. MSMGF strongly endorses the decriminalization of consensual adult sex work. Criminalization of sex work intentionally undermines sex workers’ fundamental right to bodily autonomy, to work, to health, and to be free from blackmail, harassment, and violence.”
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV
“This bust comes at a time when human rights advocates globally are uniting around a call to decriminalize sex work and at a time when the United States has the largest prison population in the world, with people of color, particularly Black people, representing a vastly disproportionate percentage of the incarcerated. Laws criminalizing sexual exchange 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.”
Transgender Law Center
“Make no mistake, law enforcement officials are attacking those involved in the escort industry for exercising their constitutional rights to free association, free expression, and free assembly. Based on recent actions, it is clear that the Department of Justice and many lawmakers believe that escorts should NOT have the freedom to exercise these fundamental rights. As noted, the charges against the individuals arrested include charges of prostitution. It is [our] position that consensual prostitution should be decriminalized. The impact of government actions in the ongoing War on Sex, including attacks on sites like Rentboy.com, is the systematic elimination of constitutionally protected civil liberties and the infringement of human rights.”