MSMGF on the Rentboy Raids–No Justice in Criminalizing Sex Work

MSMGF Troubled by Backsliding Human Rights and Receding Civil Liberties

August 26, 2015 The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) joins human rights advocates in opposing raids against by federal and state law enforcement officials in the United States of America (U.S.A.), which arrested seven people associated with the website. 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 raids and arrests earlier this week reflect a disturbing trend of receding civil liberties and sex-shaming. Worldwide, the freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are being slowly stripped away, while mainstream LGBT movements remain almost singularly focused on same-sex marriage sometimes at the cost of a more progressive sexual rights agenda. Infringement of civil liberties and human rights (including sexual rights) should not be tolerated under any circumstance, and certainly not in the name of homeland security, as is the case in the U.S.A.

MSMGF calls on other human rights defenders to vocally oppose actions taken against by the U.S. Justice Department. There is no justice in criminalizing sex work. Sex shaming is a hallmark tactic used by homophobes, transphobes, and misogynists.

MSMGF specifically invites LGBT activists worldwide, especially mainstream groups, to use these developments as an opportunity to formulate a clearer articulation of our movement’s political and advocacy priorities. MSMGF strongly encourages a return to a more progressive social change agenda, one that is linked with protecting fundamental human rights for all people and aligned with other social change movements, including those led by sex workers.

Finally, MSMGF urges the U.S. government to take immediate steps to decriminalize sex work. This includes the removal of the ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ which wrongly persists as a requirement in contracts with international non-governmental organizations by the U.S. government as a condition for funding vital services.

About Us: MSMGF has worked since its founding in 2006 to encourage targeted, tailored, better-resourced, and rights- based sexual health services for gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide, through its advocacy and technical support work. As a global network, MSMGF has successfully influenced HIV responses at the local level through shifts in global-level policies and has effectively utilized public health as an entry point for advancing the human rights of LGBT people. MSMGF currently supports programs in 15 countries. 

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Jack Mackenroth