Salil Shetty, Secretary-General, AI International Secretariat,
Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director, AI-USA,
August 1, 2015

Dear Ms. Shetty & Mr. Hawkins;
On behalf of the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) I have been following Amnesty International’s evolution on my industry for over a decade. I used to contribute financially to your organization because I supported your work to get people, especially political prisoners, out of jail and away from ill treatment by governments. I stopped my support in 2005 when your organization plattformed actress Mira Sorvion as your spokesperson in a made for television mini-series titled “Human Trafficking”. This fiction was promoted as fact and directly contributed to the further criminalization of my occupation in the U.S.

As a result of this false and misleading information, new anti-prostitution laws have been promoted and passed under the guise of stopping violence against women. Other “reality” TV shows continue to promote this false narrative depicting us as victims while being subjected to police raids and arrests for prostitution. For example, MSNBC’s “Sex Slaves in America” has in-sighted a special rebuke from my community. Our online petition continues to call for signatures and action to get the show taken off the air. Another show by the A & E network was forced to stop airing a show called “8 Minutes” this past spring in the midst of objections from our community. That show featured a former San Diego vice officer turned pastor. He, his production crew, and other “non profit” rescuers who work with law enforcement agencies, staged fake rescues using real escorts. The women were promised help with rent and food but instead ended up with prostitution arrests. Sex Worker Solidarity

In the wake of the onslaught of this type of media, new state laws have been proposed and passed across the U.S. These laws falsely conflate prostitution as being a form of forced labor and our customers as traffickers. These new criminal penalties create new high fines, fees, and mandatory prison terms. We have seen systematic expansion of federal monies made available to religious based non profits under the guise of raising ‘awareness’ and providing hollow ‘services’ to those in my industry who have been caught up in the new expansion of criminalization under the guise of rescuing us.
The new anti-trafficking laws are actually the same old anti-prostitution sting operations. Everybody is still going to jail and having criminal cases that are being adjudicated in criminal court regardless of age. Juveniles and adults alike are having their civil rights systematically violated by being coerced into diversion programs. The reality is that the arrest records become the basis upon which discrimination is experienced in housing, employment, education, child custody and access to financial resources.

The latest federal law passed this spring, “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act JVTA”,
created a new federal vice squad fully equipped with electronic surveillance powers that will further erode and violate our already non-existent privacy protection.
I am particularly concerned with how the Hollywood celebrity class acts as if they have any say over our right to negotiate for our labor, define our safe working conditions, and with whom. This elite class lobbies for unfair labor practices that continue to criminalize our occupation. While their labor is protected not only by state and federal laws, they have the benefit of working under collectively bargained unionized contracts with democratically elected representation. In addition, they have layers of managers and agents who lobby for their wages and working conditions. It is hypocritical to demote us to a low class status while they run a boycott on who gets to purchase our labor and how. If they really cared about us they would be working with us to end exploitation in our industry by putting our voices first in a lobby for the same labor protections they have.

The elites have never demanded immunity or amnesty clauses to be included in any state, national or international policies or legislation they have championed. Their anti-trafficking policies have only focused on re-criminalizing us as traffickers as has been the case in Alaska where workers have been arrested for sex trafficking themselves. All of their legislation has brought heavier fines, fees, and mandatory prison time to all of our intimate, domestic and commercial relationships to be named as sex traffickers.

As someone who reported an extortion attempt last summer
on behalf of a victim who was targeted because she worked in our industry
, I have first hand experience negotiating immunity. I spend many hours of my unpaid time reporting to local and state police and legislators. It wasn’t until I met with representatives of the Governor of Alaska that I was taken seriously and an investigation was launched leading to the perpetrator being charged. The victim in this case was granted full immunity. However, she experienced intimidation by the police who served her with a subpoena compelling her testimony and then they violated her privacy by giving her phone number to a religious group who harassed her because she fit their definition of a victim. She was forced to change her phone number to avoid their harassing phone calls.

In the passing of the Californian Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act, Prop 35 in California in 2012, everyone convicted as a ‘sex trafficker’ now has to register as a sex offender (a life long registration) regardless if they ever put their hands on anyone. It is in this way that they took a leading role in fueling the fervor of proliferating the prison industrial complex in California. As you know, the California prison system is currently under a federal injunction to reduce its population because of its inability to provide human rights such as access to healthcare. Our voices continue to be drowned out by their personal political power and their depictions of us on film.

As someone who is a working prostitute with permission to represent working prostitutes, I urge you and your fellow members to vote in favor of the proposed resolution for decriminalization of our occupation. The proposed policy sets a foundation towards gaining a widespread rights-based approach instead of a continuation of the failed criminalization approach.

Further, I suggest that Amnesty International has a debt to pay in terms of offering redress in the role it has played in creating the current hyper-oppressive criminalized state. I encourage your organization to publicly name and support our historic lawsuit to invalidate the prostitution law in California:
ESPLERP v Gascon
, Federal filing #3:15 01007 . I extend an invitation to Amnesty International to support our efforts to decriminalize prostitution.
Our position is that regardless of how anyone becomes involved in sexual commerce, everyone has the right to access equal protection under the law.

Maxine Doogan
Erotic Service Providers Union