December 12, 2019 at 12:10 pm PST | by Staff reports
WeHo Councilmember Duran to introduce Sex Worker Task Force initiative

(Photo by John Viscott)

West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran will introduce an initiative to establish a Sex Worker Task Force at the City Council meeting Dec. 16.

According to a staff report, the principal purpose outlined for the task force is to focus on the “lived experience of sex workers in West Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area” for a report to be shared with Los Angeles City and County officials.

Staff recommendations that the task force be compromised of sex work experts, persons with lived experience, and representatives from the City’s Transgender Advisory Board, Public Safety Commission, and Human Services Commission. The task force should meet five to six times for a limited time, approximately 90 to 120 days.

Members will prepare a white paper summarizing the group’s discussions and final recommendations for use by city officials and to be shared with other jurisdictions. 

City staff coordinated with the Sex Workers Outreach Project LA (SWOP LA), which recommended that the task force concentrate in separate sessions on categories such as: Strippers & GoGo Dancers, Massage Parlors, Porn & Online Sex Workers, Street-based & Criminalized Sex Work, Healthcare, Social Services & Legal Access. 

SWOP LA will work with city staff to develop the white paper cataloging expert testimonies, relevant research and final Task Force recommendations.

Several LGBTQ advocacy organizations — The Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Center for Transgender Equality — have spoken out in support of a resolution proffered by Amnesty International in August 2015 that supports sex worker human rights and calls for the decriminalization of sex work.

The organizations demand that states are held accountable in preventing and combating sex trafficking, while simultaneously ensuring that sex workers are protected from exploitation. They note that for many LGBTQ people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival, particularly for LGBTQ youth and transgender women of color who face all-too-common family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education. 

Previous studies have shown that LGBTQ youth and transgender women of color commonly face family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education. The advocacy organizations support replacing laws the criminalize sex work with public policies that address sex workers’ real economic and safety needs.

City staff also noted: “December 17th is recognized as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This day was first recognized by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA in 2003 and has since grown into a global annual event honoring the lives of sex workers lost to violence across the world and calling on an end to sex work related stigma and discrimination.” 

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