In the wake of Tuesday’s arrests of employees at Rentboy.com, a website advertising male sex workers, some LGBT organizations have called attention to a their support for the decriminalization of sex work.
Lambda Legal today retweeted a statement released last Thursday, in which it and four other LGBT organizations endorsed an Amnesty International resolution urging decriminalization.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) August 25, 2015
“As LGBT rights organizations in the United States, we join to applaud and support Amnesty International’s recent resolution to protect the human rights of sex workers by calling for decriminalization of sex work, while simultaneously holding states accountable in preventing and combatting sex trafficking, ensuring that sex workers are protected from exploitation, and enforcing laws against the sexual exploitation of children,” the statement reads in part.
It asserts that criminalization does not actually protect sex workers but makes them more vulnerable, with less power “to negotiate condom use and other boundaries.” It notes that “transgender people engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women,” and that LGBT people generally are often presumed to be sex workers whether they are or not, leading to police harassment and brutality, and high rates of incarceration. The harassment often continues behind bars, the statement points out.
Signing it along with Lambda Legal were Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Transgender Law Center.
Lambda’s tweet does not reference the Rentboy.com arrests, so it is not entirely clear the timing is related. This morning, seven employees of the New York City–based company, including CEO Jeffrey Hurant, are charged with violating the Travel Act, a federal law, by “promoting prostitution,” says a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
“While the site has disclaimers stating that the advertisements are for companionship and not sexual services, Rentboy.com is designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution,” the press release states.
Hurant and the other defendants were formally charged in federal court in Brooklyn, and outside the courthouse they were “swarmed by reporters,” CNN notes. Hurant defended his company, telling the media, “I don’t think that we do anything to promote prostitution. I think we do good things for good people, and we bring good people together.”
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.