Received on 20.12.17:
The “Bathhouse Ordinance” it’s called: flying under the radar of dedicated activists and sex workers alike, the City of Tampa has revived a homophobic law in hopes of targeting “sex traffickers.” But it isn’t difficult to see what happens when the state “cracks down” on crime. In true Reaganite and Clintonian fashion, this ordinance presents as a public good while serving to further criminalize and marginalize victims, workers, undocumented immigrants, trans people, black women and all people of color. While touting their own whistles, Guido Maniscalco and Mike Suarez (two of the most sympathetic bureaucrats on city council) have proposed an ordinance targeting “sex-traffickers” which, unsurprisingly, NEVER ONCE mentions sex traffickers. Unfortunately as is often in the narrative surrounding sex trafficking, this ordinance serves only to mass target, surveil, and arrest the most vulnerable workers.
The city likes to cite Florida as being “worst in the US” for sex trafficking and yet, as usual, this is based on outdated and mismanaged statistics. The city continues to dismiss its residents, go above our heads, and assume the experiences and identities of those most harmed by its police state. The city is so certain human trafficking is happening that they’ve created an ordinance to arrest victims, yet they’ve never spoken to a single victim of human trafficking themselves. The Sex Worker Solidarity Network & allies has met with the city to inform them of their misunderstandings in the community they claim to represent and were met with typical bureaucrat rhetoric. The city attorney Mike Schmidt admits this ordinance will not stop human trafficking and will ONLY arrest victims of it. He also admitted that arresting victims is the most creative solution they have come up with.
How long must we continue stigmatizing the experiences, lived and orated, by the marginalized? How much more must we endure the oppression of a state which neither cares nor provides for those in need? The Sex Worker Solidarity Network in Tampa does not DISCARD victims. The SWSN is fighting day in and out to protect honest working people from intentional criminalization and stigmatization, the largest threat to the personhood and safety of victims and sex workers alike, and this work will continue despite the state’s best attempt to infiltrate and disband us. This is a call to action for all allies: stand in solidarity with the workers of Tampa Bay and call out the city for its gross disconnection and subsequent harm done to their own residents. In the mean time the Sex Worker Solidarity Network will continue uplifting the voices of those most silenced by our unfeeling, unlistening, unyielding governing body which believes it knows better for us than we do.
On behalf of workers everywhere, give the city hell about this violation of our speech, existence, and livelihood. In strength and solidarity!
Please email and call Tampa City Council Members. Tell them to oppose the criminalization of sex workers and stop the homophobic bathhouse ordinance.
Yvonne Yolie Capin