Advocacy group calls for meeting with Harris over decriminalizing sex work

Advocacy group calls for meeting with Harris over decriminalizing sex work
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Activists on Wednesday called for a meeting with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Sanders leads Democratic field in Colorado poll MORE (D-Calif.) over her comments supporting the decriminalization of sex work nationwide.

The group, Decrim NY, said in a news release that it demanded a meeting with Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, to "share how criminalization impacts their human rights and safety."

The group slammed Harris, saying her call for decriminalization "rings false." In its release, the group claimed Harris supports the "Nordic Model," "which targets, arrests, and incarcerates clients of sex workers, as well as drivers, landlords, family members, partners, who provide services and care to sex workers, and sex workers collaborating to keep each other safe."

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"It is criminalization, and it puts people who trade sex at increased risk of violence, economic instability, and labor exploitation," the group added.

“It’s not about decriminalizing the sex trades and making sure people are safe in their work and have real ways to exit if they want to, it’s about political opportunism while still getting to do the dangerous moralizing on sex work that, quite literally, kills people in our country, people such as Yang Song," said Nina Luo, a Decrim NY steering committee member, referring to a sex worker who killed herself in New York last year.

The group is working with Senate Women’s Health Committee Chair Julia Salazar, Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried to introduce state decriminalization legislation in New York, NBC 4 New York reported.

"Decrim NY also calls on all presidential candidates to support the full decriminalization of sex work to promote the the safety, wellbeing, and health of all people in the sex trades," the group added in its release.

Harris's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment on whether the senator would meet with the New York activists.

The California senator announced her campaign for president late last month, joining a crowded field of Democratic competitors that includes fellow Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' The exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden MORE (I-VT), and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report MORE (D-N.J.).

She told The Root in an interview this week that she supports the decriminalization of sex work nationwide, noting that "we can't criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed."

"I was advocating [15 years ago] that we have to stop arresting these prostitutes and start going after the johns and the pimps, because we were criminalizing the women," Harris said during the interview.

Harris also noted her support for the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). Sex workers and advocates say SESTA shut down online platforms such as Backpage.com and others that workers used to screen clients and establish safer working procedures.

"Backpage was providing advertisements for the sale of children. Of minors," she added, responding to the criticism of Backpage.com's closure. "And so I called for them to be shut down. And I have no regrets about that."