August 26, 2015 – Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly raided the offices of Rentboy.com, which has been operating in public view for 18 years, and arrested several staff on charges of racketeering and promoting prostitution. This bust comes at a time when human rights advocates globally are uniting around a call to decriminalize sex work and at a time when the United States has the largest prison population in the world, with people of color, particularly Black people, representing a vastly disproportionate percentage of the incarcerated.
With this raid, the U.S. federal government is not only jeopardizing countless people’s lives and only source of livelihood, but sending a clear and troubling message that the country is less invested in addressing systemic issues of racial, economic, and anti-LGBT injustice than in further criminalizing the individuals most marginalized by those systems.
Last week, Transgender Law Center and four other U.S.-based LGBT advocacy organizations issued a statement in support of Amnesty International’s call to decriminalize sex work. Yesterday’s action by the federal government is a clear demonstration of why LGBT organizations and people must be invested in this work to protect the human rights of sex workers. Laws criminalizing sexual exchange impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use and other boundaries, and force many to work in hidden or remote places where they are more vulnerable to violence. Actions like the government’s raid contribute to the unjust and unacceptable systems and society we have today, from the disproportionate incarceration of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people to the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color.
Transgender Law Center is reaching out to global advocates to see how we can best be helpful in this situation.
Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.