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JAYAPAL, COLLEAGUES PUSH FOR FIRST NATIONAL STUDY ON HEALTH & SAFETY OF SEX WORKERS

The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act would require a study of the impact of SESTA/FOSTA on the health & safety of sex workers

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, along with several colleagues, today introduced a bicameral bill that will require, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a national study on the health and safety of sex workers.

The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act also requires HHS to submit a report to Congress on the impacts of the SESTA/FOSTA – a combined Senate-House package passed last year, which holds websites liable for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

“I was one of just 12 Democrats who voted against SESTA/FOSTA because I foresaw its potential to undermine the safety and critical supports available to sex workers and other marginalized people, including the LGBTQI community, people of color, immigrants and those living in rural areas. Preventing sex trafficking and exploitation are worthy goals, but we must ensure policy decisions help rather than harm our most vulnerable populations,” Rep. Jayapal said. “The SAFE Sex Workers Study Act will allow us to analyze SESTA/FOSTA and the unintended and dangerous consequences it had on these populations.”

SESTA/FOSTA impacts online platforms where users, many of whom are from marginalized communities, discuss consensual sex work and related topics. Anecdotal reporting has suggested that SESTA/FOSTA and the loss of certain web services have had profound impacts on sex workers such as increased economic insecurity, criminalization and violence. In the 2015 United States Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 19 percent of respondents reported having exchanged sex for resources, such as money, food or a place to sleep. Transgender women of color were more likely to have participated in sex work than the overall sample.

The SAFE Sex Workers Study Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would study the impact of SESTA/FOSTA on the health and safety of sex workers, including disparities in these effects on LGBTQI+ individuals, people living in rural areas, racial and ethnic minorities, tribal communities, people experiencing exploitation and trafficking, and undocumented and documented immigrants.

The bill is also supported by several LGBTQI rights and reproductive justice groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality and Reframe Health and Justice – a collective committed to developing and delivering holistic, harm reduction solutions to social injustices.

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