Tampa advances bathhouse ordinance to crack down on sex trafficking

bathhouse ordinance sex trafficking

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Tampa has taken a first step in trying to regulate businesses that sell sex but pose as a massage parlor or similar business; Thursday afternoon the Tampa City Council passed on first reading an ordinance that supporters hope will crack down on sex traffickers but opponents warn could make life worse for the victims of trafficking.

Christa Hernandez, who wrote a book about her experience as a victim of sex trafficking in Tampa Bay, tells WMNF News she’s pleased with the vote.

Listen:

bathhouse ordinance sex trafficking

Sydney Eastman with the Sex Worker Solidarity Network opposes Tampa’s bathhouse ordinance. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (21 Dec 2017).

Hernandez was one of the six members of the public to spoke in favor of what’s being called the “bathhouse” ordinance today. Council member Harry Cohen scolded the five members of the public who spoke against the ordinance for leaving the meeting after nearly four hours but before the vote.

One of them is Sydney Eastman. She has organized opposition to the ordinance through the Sex Worker Solidarity Network. During public comment she said nobody from the city has tried to speak with the workers in these businesses like she has.

Listen:

The ordinance allows permitting, regulating and enforcement for any business, as the assistant city attorney put it, “where a bath is offered to wash the human torso.” He characterized that as a common front for prostitution.

The bathhouse ordinance still has to pass a second reading by Tampa City Council on the morning of January 11.

Watch the public comments, part 1:

Watch the public comments, part 2:

 

  • Christa Hernandez

    Sydney Eastman was completely wrong when she said nobody reaches out to these precious women being worked against their will in these Brothels disguised as “Massage Parlors” lingerie shops” Aromatherapy spas” Myself along with many other organizations in The Greater Tampa Bay Area go into these places every month, offering support, love and contact information for if and when they are able to reach out. We see their struggles and their pain. So to say she went into these places and talked with these women is a LIE she at least didn’t walk into the illegal ones. Nobody is saying that sex work isn’t a choice for some but I will say “No little girl dreams of growing up and being sexually exploited, something goes terribly wrong along the way” 70% of females are trafficked into the commercial sex industry and if not that once there they are approached by traffickers on a regular basis. You can get my book “No Safe Place” from childhood abuse to sex trafficking and read my story of how I was lured in by a trafficker from the Strip Club I worked in. I was trafficked right here in this area for 20 yrs!!!

    • Alfred Alfie Norris

      You’re telling women who are in or are in direct and constant contact with the sex workerscommunity that they don’t know what they’re talking about? That’s ridiculous.

      • SydVicious Eastwin

        Thanks friend!

      • Christa Hernandez

        I am in direct contact with them on a daily basis and see over 200 precious women working in the sex industry every month not to mention again those I have a relationship with and speak with daily. Those I help with whatever I can and love and support where they are. So maybe get your facts straight. http://www.LYWYAA.org also was in that industry for 20 years

    • Christa, I understand your strong personal feelings on the subject and completely respect your experience.
      I know that tensions were high and possibly some things were said that may have triggered you, which I earnestly and deeply apologize for if that is the case.

      However, I must be frank: it deeply offended me that you implied that we are feeling indifferent regarding violence against trafficking victims. That is absolutely not the case.

      Simply put, we advocate for decriminalization, because legislation that enables transparency would be in the best interest of providing rights and protection for victims, punishment for the traffickers, and rights and protection for those who are in the sex work industry consensually.

      I will make this EXPLICITLY clear: Sex Worker Solidarity Network and our community of allies DO not, HAVE not, and WILL not, EVER be in favor of or indifferent to the forced coercion of people to be in the industry, that is, human trafficking, which is reprehensible, and the abusers who facilitate the trafficking industry MUST be met with punitive measures.

      I understand that your experience and your faith have influenced your perception on how all people in the sex work industry are exploited, but I implore you to look at this objectively, and to look past the conflation between forced coercion and consent.

      Gregor Gall, the author of ‘An Agency Of Their Own – Sex Worker Union Organising’ wrote in his introduction, regarding the benefits of unionization,

      “…sex work… can be socially useful and can provide job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, empowerment, and self-actualization, where becoming a sex worker can be a genuine life choice.”

      I have personal contact with thousands of people through online communities, including those that I know in person, who have given me their personal stories that I would love to share with you sometime if you are willing to have a cordial discourse.

      Furthermore, and most importantly, I urge you to look over this Q&A of Amnesty International’s official policy to protect the human rights of sex workers:

      https://www.amnesty.org/en/qa-policy-to-protect-the-human-rights-of-sex-workers/

      To quote this Q&A directly:

      ==

      “…criminalization of sex work can hinder the fight against trafficking – for example, victims may be reluctant to come forward if they fear the police will take action against them for selling sex. Where sex work is criminalized, sex workers are also excluded from workplace protections which could increase oversight and help identify and prevent trafficking.

      Several anti-trafficking organizations including Freedom Network USA, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and La Strada International believe that decriminalization of sex work would have a positive role to play in the fight against trafficking.”

      “We recognise that there are fundamental differences of opinion on the issue of decriminalization of sex work and we respect the views of those who are not supportive of the position we have taken.

      We want to have a respectful and open dialogue about the best ways to protect the human rights of sex workers.

      We believe there are many areas of agreement —like ensuring that those in, or who may consider, sex work have access to alternative forms of obtaining a livelihood and can leave when they choose.”

      ==

      Thank you for compassionate work, I know that you are coming from a place of earnest love and support.

      I look forward to hearing from you further, but that is completely up to you.

    • Christa, I understand your strong personal feelings on the subject and completely respect your experience.
      I know that tensions were high and possibly some things were said that may have triggered you, which I earnestly and deeply apologize for if that is the case.

      However, I must be frank: it deeply offended me that you implied that we are feeling indifferent regarding violence against trafficking victims. That is absolutely not the case.

      Simply put, we advocate for decriminalization, because legislation that enables transparency would be in the best interest of providing rights and protection for victims, punishment for the traffickers, and rights and protection for those who are in the sex work industry consensually.

      I will make this EXPLICITLY clear: we DO not, HAVE not, and WILL not, EVER be in favor of or indifferent to the forced coercion of people to be in the industry, that is, human trafficking, which is reprehensible, and the abusers who facilitate the trafficking industry MUST be met with punitive measures.

      I understand that your experience and your faith have influenced your perception on how all people in the sex work industry are exploited, but I implore you to look at this objectively, and to look past the conflation between forced coercion and consent.

      Gregor Gall, the author of ‘An Agency Of Their Own – Sex Worker Union Organising’ wrote in his introduction, regarding the benefits of unionization,
      “…sex work… can be socially useful and can provide job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, empowerment, and self-actualization, where becoming a sex worker can be a genuine life choice.”

      I have personal contact with thousands of people through online communities, including those that I know in person, who have given me their personal stories that I would love to share with you sometime if you are willing to have a cordial discourse.

      Furthermore, and most importantly, I urge you to look over this Q&A of Amnesty International’s official policy to protect the human rights of sex workers:

      https://www.amnesty.org/en/qa-policy-to-protect-the-human-rights-of-sex-workers/

      To quote this Q&A directly:
      ==
      “…criminalization of sex work can hinder the fight against trafficking – for example, victims may be reluctant to come forward if they fear the police will take action against them for selling sex. Where sex work is criminalized, sex workers are also excluded from workplace protections which could increase oversight and help identify and prevent trafficking.
      Several anti-trafficking organizations including Freedom Network USA, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and La Strada International believe that decriminalization of sex work would have a positive role to play in the fight against trafficking.”

      “We recognise that there are fundamental differences of opinion on the issue of decriminalization of sex work and we respect the views of those who are not supportive of the position we have taken.
      We want to have a respectful and open dialogue about the best ways to protect the human rights of sex workers.
      We believe there are many areas of agreement —like ensuring that those in, or who may consider, sex work have access to alternative forms of obtaining a livelihood and can leave when they choose.”
      ==
      Thank you for your compassionate work, I know that you are coming from a place of earnest love and support.
      I look forward to hearing from you further, but that is completely up to you.

  • SydVicious Eastwin

    Christa Hernandez was a victim herself. Everybody in our community has the utmost respect and sympathy for her as a human. The reality is, we all want to stop human trafficking. The bigger reality is that this ordinance only makes vulnerable communities more accessible TO traffickers. If we want to stop human trafficking, we will certainly address the vicious and uncontested exploitation, coercion, and even enslavement of farmworkers in this state. If we want to stop human trafficking, we would undoubtedly provide a path to citizenship and higher wages for workers in their own fields. We all know arresting VICTIMS of a crime does not STOP a criminal. While we sympathize with Christa as a victim, there is no argument to be had from a constitutional or liberatory perspective: This ordinance’s goal isn’t to stop human trafficking, it’s to harass, segregate, and criminalize vulnerable workers. This is documented in the lack of ANY evidence or research in the public records of human trafficking, or of support solutions that DO stop human trafficking. To the woman who called us “righteous whores” — there is no validity in your argument when the moral panic is removed. “70% of females are trafficked into the commercial sex industry?” Come on, Christa. Do better.

    • Christa Hernandez

      Yes 70% of females who are trafficked are trafficked into the commercial sex industry[xvi] (This includes Porn,Strip Clubs, Escort Services, and massage parlors in the US.) also I don’t know who you are referring to as calling you righteous whores because it certainly wasn’t me because you would never hear me speak of you or anyone else in that manner and I apologize for whoever spoke of you or anyone else as being that

      • SydVicious Eastwin

        Okay, but your statistics are wrong.