Sex worker solidarity group opposes “bathhouse ordinance” in Hillsborough

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Sydney Eastman speaks at Tampa City Council. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (21 Dec 2017).

In the last few months the City of Tampa passed an ordinance trying to cut down on human trafficking by regulating businesses that pose as a massage parlors; but opponents of what’s called the “bathhouse ordinance” are concerned that it hurts victims of sex trafficking.

Sydney Eastman, a volunteer with the Sex Worker Solidarity Network, opposes a similar ordinance that will be considered by Hillsborough County.

“The bathhouse ordinance was marketed as an anti-trafficking ordinance. It was written and marketed to the public to stop human trafficking. Unfortunately, what the ordinance actually did was place heavy regulation on spa workers. And effectively put some workers out of business.”

“Two, I believe, have closed preemptively. And we’re going to see more of that, unfortunately. So, the impact that we’re concerned about are workers that go to work every day — this is their livelihood — are  no longer able to get a job in the industry where they’ve worked for decades, some of them.”

There were people who supported this bathhouse ordinance because they said that it would cut down on sex trafficking. Yet, you disagree. You said you thought that it would not have an effect on it.

“Yeah, at the end of the day, when we ‘red-line’ an industry out of our own city, we’re not getting rid of human traffickers. We’re just pushing them out of the city. Underground. Further away. And potentially rendering them invisible.”

“I think what [Hillsborough County] are afraid of is massage parlors moving from the city of Tampa into the county. Our message to the county is: ‘welcome spa workers.’ Because the people being red-lined out of the city are not high-end spa workers in South Tampa. These are usually migrant women owned-and-operated spas. And it was written specifically to target them. So, we should be more welcoming. We should understand that Tamap and Hillsborough needs to be welcome to migrant women, to working women.”

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