by Derek J. Demeri, South Jersey regional director of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance
Despite its best efforts, the government still hasn’t found a way to eradicate the sex trade. People continue to enter the trade, and people continue to leave; there’s no stopping it. As the LGBT rights movement has taught the public, human sexuality is complex and not everyone can express their sexuality through the idealized monogamous heterosexual marriage. Just as some people who love to learn become teachers, some people who love sex become sex workers – and there’s no shame in that.
Sure, sometimes life circumstances bring people to make decisions that they wouldn’t have otherwise made. For some people, sex work is the most viable option that allows them to care for their family full time while making enough money for their children to survive. It could be the best option between a non-union, labor-intensive job and working minimum wage at a fast-food chain.
Regardless of why someone enters the sex trade, be it out of pure choosing or necessity, that choice deserves to be honored.
“Now is the time to end the criminalization of consensual sexual activity.”
Anything but the decriminalization of sex work will continue to violate the rights of those who trade sex, as advocated by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization and others. Current state laws that criminalize prostitution have created a toxic environment in which people are robbed of their bodily autonomy and treated as an underclass of people without rights.
The laws give law enforcement the right to profile people using stereotypes of who is and isn’t a sex worker, often disproportionately impacting women of color for just walking down the street.
Most of the south Jersey sex workers are junkies or crack heads workin out of flea bag motels. Legal/illegal aint going to make a difference for them.