Florida, USA: Tampa Sex Workers and Allies Fight City Hall


Received on 05.01.18: 



January 4, 2017 in Tampa, Florida, United States of America

Press Spokesperson, Syd at 727.282.4115
Email sexworkersolidaritynetwork@gmail.com
Facebook page fb.com/SexWorkerSolidarityNetwork/

Hashtags #Jan6 #DecolonizeKennedy

No to the “Bathhouse” Ordinance Rally!
Date: January 6, 2018
Time: 4 to 6 pm
Location: Tampa City Hall, 306 E Jackson St, Tampa, FL 33602

Tampa City Council Meeting
Date: January 11, 2018
Time: 9 am
Location: 3rd Floor, Tampa City Hall, 306 E Jackson St, Tampa, FL 33602

The Tampa City Council wants to pass a homophobic and racist “bathhouse” ordinance. The “bathhouse” ordinance allows the police to harass and arrest sex workers. Instead of helping victims of human trafficking, the proposed ordinance will help human traffickers and make it more difficult for victims to escape their abusers. The people of Tampa will not stand for this!

The Sex Worker Solidarity Network, Democratic Socialists of America – Tampa Chapter, Restorative Justice Coalition, and Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition are joining forces to defeat the proposed bathhouse ordinance. There will be a rally on the steps of Tampa city hall on January 6, 2018 from 4 to 6 pm.

Tampa City Council unanimously voted on the December 21st to move forward with a second reading of the “bathhouse ordinance” despite stark opposition in favor of real solutions for victims of human trafficking.

The proposed ordinance will give the local police an excuse to raid massage parlors. An arrest and criminal record makes it difficult or impossible for people to find housing and formal employment. The inability to find housing and formal employment makes consensual sex workers and victims of human trafficking more vulnerable to human traffickers. While the city council says this ordinance will stop human trafficking, in reality, the ordinance will create more victims of human trafficking.

Bathhouses have historically served as safer spaces for queer people to escape the hate and homophobia in mainstream society. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, ordinances such as the bathhouse ordinance in Tampa were used to target, stigmatize, surveil, and criminalize homosexuality. This tactic did not stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, nor did it stop people from being gay. We must learn from the mistakes of our past and use new research and resources to inform our policies. Nowhere in the revival of this ordinance has any research been presented or heeded, despite Freedom USA’s International leadership on human trafficking policy.

Several members of the council, including Guido Maniscalco, Mike Suarez, and the assistant city attorney Mike Schmid have openly said that they want to target “Asian” massage parlors. In reality, people of many different races and ethnicities work in these massage parlors. It is clear that some members of city council are motivated by racist stereotypes.

Members of a group, called Clean-Up Kennedy, have adopted the rhetoric of stopping “human trafficking”. In reality, Clean-Up Kennedy wants to stop all sex work and impose strict regulations on minority-owned businesses and minority workers. The language of “clean-up” is a code word for redlining and gentrification. Clean-Up Kennedy wants to sanitize Kennedy Boulevard of minority-owned businesses.

The city council’s proposed crack down on massage parlors is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Instead, the city council should focus its efforts and resources on solving the poverty crisis. The lack of affordable housing means that over 1,500 Hillsborough county residents are homeless. The poverty rate in Tampa is 20%, which is 6% higher than the national average. 1 in 5 people in Tampa live in poverty.

Desperation to meet basic needs for food, housing, and medical care makes people vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by human traffickers. The only solution to stop human trafficking is to solve Tampa’s poverty crisis and empower victims to report abuse with impunity.

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