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Why sex workers are protesting a bill claiming to crack down on traffickers

Photo by Fibonacci Blue used under CC BY 2.0
Sex Workers and their supporters gathered in Minneapolis in October 2015 to protest the recent raid and arrests at Backpage.


On this edition of Your Call, we discuss why sex workers oppose a federal law that promised to crack down on human trafficking.

The Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, which was signed into law in April, holds online platforms liable for any user-generated content related to “the prostitution of another person.” As a result, websites are shutting down personals sections and escort pages. Critics say the law is pushing sex workers back onto the streets, where they are vulnerable, and forcing trafficking victims into the shadows. What would regulations look like that protect both sex workers and trafficking victims?


Toni Newman, executive director of St. James Infirmary, a peer-based health clinic run by and for sex workers, former sex worker, and author of I Rise: The Transformation of Toni Newman

Ckiara Rose, sex worker, fetish model, writer, and activist

Carol Leigh, sex worker activist, cofounder of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network and the Trafficking Policy Research Project, and member of the Sex Work and Trafficking Policy Impact Committee of the SF Mayor’s Anti Trafficking Task Force. 

Web Resources:

The New Yorker: After the Closure of Backpage, Increasingly Vulnerable Sex Workers Are Demanding Their Rights

The Outline: Sex workers protest a post-Backpage world

Engadget: Suicide, violence, and going underground: FOSTA’s body count

Gizmodo: Now, Silicon Valley Is Totally Cool With a Bill That Could Ruin the Internet

Rolling Stone: Anti-Sex-Trafficking Advocates Say New Law Cripples Efforts to Save Victims


Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.