This June, we’re sharing our soapbox with the movers and shakers of the pride movement.
SOAR Institute advocates for an end to laws which criminalize sex workers and survivors of human trafficking. We’re proud to support their work through our Charity Pot program, where 100 percent of the purchase price of Charity Pot Body Lotion is donated to grassroots organizations working for human rights, animal protection and environmental justice.
Can you describe SOAR’s mission and work?
The Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights Institute (SOAR Institute) works to shift minds, hearts, and skills of service providers, communities, and policy makers to benefit those involved in the sex industry, trafficked individuals, and related communities. LGBTQ individuals make up a large portion of the sex work community and are an almost invisible part of the community of survivors of human trafficking. They are targeted by police for arrests more often than others. They are often overlooked by human trafficking initiatives.
One of your organization’s goals is to shift public thinking about sex work and human trafficking. What are some common misconceptions on these topics?
Depending on your point of view, you may see people working in the sex industry as either all criminals or all victims. Neither of these perspectives are true. Just like any other industry, each individual has their own complex life story and relationship to their work. People enter the sex work field by choice (because they want to and enjoy the work), by circumstance (as a way to earn needed income), or by coercion (human trafficking). Many people think the police should be involved in sex workers' lives, arresting them in order to "save" them. Sex worker organizations reject this idea and ask that the police treat them with respect and dignity and stop arresting them so they can access the protections of the police when they need them.
How would decriminalizing prostitution benefit sex workers?
Decriminalizing prostitution would help sex workers by moving their work out of the shadows and allowing them to access police when needed, health care, and other benefits of workers who do not have to hide their labor. Research shows that wherever prostitution is decriminalized, safety goes up for women. This is also one of the best ways to fight human trafficking. When sex workers are free to report what's happening in their workplaces, they can report human trafficking and assist survivors.
What’s the most important thing allies can do to support your mission?
Allies can support our mission by staying informed and working to spread a human rights message about sex work. Listen to the messages of organizations that are lead by or feature the voices of sex workers. Donate to these organizations and attend their events to learn more. There are also bills being proposed in several states that would either help or hurt sex workers. Stay informed and tell your representatives that you support sex workers.
What does pride in progress mean to SOAR?
Pride in progress means to us that we should hold up and be proud of the tremendous progress made so far by our LGBTQ sex worker activist community. We're inspired by their historic wins and brilliant activism. This keeps us moving together towards human rights goals until all members of our communities are free to live and work in health, safety, and peace.
Photos by PJ Starr