But Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat who led a successful insurgency campaign last year that included advocating for decriminalization, said the „Nordic model” doesn`t solve the prostitution problem because it still makes sex workers „complicit in illegal activity.” Human rights activists, including Amnesty, believe that sex workers` collectives are a far better way to prevent human trafficking and child prostitution than brothel robberies. D.M.S.C. and VAMP run screening boards in Sonagachi and Sangli that interview newcomer women in the county, ask them if they have voluntarily entered the sex trade, and sometimes check birth certificates to prove that women are at least 18 (partly out of self-interest, as older women often don`t want to compete with younger ones). It is by no means a perfect system. Among other shortcomings, Sonagachi`s high-end brothels, run by people called Agrawalis, are not involved in the collective`s condom distribution, say researchers, including Prabha Kotiswaran, a King`s College London faculty member who conducted months of fieldwork in Sonagachi for his book „Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor.” „The Agrawalis are a source of trafficking of minors,” says Kotiswaran. In other brothels, however, she saw how D.M.S.C. staff tried to help girls leave and find better options than government pretrial detention, where they often find themselves after raids. „It`s a nightmare, like prison,” Kotiswaran says. On stage, dressed in a white blouse with lace, her face framed by glasses and straight brown hair, Muñoz, 43, looked calm and determined as she leaned into the microphone to tell her story.
She began escorting at the age of 18 after graduating from high school in Los Angeles County, picking up men from a dance club a few times a week and making deals to have sex for about $100 at a hotel or their apartments. She had a part-time job as a restaurant hostess, but she liked to feel sought after and earn money on the side to spend on clothes and entertainment. „I really, really loved this work,” she told her audience of more than 100 Amnesty people. „I was a little reckless.” The same recklessness led them to methamphetamine. When her parents found out she was using it, they sent her to rehab. She stopped escorting and taking drugs and found a serious boyfriend. When she was 24, the relationship ended, and at that point, her parents sold their house. Muñoz began living alone for the first time. With the payment of rent and car insurance and a plan to save for university, coaching became his livelihood.
„I was heading towards a goal, and sex work helped me do that,” Muñoz told the crowd. The Swedish government has made it clear that it views the problems caused by the law for sex workers as an acceptable form of deterrence, signaling in 2010 that the negative effects „must be seen as positive from the point of view that the purpose of the law is in fact to combat prostitution.” When the France adopted the Swedish model in April, the sponsor of the bill told parliament that one of the goals was to „change mindsets.” On social media, American sex workers expressed sympathy for their French sisters who marched in protest. While decriminalization is unlikely to pass in New York this year, two laws dealing with elements of prostitution appear to be more likely to pass, including one that would remove non-prostitution crimes such as drug allegations from the records of victims of sex trafficking. In 2003, in part in response to lobbying by feminist abolitionists and evangelicals, Congress banned groups that helped victims of human trafficking from receiving federal funding if they supported the „legalization or practice of prostitution.” That same year, President Bush allocated $15 billion to the international fight against AIDS, but required all recipients of those funds to sign a pledge against prostitution. The result has been a head-on clash between AIDS prevention and abolitionist ideas. Brazil refused $40 million in U.S. funds. Sangram, a public health and human rights organization that distributed condoms in Sangli, a red-light district in rural southern India, refused to sign the pledge and returned the U.S. funds in 2005, at a time when UN AIDS cited it as a reliable source of HIV and human rights. „We were distributing 350,000 condoms a month,” said Meena Seshu, director of Sangram, who holds a master`s degree in social work, published in The Lancet and is a Human Rights Watch award winner.