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Tulsi Gabbard supports fully decriminalizing prostitution, calling it a human 'right'

Other Democratic candidates are moving her direction

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) has publicly expressed her support for the decriminalization of sex work, Reason magazine reported Monday.

What did she say?

"If a consenting adult wants to engage in sex work, that is their right, and it should not be a crime," Gabbard said in a statement to the libertarian news outlet over the weekend. "All people should have autonomy over their bodies and their labor."

Reason also noted that Gabbard is the only candidate in the Democratic field to receive a "good grade" from Decriminalize Sex Work, an advocacy organization aiming to "end the prohibition of prostitution in the United States."

Gabbard was awarded an A- for supporting full decriminalization, "which removes criminal and civil penalties from adults engaged in consensual acts of prostitution," but was notched down from a perfect grade for supporting the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act signed into law by President Trump in 2018.

DSW claims that FOSTA, along with its counterpart in the Senate, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which aims to cut down on illegal sex trafficking online by punishing platforms that host sex ads, have in fact "endangered the safety and health of sex workers," arguing that the laws force the sex work industry to go underground, ultimately endangering the workers.

Last year, while reporting on the issue of sex work edging into the 2020 presidential race, The Intercept echoed the sentiments of many who opposed the SESTA-FOSTA bills, saying, "passage of the law resulted in the shutdown of prominent personal ad sites and marketplaces, forcing sex workers to resort to working on the streets or with pimps."

Previously, websites such as Backpage and Craigslist were not legally liable for third-party content, but under the new laws they will be. Proponents of the legislation say it clarifies the country's stance against sex trafficking and holds online platforms accountable for their roles in proliferating the crime.

Where are other Democratic presidential candidates on the issue?

The Democratic position on the criminalization of sex work is evolving.

Though all of the congressional Democrats running for president supported the bipartisan SESTA-FOSTA legislation, including Gabbard, many are also beginning to follow Gabbard's lead when it comes to pushing for the decriminalization of sex work.

After Gabbard, the next highest scorer on DSW's report card is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who expressed openness to decriminalization last year.

"I'm open to decriminalization," Warren said. "Sex workers, like all workers, deserve autonomy but they are particularly vulnerable to physical and financial abuse and hardship. We need to make sure we don't undermine legal protections for the most vulnerable, including the millions of individuals who are victims of human trafficking each year."

Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a similar openness to the issue, as expressed in a statement by his campaign.

"Bernie believes that decriminalization is certainly something that should be considered. Other countries have done this and it has shown to make the lives of sex workers safer," the campaign statement read.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, has expressed concern about SESTA-FOSTA and similar legislation, calling the policies "well-intentioned but harmful in practice."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are opposed to decriminalization, while others, including former Vice President Joe Biden and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, have not expressed any concrete opinions on the matter.

One last thing…
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