Sex workers protest outside San Francisco city hall. A new organization is dedicated to getting sex workers adequate legal representation.



This Online Legal Clinic Protects Sex Workers From Creepy Lawyers

Last year, Amnesty International declared that sex workers’ rights are human rights and advocated for the decriminalization of sex work. According to the human rights organization, sex workers as a whole are “one of the most disadvantaged groups of people in the world, often forced to live outside the law and denied their most basic human rights.” In addition to the big-ticket human rights—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, etc.—there are some lesser-thought-of rights that are just as necessary and are particularly important for sex workers, including the right to legal counsel.

Not all forms of sex work are illegal—stripping, camming, and porn are all okay in the eyes of the law—but that doesn’t erase our society’s stigma against sex workers of all kinds. This stigma can even (sometimes subconsciously) permeate the minds of lawyers who are tasked with defending sex workers in legal cases—even ones that have nothing to do with sex work. Enter Red Light Legal, a legal organization that connects sex workers with effective and unprejudiced legal counsel.

Canadian sex workers rally in defense of labor rights.
Canadian sex workers rally in defense of labor rights.

Red Light Legal is the brainchild of Kristina Dolgin, a long-time sex worker and attorney who has previously worked with the TGI Justice Project, and Matthew Kellegrew, a Bill of Rights attorney who has worked with sex worker communities for the past decade. Their goal is to provide sex workers with not only legal services and representation, but also with community education and effective policy advocacy.

“We’ve had a lot of people contact us through the online legal clinic who are in the midst of a lawsuit and their lawyer has started to ask for sexual favors,” Dolgin told Motherboard. “Or they’re in the midst of a legal issue working with an attorney and their attorney is starting to be super judgmental, using inflammatory language, putting them down for the things they do for work.”

A protest in Seattle for sex workers rights.

Since sex work is so stigmatized, many sex workers find support and community on the internet. Red Light Legal’s online clinic has allowed it to enter the online sex worker community and to provide services to sex workers from all over the country. The online clinic is especially crucial for sex workers who live in rural or remote areas, or highly conservative areas where finding a sex worker-friendly lawyer is difficult. Red Light Legal also has a fundraising component, which allows the organization to take on a limited number of pro bono criminal or civil impact cases.

In addition to legal services, Red Light Legal provides sex workers with necessary resources, including guides on police misconduct and on how to vet an attorney to make sure they’re the right fit.

“You are not at the whim of legal professionals, you have the ability to both hire and fire attorneys,” Dolgin said—sex workers can often feel as if they have to hire any attorney who is willing to take their case. “You can negotiate rates, you can request that they keep certain boundaries.”

Images via Getty, AP

Stay tuned to Milk for more on the evolution of rights for sex workers.

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