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A New California Bill Would Make It Easier for Sex Workers to Report Crimes

by Emma Davey

A new bill being proposed in the California state legislature “would prohibit a sex worker for being arrested if they are reporting any number of specified crimes, including sexual assault, trafficking, robbery, and burglary” according to Jezebel.

Under our puritanical system of banning sex work, sex workers are often afraid to come forward and report crimes that have happened to them for fear that they will also be implicated and arrested. The bill, SB 233, already passed in the Senate, and now is up for a vote in the State Assembly. It was initially proposed by State Sen. Scott Wiener, who said in a statement this past February: “To be a victim of a crime, and then to be fearful that to go to the police to report the crime you yourself might get arrested for sex work… is not the right incentive. We want to send a clear signal to sex workers and everyone else that we want you to report a crime to the police, we want you to feel safe going to the police for help.”

SB 233 would also make it possible for sex workers to safely carry condoms. As the law currently stands, sex workers have been routinely arrested for the posession of condoms, as that is seen as proof of prostitution. Obviously, condoms make sex work safer, so it’s incredibly messed up that law enforcement has used them as a shortcut proof of a “crime.” Sex work is work. As we do with people engaged in all forms of employment, we need to extend rights and protections to sex workers. SB 233 is a good first step in erasing the stigma from sex work, but it is not enough. The decriminalization of sex work is crucial for ensuring that sex workers can fully come out of the shadows, to make it easier for them to organize and access things like health care and fair pay.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Fibonacci Blue

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