California Bill To Protect Sex Workers From Arrest Is Advancing

A bill to protect prostitutes and other sex workers from arrest should they report a serious and violent crime, such as rape, is moving ahead in the California Senate. It passed out of the Public Safety Committee on a 5-to-2 vote Tuesday. It will likely come to a vote by the full Senate in a mater of weeks.

The pending legislation is the work of Democratic senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco.

Sex workers are at high risk of victimization, according to Wiener. Reportedly people working in the sex trade are more likely to be the targets of assualt, rape, robbery, and kidnapping. However, Wiener noted in a written statement that under current law, sex workers who come forward to report violent crimes can be arrested for sex work simply based on possession of condoms. He believes that has prevented those people from reporting crimes.

"People should never be concerned that reporting a crime or carrying condoms will get them arrested," said Senator Wiener. "SB 233 is about keeping all of our communities safe and healthy, by ensuring sex workers are willing to come forward to report violent crimes and to carry condoms. Sex work is, and always has been, part of our society, and we need to protect these workers’ health and safety."

Wiener's efforts are being supported by St. James Infirmary, US Prostitutes Collective, Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project, and the Sex Worker Outreach Project. It is co-authored by Democratic Assemblymembers Bill Quirk of Hayward, Wendy Carrillo of Los Angeles, and Laura Freidman of Glendale.

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