As New York takes an unprecedented step toward decriminalization, California lawmakers are using a different approach to make sex work safer. A state bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener would protect sex workers who come forward as witnesses or victims of serious crimes, and prohibit the possession of condoms from being used as probable cause for arrest. Instead of decriminalizing sex work, it would provide immunity from arrest under certain limited circumstances.

“When a sex worker is scared to come forward and report a crime, the sex worker is less safe, and we are all less safe as a community,” explained Wiener in a statement. “And, carrying condoms to protect one’s health should never be criminalized.”

The bill, SB 233, would prohibit a sex worker for being arrested if they are reporting any number of specified crimes, including sexual assault, trafficking, robbery, and burglary. This is critical, given that 60 percent of sex workers have experienced violence while working, according to a 2014 study by the University of California San Francisco and St. James Infirmary, a peer-based health clinic for sex workers. Of course, sex workers’ vulnerability to arrest can dissuade reporting of violent crimes (which makes no one safer, except for the perpetrators).

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California Bill wants to let Sex Workers safely report crimes and carry condoms by Tracy Clark-Flory

June 17th, 2019