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Thursday, 01 August 2019 12:12

Governor Signs Bill Giving Victimized Sex Workers Immunity from Arrest

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Governor Signs Bill Giving Victimized Sex Workers Immunity from Arrest

CALIFORNIA - On Tuesday, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 233, legislation to protect sex workers from arrest after reporting a violent crime such as rape.

The bill also prevents condoms from being used as probable cause for arrest and use as evidence to prosecute someone for sex work. The bill was introduced by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener and will take effect on January 1st.

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According to Senator Wiener's office, SB 233 provides health and safety protections for sex workers and is the first law with these kind of protections in the country.

"Sex workers are at high risk of victimization, including assault, rape, robbery and kidnapping," a statement from the senators office read. Under current law, sex workers are arrestable when reporting these type of incidents for their engagement in sex work. They can also be arrested and prosecuted based on evidence that they had condoms in their possession.

Senator Wiener says this creates an incentive for sex workers to not carry condoms, putting them at risk of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

However, opposition says the legislation enables sex work and related criminal activity to continue without fear of arrest, tying the hands of authorities and creating a loophole.

The authors of the legislation have a different vision.

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"When sex workers believe that carrying condoms and reporting violent crimes will get them arrested, they simply won't take these steps," said Senator Wiener. He believes SB 233 will move the state in the direction to reduce STD transmission and allow victimized sex workers protection against violence. Senator Wiener believes it will also make it easier for authorities to apprehend those who are responsible for crimes like rape and assault. The bill is also supported by organizations like the ACLU.

According to studies by UCSF and the St. James Infirmary, 60% of sex workers experience violence while working. The studies also show that 40% of sex workers reported negative experiences with authorities when reporting themselves as victims of violent crimes. 

Pearl Callahan spent 40 years in the sex work industry. She is now an outreach director for the Sex Workers Outreach Program of Sacramento, and is a survivor of human trafficking. "After 40 years in the sex trade, and being trafficked for 10 of those years, I never thought that we would see a change in my lifetime," she said. "Allowing sex workers to carry condoms and report violent offenses will be lifesaving."

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