California Lawmakers Approve Bill to Protect Sex Workers So They Can Report Sexual Assaults

California Sex Worker

California lawmakers approved a bill that protects sex workers from arrest so they can report crimes like sexual assault, The Hill reports.

The Senate approved the measure 28-10 and the Assembly voted 30-9 to pass the bill, which now heads to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

The bill would grant immunity to sex workers who report crimes, either as victims or witnesses, like rape or assault. The bill would also eliminate a part of state law that allows police to use possession of condoms as probable cause to arrest sex workers.

60% of sex workers experience violence:

The bill was sponsored by San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener, who pushed for the law citing a 2014 study that found that 60% of sex workers had experienced some sort of violence.

Wiener said that 32% of sex workers had been physically attacked while working and 29% said they had been sexually assaulted. The same study, he added, found that 40% of sex workers said their interactions with police after being victimized were “negative experiences.”

“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,” Wiener said in a statement. “And, carrying condoms to protect one’s health should never be criminalized. I am grateful to my colleagues for acting to protect sex workers’ health and safety.”

New York aims to decriminalize sex work:

Other states have taken steps to protect sex workers too. A group of New York Democrats recently introduced a bill that would decriminalize sex work in the state in a move similar to Massachusetts and Maine, NBC News reports.

The bill would make it legal to engage in the consensual sale of sex and would vacate prior convictions. It’s unclear how much support the bill has.

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