Governor Newsom Signs Historic Bill to Advance Sex Worker’s Health, Rights and Safety!
By: St. James Infirmary
In addition to the sponsors, SB 233 was supported by broad coalition of advocates from the sex worker rights, harm reduction, LGBTQ rights, public health and HIV advocacy, and criminal justice movements in addition to the San Francisco County, Alameda County and Los Angeles District Attorney’s offices.
Sex workers and trafficking survivors experience and witness alarming rates of violence but too often fear reporting crimes to law enforcement in the event they themselves may be arrested or mistreated by the police. California now joins Alaska and Oregon, as well as the city and county of San Francisco and Berkeley by putting policies into place that prevent sex workers from being arrested when reporting violent crime. “This is a historic day for the sex workers in California. We now have a voice when it comes to reporting our exploitation, rapes, and other acts of violence that we have long had to endure, ” said Kristen DiAngelo, Executive Director of SWOP- Sacramento. “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. Allowing sex workers to carry condoms and report violent offenses will be lifesaving, ” said Pearl Callahan, Outreach Director of SWOP- Sacramento.
The criminalization of sex work disproportionately impacts people of color, street-based sex workers and transgender people, with Black street-based sex workers bearing the brunt of harassment, policing and violence as a result. As the crisis of persistent violence against transgender women of color continues to escalate nationwide, the passage of SB 233 takes a critical step towards prioritizing the health and safety of some of the most marginalized Californians. “As an African-American transwoman, I am so glad we have finally gotten rid of the harmful policy of collecting condoms as evidence because of the disproportionate and negative impact on sex workers and transgender people,” said Toni Newman, Executive Director of St. James Infirmary.
The St. James Infirmary community fought for years to ban the use of condoms as evidence, and in 2013 the City of and County of San Francisco finally recognized the practice unsafely discourages sex workers from using them and passed a local policy to prohibit police and prosecutors from using them as evidence in prostitution cases. With the passage of SB 233, police and prosecutors throughout the state will no longer be able use condoms to criminalize individuals in the sex trade. “Simply put, treating condoms as evidence is unsafe. Sex workers deserve the right to safety and to control their working conditions. SB 233 is a commonsense policy change that supports the self-determination and the right of sex workers to protect themselves,”
SB 233 will take effect in January 2020.
St. James Infirmary