California Gov. Gavin Newsom today held true to a promise he made to sign into law SB 233 — a bill that prohibits the arrest of sex workers who report being victims of, or witnesses to, violent crimes. The state legislature sent SB 233 to Newsom’s desk last week.
The new law, which as a bill was sponsored by State Sen. Scott Wiener, amends California’s penal code and contains two key provisions. First, it stops the carrying of condoms being used as proof of sex work (a practice which, essentially, criminalizes sex workers but not the people who seek out sex work—and stigmatizes safe sex), and second, it offers immunity to sex workers when reporting crimes.
“We should be doing everything we can to protect the health [and] safety for all people, particularly sex workers,” Wiener, who introduced the bill, stated. “To be a victim of a crime, and then to be fearful that to go to the police to report the crime you yourself might get arrested for sex work… is not the right incentive. We want to send a clear signal to sex workers and everyone else that we want you to report a crime to the police, we want you to feel safe going to the police for help.”
“Carrying condoms to protect one’s health should never be criminalized,” ~ state senator Scott Wiener
Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) noted the importance of the SB 233 legislation.
“We are very pleased to see Governor Newsom’s signature on a law which enables prostitutes to report rape and assault without fear of being arrested,” she said. “It’s especially relevant after the passing of Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), in April of 2018 which has disastrously affected the safety of sex workers. We applaud our Governor for taking our call for help seriously. Now police can prioritize public health and public safety.”