On July 1st, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 357 which repeals the California law that criminalizes loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution; the new law will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
The Sex Workers and Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project (ESPLERP) released a statement praising the decision. Most notably because the law has historically been used as another way to target Black, Brown, and trans citizens. "This ‘walking while trans law’ was always a horribly discriminatory law that allowed law enforcement enormous leeway in deciding who they would arrest,” said Claire Alwyne, Chair of ESPLERP. "And people of color and transgender folks always seemed to be targeted regardless of whether they actually worked as a sex worker or not. And then that resulted in a criminal arrest record that would invariably be used to further discriminate against them when applying for work and housing."
According to ESPLERP's Mission Statement, they are "a diverse community-based erotic service provider led group which seeks to empower the erotic community and advance sexual privacy rights through legal advocacy, education, and research. In our legal advocacy, we seek to create change through a combination of impact litigation, policy statements, and voicing our concerns for our community in political arenas. Through educational trainings and outreach, we will empower and capacity build to address discrimination of erotic service providers and the greater erotic community. Lastly, we strive to archive and rate much of the research which has been done by and of the sex worker community, and build on this history with research which seeks to be increasingly inclusive, respectful, and ultimately, relevant to the erotic service providers and the larger erotic community."
Senator Scott Weiner, the author of SB 357, said that the passing of the bill will also help in the fight against human trafficking given that arresting people with wanton disregard only hinders the process. “Credible human trafficking advocates will tell you that that is not a good strategy. Giving someone an arrest record makes it harder for people to get jobs, to get housing. It just makes no sense. And that's really not how this law was being used. It was being used to profile and target people based on how they look.”
The passing of SB 357 will also provide the chance to people who have previously been convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution to clear their records, which invariably leads to a smoother process when it comes to job hunting, house shopping, and any other life event that requires a look into one's personal history.
Ashley Madness, a member of the steering committee for Decriminalize Sex Work California knows how important this change is, and how profoundly it can impact even the most basic of events like walking in the streets. “I knew that I would always be able to be [arrested] under this statute, because of how I look and my gender presentation, and because I kept cash in my purse at all times," she said. "I was homeless, so even with nothing else, I knew, ‘Okay, so they can arrest me if I'm at the wrong place at the wrong time. I will stay away from the wrong places,’ which made it more difficult when I was going through a difficult period.”
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It's astonishing that in almost-2023 we are still debating whether or not people can publicly just... exist. This law, however, is decidedly a step in the right direction. Amidst a seemingly non-stop deluge of news reporting that we're losing control of our personal freedoms, SB 357 is a good reminder that there are still good fights being won.
Cybersocket: Plug In. Get Off. Questions? Comments? Email us at [email protected].