My name is Barbara Colt. I am writing to share a letter of support for a proposed amendment to H5270. I am a member of the board of directors for The Womxn Project, a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We are honored to work with COYOTE RI who has asked that we reach out to you regarding this proposed amendment. This bill requires hotels to have staff take anti-trafficking trainings. The challenge is that there is no information about what the training would include, how it would be provided and what sort of approach the training would take in terms of how sex workers are treated and their rights protected. Currently, there are instances where homeland security has asked hotels to have staff look for condoms and electronic devices as indication of trafficking, but this is disturbing policing of what is most often consensual activity among adults.
Too often sex work is conflated with trafficking to the detriment and increased criminalization of sex workers. If we are looking for ways to genuinely protect those who are coerced or pushed into sex work or who are harmed by trafficking, having hotel staff take a random training is not the best approach. Should they be made aware by providing some information through educational materials? Perhaps. But should we put staff into the position of policing guests? No, we should not.
The Womxn Project urges any proposals involving questions around consensual, commercial sex work – and the difference between this work and trafficking should include the expertise and voices of people who are or have done sex work. That is what a thoughtful approach requires.
Criminalization makes sex workers less safe by preventing them from securing police protection and by providing impunity to abusers. It does not make anyone safer, fuels mass incarceration and negative outcomes for sex workers and their families. Sex workers deserve respect under the law and to do their work without persecution. They should be able to maintain their livelihood without fear of violence or arrest, and with access to health care to protect themselves. We can bring sex workers out of the dangerous margins and into the light where people are protected — not targeted — by the law by working towards decriminalization.
If H5270 is going to be moved it should be amended. And again, we do encourage that when it comes to anything related to sex work or questions around what is consensual activity, that the viewpoints of sex workers be included. Thank you for your consideration.
Barbara Colt ([email protected] or 401-400-0061)