My name is Barbara Colt. I am on the board of directors for The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is 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.
I am writing to submit testimony in support of S. 771, which makes prostitution a civil fine rather than a misdemeanor. For us this bill is only a first step as the true goal should be decriminalization. We would also ask that lawmakers who are considering this or other proposals make sure that they not only center the needs of individual sex workers, but also include the voices and viewpoints of people who are or have done sex work. That is what a thoughtful approach requires.
For us the conversation around sex work should not be about making laws against commercial sexual activity less punitive. It should be about truly improving the system and addressing the ways in which sex workers are denied rights in the current structures. 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.
Decriminalization would help protect sex workers from violence from police and the state, as well as clients by making sure that they know they can turn to the system for protection rather than punishment. It would allow sex workers to seek heath care without fearing arrest and help them to organize and to push for better wages and working conditions.
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.
We urge you to vote yes on this legislation to take steps towards mitigating harm, but we ask that you continue the work and that ongoing efforts be focused on protecting and respecting the rights of sex workers including protecting them from harm, exploitation and coercion; ensuring they can participate in the development of laws and policies that affect their lives and safety; and guaranteeing access to health, education and employment options. Thank you.
Contact: Barbara Colt ([email protected] or 401-400-0061)