My name is Emma Gauthier. 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 S2713, which would decriminalize sex work and expand eligibility for expungement of criminal records for past convictions related to sex work. This is a very big step forward as too often policies around sex work have been fueled by judgment and stigma and not centered the needs of individual sex workers.
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.
This bill would mitigate harm and protect sex workers rights. It would also help to eliminate the negative consequences of a criminal record by allowing for expungement. This is incredibly important. With an expunged criminal record, folks can safely and legally say ‘no’ when asked whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. Expunged criminal records also help in obtaining loans and college grants. They help with job applications and housing.
Too often having to report a past crime means that people are dragged into the past and punished over and over. This will also address some very real racial discrimination issues within our so-called justice system. People of color are more likely to be interrogated and arrested. It has been shown time and again that across different criminal policies from drugs to sex work that a person of color is more likely to be arrested. Decriminalization and expungement has many important benefits, including addressing this disparity.
We urge you to vote yes on this legislation to protect and respect the rights of sex workers including protecting them from harm, exploitation and coercion and allowing people to have a more even playing field by removing past convictions for sex work from their records. This bill puts individuals’ needs and rights ahead of judgment and stigma. It is informed by public health and human rights recommendations and is the right thing to do. Thank you for your consideration.
Contact: Emma Gauthier, [email protected], 401-400-0061