Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has introduced Senate Bill 357, repealing provisions of California law that criminalize loitering for the intent to engage in sex work. This proposal — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown people, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers. SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an anti-loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.
Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or our communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. People engaged in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
In February, a similar piece of legislation to end this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is cosponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans Latin@ Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and the ACLU of California.
Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color. Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to “determine” if someone intends to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way. Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons. This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for quite simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.
People within the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence. Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police. A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement….
The above comes from a March 10 release from the office of Scott Wiener.