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Amnesty from Arrest for sex workers who are victims of violence

An amnesty from arrest would protect sex workers who report witnessing or experiencing violence. Fear of prosecution for prostitution offences is one of the main deterrents for sex workers to report rape and other violence.

Sex workers face high levels of violence. Globally between 45-75% of sex workers have experienced workplace violence. Trans and migrant women are particularly targeted. It is much safer to work indoors with others but this is illegal– a conviction for brothel-keeping carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Working on the street is much less safe but safer when in close proximity to others, but this increases the chance of arrest for soliciting and targeting by vigilantes.

A sex worker-led campaign in San Francisco won the policy “Prioritizing Safety for Sex Worker”. This inspired legislation in California (AB 2243) which amends the Evidence Code to protect a sex worker reporting a violent crime from prosecution.

Assembly Bill No. 2243 prohibits “. . . the admissibility of evidence that a victim of, or a witness to, extortion, stalking, or a violent felony, each as defined, has engaged in an act of prostitution at or around the time he or she was the victim of or witness to the crime in order to prove the victim’s or witness’s criminal liability in a separate prosecution for the act of prostitution.”.

See more information from our sister organisation US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS) in San Francisco, who campaigned for the Bill here and here.

There is no impediment to similar legislation being introduced here in the UK.

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In November 2020, we hosted a webinar “Sex Workers: Access to Justice” where US PROS spoke about campaigning for the Bill and speakers outlined the reasons why we need the amnesty in the UK. Watch the webinar below.