SB 1204, California’s Upcoming Pandering Bill, Will Criminalize Street Outreach and Kill Sex Workers

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image via the Red Umbrella Fund — image is of a red umbrella with “we don’t need to be saved” written on it in black marker

On April 17th, Sacramento will host a hearing on SB 1204, a state pandering bill that will further conflate the sex trafficking moral panic with every other type of sex work. This is a move that will actively harm sex workers, many of whom have been kicked off the internet by social media platforms in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA.

Due to the inability to advertise freely online, many of my comrades have felt pushed into street based sex work in order to pay their constantly increasing rent. SB 1204 will ensure that helping this vulnerable population with harm reduction like medical care, safety advice and self defense workshops comes with a jail sentence.

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thank goodness politicians are looking out for the safety of sex workers right? image via Vee Chattie on FB

The bill was introduced by State Senator Pat Bates (R — Laguna Niguel) and coauthored by coauthored by Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R — San Luis Obispo), and expands the definition of pandering to include any individual who “arranges, causes, encourages, induces, persuades, or procures another person to be a prostitute.” Previously, the law focused on the act of “procuring” sex work, defined by varying degrees of violent coercion, threats, or financial exchange.

Many have asked how the new bill will be enforced. Does it cover giving condoms to marginalized people who may or may not be using them for sex work? Does it include screening advice? The bill feels purposefully vague to ensure that law enforcement can scoop up as many people as possible in their nets, thus making it seem like the bill is effective by boosting the numbers of related arrests.

What this will likely do instead is increase the racist, classist, transphobic profiling the police nationally have been under fire for. Sacramento itself recently found its law enforcement under the microscope after officers gunned down an innocent man with a mobile phone in his own backyard. Los Angeles eventually jailed two officers who admitted to raping multiple women. In Oakland, there was a recent settlement when multiple officers were discovered to have abused their authority to rape an underage girl.

THESE are the people we’re leaning on to protect sex workers? Pardon if I don’t trust them to be effective.

Speak out against the Bill at the Public Safety Committee hearing April 17th, 8:30 AM in the Capitol, Room 3191 in Sacramento, and learn more about next steps here.

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