The movement to decriminalize sex work is slowly gaining more and more support in the U.S., and Vermont has become the most recent state looking to take the necessary steps to achieve that goal.
A bill that decriminalized sex work while keeping the state’s laws against sex trafficking was introduced last month by a group of four female lawmakers. That bill is still in committee, and it’ll be an uphill climb for Vermont to become the first place in the country (outside of a few Nevada counties) to decriminalize. But its lead sponsor, Burlington Progressive Selene Colburn, thinks that a similar proposal could have a better chance of passing this year.
The proposal, which was referred to committee on Wednesday, would give immunity to people who either witnessed a crime or were victims of a crime while engaged in sex work. Like a Good Samaritan Law, the bill could eliminate a barrier of fear and danger that can keep a vulnerable population from receiving necessary help.
“Right now sex workers really feel that they cannot access police protection,” said Colburn to the AP. “There are tons of statistics about the violence, the high levels of violence, and sex assault that people who engage in sex work experience.”
The Vermont bills are part of a growing pile of evidence that support for sex work decriminalization is gaining momentum across the country and has become a part of the mainstream conversation. A poll last month from Data for Progress showed that 52 percent of respondents either “somewhat” or “strongly” support sex work decriminalization, with only 36 percent opposed. That result is much more decisive among Democrats and voters under 45, both of whom have two-thirds support for decriminalization. Chief among the arguments for decriminalization is the violence that sex workers, particularly black trans women, can suffer from when they’re caught in police stings.