The Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) today released its 2016 Policy Agenda, which provides a roadmap for legislators looking to understand the legislative consequences of decriminalizing sex work.
During 2015 a whole series of reputable international organizations, including Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, the Lancet, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law, developed positions calling for the decriminalization of sex work. These bodies recognized that sex worker rights are human rights – that consenting adults have the right to be free from state criminalization of their sex lives.
Also during 2015, ESPLERP filed a complaint with the United States District Court challenging California’s current anti-prostitution law, Penal Code 647(b), arguing that these laws deprive individuals of the fundamental right to engage in consensual, private sexual activity.
The movement to decriminalize sex work is also gaining traction nationwide. For example, three women legislators in New Hampshire, two Democrats and one Republican, have introduced House Bill 1614 to decriminalize prostitution.
But there is a huge gulf between recognizing a fundamental right and untangling the morass of legislation that impacts sex workers. This is where ESPLERP’s Policy Agenda comes in – providing a 14 point guide with practical legislative steps towards enfranchising all aspects sex workers. For example, it recommends repealing moral turpitude laws that criminalize legal types of erotic providers such as exotic dancers, adult film performers, massage parlour staff, and phone sex operators.
“History is on our side – 2016 is the year when archaic laws criminalizing sex work will start to be swept aside,” said Ina Dewgood, a board member of ESPLERP. “But it’s not enough to announce that sex work is no longer criminalized. Lawmakers need to end discrimination against erotic service providers accessing publicly funded services like the California Victims Compensation Fund. Our Policy Agenda provides them with a roadmap for this and more. They should use it.” This is in line with the State Department’s 2015 affirmed United Nations Recommendation #86.