ACLU Says Sex Work Decriminalization Could Reduce Police Violence

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—As nationwide protests against police violence, sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, entered their third week, the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday published a statement calling for sex workers to be included in the police brutality conversation. Sex workers are frequent targets of police violence and abuse, and according to the statement authored by ACLU Trans Justice Campaign Manager LaLa B Holston-Zannell, full decriminalization of sex work would allow sex workers to “better protect themselves and seek justice when they are harmed.”   The ACLU has long been in the vanguard of the movement to decriminalize sex work, first stating its support in 1975, according to New Jersey ACLU officials Jeanne LoCicero and Udi Ofer. In fact, the ACLU had unoficially stated support for decriminalization in 1973, but did not make the stance a written policy for another two years. But the current national focus on police violence and racial injustice has given the decriminalization issue a new urgency. According to Amnesty International, in 2015 statistics showed that about 40 percent of adults arrested for sex work-related offenses in the United States, and 60 percent of youth, were black—though black people make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population. “Police regularly target, harass, and assault sex workers or people they think are sex workers, such as trans women of color. The police usually get away with the abuse because sex workers fear being arrested if they report,” wrote Holston-Zannell in the ACLU statement. “Police also take advantage of criminalization by extorting sex workers or coercing them into sexual acts, threatening arrest if they don’t comply. Criminalizing sex work only helps police abuse their power, and get away with it.” Decriminalizing sex work would remove the fear of arrest for sex workers who report police abuses, Holston-Zannell wrote. It would also remove the power of police to use arrest as leverage to coerce and intimidate sex workers. Removing criminal penalties and threat of arrest would also “advance equality in the LGBTQ community, especially for trans women of color, who are often profiled and harassed whether or not we are actually sex workers,” according to the ACLU statement. According to a report by The National Center for Transgender Equality, people of color reported being arrested “for being trans” at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts, 49 percent to 18 percent. Photo By Bojan Cvetanovi? / Wikimedia Commons 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: ACLU Says Sex Work Decriminalization Could Reduce Police Violence | AVN

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