Sex Work Decriminalization

As the trade association of the adult industry, we have championed issues of free speech and workers’ rights for over twenty five years. We stand firmly against exploitation and view the decriminalization of sex work as a critical step to combat sex trafficking, and strengthen workers’ control over their bodies and lives. Leading human rights and public health organizations such as Amnesty International and the World Health Organization agree that in order to adequately address the issue of sex trafficking, sex work must be decriminalized world wide.

In 2012, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law also concluded that, “criminalization, in collusion with social stigma makes sex workers’ lives more unstable, less safe” . Currently more than eighty countries and territories worldwide have some degree of legal protection for sex workers. In 2016 the Board of the Free Speech Coalition unanimously voted to support policies that work toward the decriminalization of the adult industry as a whole, including decriminalizaing

Workers become more vulnerable to exploitation when they are unable to safely advertise, screen clients, benefit from legal and regulatory protections, or call upon law enforcement without fear of abuse and arrest.

A 2003 report from the Urban Justice Center of New York City’s Sex Workers Project found that the overwhelming majority of street based sex workers surveyed did not feel safe reporting crimes to the police, and the few who had done so reported being turned away and told they “deserve all that they get.”

Additionally, a 2012 report from Action for Reach Out, a sexworkers’ rights NGO in Hong Kong, found that nearly 10% of the sex workers surveyed had experienced being threatened or blackmailed by police or individuals claiming to be police. Until sex workers no longer have to fear violence and harassment from law enforcement, they cannot look to them for justice.

Laws that criminalize sex work are often enforced through profiling the working poor, workers of color, and workers of trans experience, who often face intimidation, extortion, and assault from police. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects has found that transgender people of color are 6.2 times more likely to experience police violence, and a 2015 report in collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality found that transgender sex workers of color were nearly twice as likely as their white counterparts to be arrested.

We ask that you look toward the larger human rights and public health landscape when considering this bill. When Rhode Island decriminalized sex work from 2003-2009, the entire state saw a drop in instances of rape by 31% and instances of gonorrhea among women dropped by 39%. In India, where sex workers and law enforcement are now able to collaborate to address exploitation and violence within the industry, HIV prevalence among sex workers fell from over 11% in 2001 to less than 4% by 2004.  In New Zealand, where sex work has been decriminalized since 2002 the Prostitution Law Review Committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice found that five years later, the sex industry had not increased in size (as was initially speculated by opponents to decriminalization) and “the vast majority of people involved in the sex industry,” in the country were “better off” than they had been when their work was criminalized. An independent review from the Christchurch School of Medicine also found that 90 percent of New Zealand sex workers believed that decriminalization bettered their rights to employment, legal resources, health, and safety. Sixty-four percent of workers also found it easier to refuse clients, and 57 percent said police attitudes toward sex workers changed for the better.

Decriminalization also allows workers to organize for better working conditions and become involved in regulatory processes. Recently, adult film workers have become a powerful political voice in California, advocating for their own rights and protections at the ballot box, while labor groups from the industry are actively working with the state’s health and safety officials to draft regulations for their workplaces.

So much is possible when workers are given the power to speak for themselves. Decriminalizing all adults who consent to participation in the adult industry is critical to the health and safety of both workers and the general public. Decreasing the stigma and penalties associated with any sector of the adult industry will benefit the community as a whole.


Arizona HB 2125 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Douglas Coleman [R] Rep. Heather Carter [R] Rep. Drew John [R]

Introduced January 12, 2017

Died in Chamber

View the Bill here

Alaska HB 112

Proponent Rep. Matt Claman [D]

Introduced February 8, 2017

25% progression

View the Bill here

Hawaii HB 1533 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Joseph Souki [D]

Introduced January 25, 2017

Died in Committee

View the Bill here

Hawaii HB 1532 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Joseph Souki [D]

Introduced January 25, 2017

Died in Committee

View the Bill here

Hawaii SB 264 (Died)

Proponent Sen. William Espero [D] Sen. Lorraine Inouye [D] Sen. Michelle Kidani [D] Sen. Jill Tokuda [D]
Sen. Donna Kim [D] Sen. Russell Ruderman [D] Sen. Maile Shimabukuro [D] Sen. Laura Thielen [D]

Introduced January 20, 2017

Died in Committee

View the Bill here

Missouri SB 341 (Died)

Proponent Sen. Jamilah Nasheed [D]

Introduced January 24, 2017

Died in Chamber

View the Bill here

Missouri HB 1015 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Cora Walker [D]

Introduced February 23, 2017

Died in Committee

View the Bill here

Montana HB 379 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Kimberly Dudik [D]

Introduced February 2, 2017

Died in Standing Committee

View the Bill here

New Hampshire HB 287 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Elizabeth Edwards [D] Rep. Carol McGuire [R] Rep. Amanda Bouldin [D] Rep. Kate Murray [D]

Introduced January 6, 2017

Died in Chamber

View the Bill here

Texas HB 1218 (Died)

Proponent Rep. Eric Johnson [D]

Introduced January 23, 2017

Died in Chamber

View the Bill here

Utah HB 274 (Signed)

Proponent Rep. Angela Romero [D] Sen. Wayne Harper [R]

Introduced March 28, 2017

100% progression, Signed.

View the Bill here

Washington HB 1112

Proponent Rep. Tina Orwall [D] Rep. Roger Goodman [D] Rep. Cindy Ryu [D] Rep. Noel Frame [D]
Rep. Derek Stanford [D] Rep. Timm Ormsby [D] Rep. Laurie Jinkins [D] Rep. Zack Hudgins [D]
Rep. Nicole Macri [D] Rep. Gael Tarleton [D] Rep. Gerry Pollet [D] Rep. Jessyn Farrell [D]
Rep. Ruth Kagi [D] Rep. Steve Bergquist [D]

Introduced January 11, 2017

25% progression, Referred to Public Safety

View the Bill here

Washington SB 5272 (Signed)

Proponent Sen. Rebecca Saldana [D] Sen. Robert Hasegawa [D] Sen. Kevin Ranker [D] Sen. Maralyn Chase [D]
Sen. Samuel Hunt [D] Sen. Jeannie Darneille [D] Sen. Lisa Wellman [D] Sen. Karen Keiser [D]
Sen. Annette Cleveland [D] Sen. Dean Takko [D] Sen. Patty Kuderer [D]

Introduced February 22, 2017

100% progression, Effective date 7/23/2017

View the Bill here


United Nations Development Program report on sex work in Asia, recommending the decriminalization of the consensual sex trade.
The World Health Organization The Sex Workers Project The New Zealand Government New South Wales Lambda Legal Transgender Law Center Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) Lambda Legal National Center for Lesbian Rights National Center for Transgender Equality Amnesty International Hawaii Chapter Amnesty International (Global) Arresting Prostitutes Is Legal Exploitation (APLE Hawaii) Association for Women’s Rights in Development COYOTE RI Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women Global Commission on HIV and the Law Global Forum on MSM and HIV Global Network of People Living with HIV Global Network of Sex Work Projects Human Rights Watch International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS Jewish World Service Lambda Legal National Center for Lesbian Rights National Center for Transgender Equality Open Society Foundations Transgender Law Center UNFPA UNAIDS World Health Organization (WHO)

Want more Press Releases, News Clips, and Policy Statements?