Two bills were introduced this session which concerned the decriminalizing of commercial sexual activity, or sex work, in Rhode Island.
H 5250 created a commission to study the impact of decriminalizing laws surrounding commercial sexual activity in Rhode Island. The ACLU and other advocacy groups noted the disproportionate impact that arrests for prostitution have on women and the inappropriate use of police resources for a victimless crime. We testified in support of this legislation, further emphasizing that criminalizing consensual sexual conduct in such a way only creates a more difficult and dangerous environment for sex workers. This bill passed the House and will establish this commission.
S 771 would have explicitly decriminalized sex work, ensuring that our criminal justice system is not utilized to take unnecessarily punitive action against consenting adults and that sex workers would be able to approach their work with safety and without inappropriate stigmatization. This bill unfortunately died in committee.