Bill criminalizing prostitution promotion passes
Against strong opposition from sex workers and their advocates, the Oregon Legislature has passed a bill that would criminalize receiving goods or services for promoting prostitution.
The bill is designed to allow district attorneys to prosecute human trafficking cases when traffickers receive goods, services or other non-monetary items of value in exchange for the sexual contact with victims. Under existing law, traffickers commit a crime of promoting prostitution only when they accept monetary compensation for facilitating sexual contact with a victim.
Many traffickers and exploiters understand the law and have changed their tactics to take advantage of this oversight, said J.R. Ujifusa, a Multnomah County deputy district attorney.
The bill will close that loophole, Ujifusa said. It passed the House unanimously Feb. 4. It passed the Senate Friday, Feb. 19.
Matilda Bickers, a strip club dancer and founder of the Portland chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project, said the proposed provision makes no distinction between sex traffickers and pimps or client screening services that receive compensation in consensual business relationships with sex workers.
Unfortunately, there are actually systems in place which would be defined as pimping in this bill, which are actually ways that sex workers use to stay safe, Bickers said.
Bickers gained publicity last year for suing Casa Diablo Vegan Strip Club in Northwest Portland for wage theft and harassment.
Advocates with the Sex Workers Outreach Coalition said the bill could hurt sex workers who exchange sexual favors for food, shelter and other things they need to survive.
My other concern, as someone who is providing social services, is I do know a lot of folks who are using survival sex work to get goods and services that they need, said Katlyn Tracy of the Sex Workers Outreach Coalition, a coalition of social service providers who advocate for sex workers. This bill would basically criminalize folks who might provide that for them, but it doesnt do anything to provide services.
Joel Shapiro, an attorney and lobbyist involved in a legislative work group on child sex trafficking, said the proposed change affects only sex traffickers because it requires involvement by a third party involved in the transaction.