Out in the Open – Blog
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Out in the Open stands with sex workers throughout Vermont, in all rural places, and in all places. Sex work is work. It is long past the time to decriminalize sex work in Vermont and we are pleased that this conversation is on the table during this legislative session. Justice for sex workers is interconnected and part of our fight for collective liberation. 

There are three bills being currently considered by the VT State Judiciary Committee: H. 568, 569, and 651. 

H. 568 & 569 (being considered together) would decriminalize sex work in Vermont while retaining federal human trafficking laws (H. 569) and form a Sex Work Study Committee (H. 568) to continue digging into updating VT law as relating to sex workers. We are strongly in favor of decriminalizing sex work in Vermont and urge support of H. 569 in this regard.

  • The Study Committee must include participation from those directly involved in the practice of sex work
  • Attendance at meetings of the Study Committee must include per diems for sex workers who are participating
    • Those practicing sex work who are participating in the Study Committee should be assured of anonymity (if desired by that person) throughout the process and also be assured of freedom from related prosecution while new laws are being put in place
      • sex workers’ knowledge and expertise must be a part of these processes regardless of their desire or ability to publicly share their identity. We don’t presume that all sex workers involved in this process would want to remain anonymous. But those who need to or desire to protect their identity should be able to do so.
  • Present instances of “he or she” (“his or her” etc.) should be remedied to language inclusive of people of all genders.  

H. 651 provides specific guidance on what would become the only legal way(s) to practice sex work. Regulation legislation can create harm for people practicing sex work and have greater negative impacts on those who are also street-based and/or low-income and/or people of color. Proposed regulations like those described in the current text of H. 651 create the possibility of increased interactions with police, instances of incarceration, and fines. Out in the Open does not support H. 651 as currently written. 

We’d like to address some specific concerns with the current version of H. 651: 

  • Presently,
    • sex workers who are involved should be assured of anonymity (for those want it) as a part of the process (similarly as outlined above). 
  • The stipulation that work only happen in designated facilities has potential to create harm through various means such as concentrating power in the hands of a small number of facility owners, continuing to hold street-based work outside the regulations (and thus presumably making those folks subject to continued criminalization), disallowing rural people from participating in decriminalized work due to limited licenses being available for facilities and/or potentially having to relocate or travel long distances to work in a licensed facility.
    • Location-based work in specified facilities is not preferable or safer for everyone.
    • When we limit options for folks practicing sex work, it creates less safety.
  • Add specific language that until explicit regulations are in place, people practicing sex work for money or goods will not be prosecuted.

Some questions that we have:

  • What happens to folks who are practicing sex work in ways other than those specifically stipulated in the regulations?
  • What type of providers will be allowed to approve the health certification?
    • This is a huge problem in rural areas where there is limited access to providers of any kind. 
  • Who decides what items are included on the health certification? And then what items are included to pass the certification?
  • Do other professional certifications require a criminal background check? 
    • If someone has been engaged in sex work and it has previously been criminalized, that poses an obvious problem to passing a criminal background check.
  • Are there other professional licenses that are limited in number?
  • Is there money associated with this bill to aide in public education, in supporting sex worker participation in creating regulations, and in financial aide to achieve licensure, etc.?

For more resources on sex workers rights organizing: