Rhode Island Introduces Legislation Aimed at Protecting Sex Workers

March 8, 2021

DSW is pleased to be working with allies in Rhode Island on four bills critical to the health and safety of sex workers and communities as a whole! DSW’s Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly testified in support of the resolution and bills listed below.


House Resolution 5250: “Creating a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals” was introduced on January 29 and the House Health & Human Services Committee recommended after a hearing on February 25 that the measure be held for future study. The resolution would create a special legislative commission to make a comprehensive study and provide recommendations on the health and safety impact of revising laws related to commercial sexual activity, identifying the methods of human trafficking and exploitation to develop strategies to reduce these activities, and ensuring accountability in the treatment of marginalized and targeted communities by police. The resolution is a response to laws that disproportionately impact women, transgender individuals, and people of color; to the documented increase in exploitation and violence against people in the sex industry in Rhode Island since the passage of federal legislation SESTA/FOSTA; and to the need to ensure justice and accountability in the way Rhode Island laws impact the state’s citizens.

Sponsors: Williams, Ajello, Vella-Wilkinson, Alzate, Henries, Morales

bill text


House Bill 5467: “An act relating to criminal offenses - criminal sexual activity” was introduced on February 10. After a hearing on March 9, the House Judiciary Committee recommended the measure be held for further study. The act would grant immunity from prosecution to people engaged in commercial sexual activity if they report to law enforcement that they are victims of or witnesses to a crime, ensuring that they feel safe in coming forward to report crimes and are able to report exploitation or violence committed against others.

Sponsors: Williams, Messier, Ajello, Slater, Felix, Alzate

bill text


House Bill 5464: “An act relating to health and safety - licensing of healthcare facilities” was introduced on February 10 and after a hearing on March 8, the House Health & Human Services Committee recommended the bill for further study. The act would prevent healthcare facilities from denying care to patients based on their age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, source of income, and source of payment or profession.

Sponsors: Williams, Messier, Ajello, Vella-Wilkinson, Felix, Alzate

bill text


House Bill 6049 and Senate Bill 249: “An act relating to criminal offenses - sexual assault” would create a new criminal offense of “custodial sexual assault,” which occurs when a peace officer perpetrates a sexual assault while the victim is in their custody. The senate bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 10. The house bill was introduced on March 3, and the House Judiciary Committee recommended the measure be held for further study after a hearing on March 9.

Senate Sponsors: Bell, Calkin, Murray, Anderson, Goldin, Quezada, Cano, Mendes, Valverde, Acosta

House Sponsors: Henries, Felix, Hull, Lombardi, Kazarian, Cassar, Batista

bill text (senate)
bill text (house)

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DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW and Allies Gear Up for Legislative Session in Rhode Island

November 2, 2019

DSW grantee COYOTE-RI (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) hosted a coalition meeting with human-rights activists in Providence, RI. DSW’s Melissa Broudo met with local organizations that are working to improve the lives of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable communities. The coalition outlined a strategy for the upcoming state legislative session. DSW and allies are proposing bills that would promote the health, safety, and rights of sex workers and trafficking survivors in the Ocean State.

DSW values these partnerships, which deepen our understanding of how prostitution legislation affects communities and individuals at state and municipal levels. The meeting included representatives from the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR) RI, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Behind The Walls Committee, and COYOTE-RI. AMOR is an admirable coalition of grassroots organizations that work to resist individual and state-sponsored violence at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status. DARE is a Providence-based organization that organizes community members for social, political, and economic justice.

The voices and interests of impacted communities must be central to the legislation DSW drafts. Organizers had a productive and edifying conversation about the next steps for promoting harm-reduction, rights-based legislation for sex workers in Rhode Island. DSW is grateful to COYOTE-RI for organizing this meeting.

DSW’s Melissa Broudo (left) is pictured with Bella Robinson (right) of COYOTE-RI, as well as allies from AMOR and DARE.

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DSW Newsletter Archive

RI Legislators Hear From Experts On Impact of Prostitution Laws

COYOTE Rhode Island
www.COYOTERI.org

Contact Bella Robinson, Executive Director
Bella@coyoteri.org
(401) 525-8757  (cell)
Providence, RI
April 30, 2019

RI Legislators Hear From Experts On Impact of Prostitution Laws

The Rhode Island legislature is considering a bill (HB 5354) sponsored by Chairwoman Anastasia Williams to create a special study commission to review the health and safety impact of commercial sexual activity laws. In a historic moment, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee will hear from a broad range of experts and advocates about the impact criminal prostitution laws have had on our community. Research indicates a clear correlation between repressive policing and negative health and safety outcomes.

On April 30th, 2019, shortly after 4pm, the House Judiciary Committee will hear from Dame Catherine Healy, New Zealand Order of Merit, who will tell legislators what happened after New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003. Scott Cunningham, PhD, Professor, Baylor University who studied the impact that decriminalizing indoor sex work in RI has had on rates of sexually transmitted infections and sexual assault.

The committee will also hear from members of COYOTE-RI including Elena Shih, PhD, Assistant Professor at Brown University, Bella Robinson, the Executive Director of COYOTE-RI, Meghan Peterson, an MPH candidate at Brown University, Yeonhoo Cho, a student, Brown University, Malana Krongelb, a student, Brown University, and Dayana Tavarez, a student, Brown University.

Also testifying will be Philip Chan, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Brown University & Medical Director of Rhode Island STD Clinic, Katherine Kerwin, Providence City Council, Kate Mogulescu, JD, Assistant Professor, Brooklyn Law School & Founder of the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Unit, Jillian Modzeleski, JD, Senior Trial Attorney in Charge of the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, Jill McCracken, PhD, Associate Professor, University of South Florida and Melissa Broudo, JD, MPH, Co Director of SOAR Institute.

We cannot continue to support policies that sound good on paper, but actually do a disservice to the people they aim to support. In this case, we aim to engage in research and study this issue further to ensure our laws support all people engaged in the sex industry.