(Chuck Muth) – On Tuesday a hearing was held on AB166, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Washoe) to crack down on sex trafficking by people using otherwise legitimate businesses, such as massage parlors, as fronts for the illegal sex trade.
“We have identified there currently exists in the law a loophole that allows, for lack of a better description, franchises of slavery and human trafficking to occur,” Las Vegas police lobbyist Chuck Callaway told the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“And the people that are running these businesses,” Callaway continued, “it’s very difficult under current language in the law to hold them accountable.”
It’s important to note that, as reporter Michelle Rindels pointed out, Assemblywoman Tolles “was explicit that the bill is not targeting Nevada’s legal brothels.”
That’s an important distinction, as many anti-brothel advocates disingenuously conflate the illegal sex trafficking of women against their will – often underaged – with women who freely choose sex work in Nevada’s legal brothels and are subjected to FBI background checks before being issued a work card.
It’s encouraging that Assemblywoman Tolles recognizes this critical difference and is focusing her attention on the real problem.
One day after the AB166 hearing, Assemblywoman Leslie Cohen (D-Clark) introduced ACR6; a resolution, as reported by Ms. Rindels, calling “for a study on the workplace conditions of Nevada’s legal brothels.”
If authorized, the study would be conducted by three members each of the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate who would examine over the next two years…
- “The extent to which the rules and working conditions in licensed brothels provide for the health, safety and general welfare of sex workers in licensed brothels”
- “The ways in which contracts between sex workers in licensed brothels and brothel owners and operators protect the physical and mental health of those workers”
- “The adequacy of oversight and regulation by the State and licensing and law enforcement units of local government with respect to the health, safety and general welfare of workers in licensed brothels”
- “Employment issues, including, without, limitation, the classification of sex workers as employees versus independent contractors”
The resolution directs the interim committee to consult with the local governments of counties that currently allow legal brothels, operators and workers of legal brothels, and law enforcement agencies.
It’s encouraging that the bill specifically includes actual brothel owners and workers in the study. Too often in the past the first-person voices of those directly affected have been shut out of the debate.
The committee would be charged with the submitting a report with “recommended legislation” before the start of the 2021 legislative session.
The Nevada Brothel Association will be closely monitoring these two bills for the rest of the current legislative session and will keep you posted on developments.
Mr. Muth is Government Affairs Counsel to the Nevada Brothel Association