SF to vote on prostitution

by on October 9, 2008  •  In Criminal law, Sex work

Among the most fascinating local elections this year is a ballot initiative in San Francisco that would effectively stop enforcement of anti-prostitution laws and prevent use of racial profiling to identify victims of trafficking.

Bay Area Reporter

by Seth Hemmelgarn

…Opponents say the measure, Proposition K, would prohibit law enforcement from going after sex traffickers … The measure would also prohibit the police department from applying for federal or state funds that involve racial profiling to target alleged trafficking victims. But in her argument against the Prop K, District Attorney Kamala Harris states the measure would strip all funding to investigate human trafficking rings.

In 1994, according to the measure, the Board of Supervisors established a Task Force on Prostitution to examine prostitution and to recommend reforms. In 1996, the task force released a report recommending that, among other things, the city stop enforcing and prosecuting prostitution crimes.

Prop K calls for the police department and the district attorney "to enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion, and rape, regardless of the victim's status as a sex worker."

Maxine Doogan, who is largely responsible for getting the measure on the November ballot and is the founder of the Exotic Service Providers Union, said Prop K would not stop law enforcement from going after child abusers or traffickers.

Slava Osowska [another Prop K supporter] said law enforcement officials racially profile Asian sex workers, such as women in massage parlors, and assume that they're trafficking victims.

"The only way they can investigate is through racial profiling and making assumptions with no evidence," Osowska said.

Heather Weigand, a Prop K opponent, is program manager for Safe House, which helps provide housing, shelter, food, one-to-one therapy and other services to women who have been working in prostitution….Weigand said she opposes Prop K because it would open the city to pimps, johns, and traffickers, "and it does not protect any women in sex work … it harms them by tying the police department's hands in investigating prostitution-related crimes."…

Osowska said the measure would make it easier for clients and sex workers to go to authorities when there's evidence of sex trafficking.

Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, [said that] Mayor Gavin Newsom assembled a task force on trafficking that included agencies such as the health and police departments. "Through this collaborative multi-agency effort numerous inspections and investigations into sex trafficking operations have ensued, resulting in over 20 brothels posing as massage parlors being closed down in San Francisco," Chan wrote….


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