Sex Work, Rights and Safety: Historic Town Hall Meeting Speak Out and Panel on Prop K


Thursday, October 30, 7pm -9pm

First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street, San Francisco
Info:            415-626-4114      ,,

For the last century, year after year, sex workers in SF have been hounded, arrested and jailed, evicted, raped and even murdered, their children taken away. Those of us who have least – often women of color – have received the brunt of this persecution. Why has our city famed for being open minded allowed this injustice to continue? Now we can make a change and win greater protection, well-being and safety for all. Join a cross section of communities who want to make this happen!

Speakers include: sex workers and sex worker organizations, criminal attorneys Nedra Ruiz, Stephanie Adraktas, Stuart Hanlon and David Bigeleisen (Conference of Delegates of California Bar Association) Health professionals including Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, Tanya Smitz, and Avaren Ipsen, UC Berkely Lecturer, author “Sex Working and The Bible.”

Presenters also include representatives from SF Green Party, neighborhood residents, church representatives, candidates for board of supervisor and other politicians, the LGBT community, labor representatives, and others.

US PROStitutes Collective

• Prop K can win because the majority of the public of SF wants the criminalization of sex workers to end.

• The $11.4 million dollars of taxpayer‚s money now spent rounding up sex workers should instead be used for resources and services to assist women, young people and our local communities.

• Who profits from the criminalization of sex workers? The police, DA and the diversion program with the misleading name of Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) as well as so-called anti-trafficking feminists; all these are leading voices against Prop K.

• How do they make money from criminalizing sex workers?
-The police, in particular those working the lucrative vice squad, make money on hundreds of hours of overtime paid for by you the tax payer, as they hound and exploit sex workers who work the streets. Additionally, the vice squad track women down on Craig‚s list, rent hotel rooms, watch women undress, often demand free sex and then arrest the sex worker.

-Fees are collected from those arrested who are diverted to the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP), which is run by SAGE.

-Money from these fees is then divided up between the three primary partners, the police, the DA and SAGE who benefit from the continued arrests.

-Men arrested for prostitution-related offenses can be charged $1000 to attend FOPP.

-Public defenders report that people are sent to FOPP by the courts in preference to other diversion programs that are free and reportedly more effective.

-The Bush administration while cutting social programs to benefit low income women and men, have poured millions of dollars into funding anti-trafficking projects that are a remarkable failure at catching actual traffickers. The Public Defender reports that he is not aware of any prosecutions for trafficking under the 2006 California anti-trafficking law. Anti-trafficking feminists are going after this lucrative area of funding and so aligning themselves with the Bush administration and legacy.

-Under the guise of going after traffickers, immigrant sex workers, the majority of whom are women of color, are arrested and deported; this is similar to the ICE raids by Homeland Security which have targeted immigrant communities for arrest and deportation in the Bay Area and across the country.

-More than 70% of San Francisco residents oppose their tax payer dollars being used in this way, and would prefer their money to be used instead for services to benefit youth, at risk women and communities.

• Prop K aims to increase women‚s safety and make it easier for sex workers to report violence without fear of arrest. Criminalization has made sex workers easy prey to serial murderers, to rapists and other criminals who know sex workers are less likely to report violence and other abuse and less likely to get police protection.

• Studies show that decriminalization greatly improves public health by making it easier for sex workers to provide more complete information to health care providers.

• Prop K makes it easier for sex workers to carry condoms and insist on clients using them. At the moment possession of condoms is used by the police as evidence to arrest.

• Will Prop K take away much needed services to sex workers? Absolutely not. The ballot pamphlet says that we want the reallocation of the millions of dollars spent on criminalization to instead go towards „providing services and alternatives for those involved in prostitution‰. That is what Prop K campaigners have been saying to the press and to the public. We want taxpayer‚s money now spent on criminalizing sex workers to benefit not only sex workers and their families, but also low-income communities.

• Prop K supports all voluntary programs for sex workers that are independent of and not controlled by the criminal justice system. We oppose mandatory „rehabilitation‰ schemes under threat of jail, such as the SAGE program, which are moneymakers for those who benefit from sex workers being criminalized.

• The DA claims that the first report of trafficking is usually a report of prostitution so if they can‚t investigate prostitution they won‚t be able to catch traffickers. In fact, for the first time the police and DA will be compelled to act on rather than ignore sex workers‚ reports of violence, intimidation, coercion and more. Removing the fear of arrest and for immigrant sex workers, fear of deportation, will enable all sex workers to report coercion, rape, and other attacks.

• Poverty, low wages, unequal pay drives many women into prostitution. Many sex workers are mothers supporting families in increasingly hard times.

• Will prostitutes and pimps flood into San Francisco destroying neighborhoods as the Mayor and DA claim? After five years of decriminalization in New Zealand a government review found no increase in the numbers of women working. Women say that decriminalization makes it easier to work independently and discretely from premises and they have been able to get off the street.

• San Francisco can show the way nationally and internationally by ensuring that sex workers have protection from violence and exploitation, and the same basic human rights as other workers, and communities can have access to resources for services not criminalization. Why use precious taxpayer dollars to criminalize sex between consenting adults?

• Prop K calls on the police to vigorously enforce laws against rape coercion, extortion, battery, and other violent crimes, including trafficking. Prostitution is consenting sex, trafficking by definition involves fraud, force or coercion.

• Prop K supports prosecution of traffickers. Right now, instead of going after traffickers and protecting women, many immigrant sex workers, most of whom are women of color, are being targeted for arrest and deportation. The Public Defender says not one trafficker has been prosecuted in SF under the California law.

• Cases of actual slavery and trafficking of farm workers, domestic workers and other low-income vulnerable workers are not being prioritized. And neither is the search for and prosecution of rapists and serial murderers. The time police spend arresting sex workers ˆ an easy prey ˆ can instead be spent investigating and arresting violent men.

• Furthermore the fact that sex workers are criminalized makes crimes against them a low priority for law enforcement, creating an atmosphere of it being OK to „hunt down hookers‰. Women are the first losers as our safety is being neglected and the entire community suffers. Prop K aims to reverse this.

• Prop K is an anti-racist measure; women of color are disproportionately arrested and jailed under the prostitution laws. Black and Brown women often have fewer resources, are more likely to work the streets and therefore are more vulnerable to violence.

• Prop K ends criminalization, which means no criminal record for being a sex worker. This makes it easier for those who want to get out of prostitution to do so and find another job.

• Decriminalization works! Those who oppose Prop K leave out the fact that in other countries where sex work has been decriminalized, for example in New Zealand, there has been no increase in prostitution, and sex workers report that they feel safer, more able to insist on their rights, and to report violence to the police.

• Sex workers have come together with a broad cross section of Bay Area residents who are supporting Prop K, including mothers, grandmothers, students, doctors, nurses, lawyers, church leaders, les/bi/gay/trans communities, neighborhood residents and activists, younger and older people, elected officials, the SF Democratic Party, the SF Bay Guardian and many others.

• Historical context of Prop K: comes at a transformational time, when people everywhere are demanding change away from poverty, war, violence and repression, and towards rights and safety for all, regardless of our occupation. Prop K grew out of a long history of sex workers organizing. In 1917 hundreds of prostitute women from a well known red-light area called Barbary Coast, took over a church to protest the shut down of their workplaces. They were referred to by the press as “Magdalenes”. Their action spurred public debates that shook SF.

• In response to a growing prostitutes‚ rights movement that was part of the grassroots women‚s rights movement in the 70‚s and 80‚s, and included Margo St James and Coyote, US PROStitutes Collective, Carol Leigh and others, the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco set up the Task Force on Prostitution. In 1996, the Task Force called on the City to prioritize violence against sex workers and to decriminalize prostitution, and in 2000 the Board of Supervisors‚ „Mitigating Violence against Prostitutes‰, called for implementation of the Task Force recommendations. More recently, groups like Sex Workers Outreach Project and Exotic Service Providers Union have joined the fight for sex workers‚ rights. Prop K has drawn on this history of sex workers refusing to be divided from other women and from other workers, and give it a united voice.

• Useful Statistics:
– San Francisco the estimated median household income in 2007 was $68,023
– Median gross rent in 2007 was $1,192.
– 10.5% of residents of SF were living in poverty in 2007: 7.7% for White Non-Hispanic residents; 27.4% for Black residents; 13.2% for Hispanic or Latino residents
– Cost of one year of college at UC Berkeley $14,303. Coat of one year of prison $22,736

* The Unitarian Universalist Church has kindly lent their premises only, they do not in any way take a position on Prop K and use of their premises should not be interpreted as support for Prop K. The media is requested not to include shots of the Church in their coverage of the press conference. Thank you.

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