Resolution Supporting Sex Workers’ Safety and Rights: for the Decriminalization of Prostitution

Decriminalization makes it safer for sex workers

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USSF Detroit 2010 Resolution Supporting Sex Workers’ Safety and Rights: for the Decriminalization of Prostitution US PROStitutes Collective

P.O. Box 14512
San Francisco CA 94114

Contact: Rachel West 415-626-4114

Decriminalization makes it safer for sex workers


Prostitution is a survival strategy to deal with poverty, debt, low wages, unequal pay, unemployment and homelessness. Most sex workers are mothers struggling to support families. Many are young people who have left violent homes or been placed in foster care or have had their children taken from them.

With the economic crisis and cuts in welfare more women are going into prostitution. For example, proposed welfare cuts in California will reduce a family of three from $694 a month to $586 and full time waged workers on minimum wage ($8) an hour only earn around $1280 a month.

Criminalization pushes prostitution underground and sex workers into danger. Fines and SOAPs (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution orders which ban people from an area under threat of a fine or prison sentence) force sex workers into isolated, less well lit areas. “Nuisance” codes and proposed Sit/Lies laws target young people, sex workers, homeless people, people of color and immigrant people. Raids on premises increase street prostitution which is 10 times more dangerous than working indoors.

Criminalization undermines safety. Sex workers are afraid to report violence for fear of arrest. Most rape isn’t prosecuted – 94% of rapists don’t see a day in jail and only 50% of reported rapes end in arrest. Violent men know they can hunt down hookers and get away with it. When prostitute women are not safe, no woman is safe. Serial rapists & killers often have a history of attacks on partners & prostitutes.

Criminal records prevent sex workers from getting other jobs. “Rehabilitation” for drugs or anything else doesn’t work if it is compulsory. John’s schools, promoted as an alternative to prison, collect high fines and promote misinformation and dangerous stereotypes about sex workers.

Black sex workers are seven times more likely to be arrested than white sex workers. Racism within the sex industry means that Black and Brown women are more likely to work the streets where it is 10 times more dangerous to work.

Anti-trafficking legislation is primarily used to target immigrant sex workers for raids and deportations whilst genuine victims, most of whom work in sweatshops, domestic work, and agricultural work, are denied help.

Trafficking (forcing someone to work) has been wrongly mixed up with prostitution (consenting sex for money between adults) as part of a moral crusade against prostitution.

Enforcement of the prostitution laws costs million of dollars. In San Francisco, where at least $11.4 million a year is spent on prostitution enforcement, a voter initiative to decriminalize prostitution won 42% of the vote. In New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized since 2003, sex workers are safer, more able to report violence and leave prostitution if they choose.

Therefore, we resolve to demand,

1. The decriminalization of prostitution. Consenting sex should not be prosecuted. Sex workers must have the same rights and protection as other workers.

2. An end to fines, SOAPS, nuisance laws and sit/lie which target vulnerable people for criminalization.

3. The enforcement of laws against domestic violence, rape and other violence against women and children must be a priority.

4. An end to the use of anti-trafficking legislation to deport immigrant sex workers. Trafficked women must have the right to stay so they can report violence and exploitation.

5. Redirect police and court time and resources now squandered on prosecuting sex workers into effective action against rape and other violent crimes.

6. An end to criminal records which prevent sex workers from getting other jobs if they want to.

7. Viable economic alternatives to prostitution. Voluntary drug services, affordable housing, benefits, training, pay equity. No one should be driven to or kept in prostitution by poverty.

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