Sex Workers Oppose Senate Bill 1388 at the State Capitol

STOP PRESS… STOP PRESS… STOP PRESS… STOP PRESS… STOP PRESS…

  May 22, 2014

Contact: Rachel West (415) 640-4250; Maxine Doogan (415) 265-3302

On May 19 sex worker groups went to Sacramento to protest against Senate Bill 1388, only to find that the Senate Appropriations Committee used insider government rules to approve the bill behind closed doord without any public comment.

Senate Bill 1388 “Human Trafficking” would make clients of sex workers guilty of a misdemeanor, and proposes a new mandatory jail sentence of at least 48 hours and up to six months. The bill would also introduce minimum fines of at least $1000 and up to $5000 for clients, and at least $5000 and up to $20,000 if a minor is involved. Fines collected would be divided between non-government and community based organizations that serve victims of trafficking, and law enforcement agencies.

Before sex worker groups and others were given an opportunity to voice opposition to the bill, it was passed through the appropriations committee under Senate Rule 28.8, in which the chair determines that any additional costs from the bill are insignificant, and that the bill will cause no significant reduction in revenues. Given the cost of jailing people for mandatory sentences, it is unclear how this passed the Appropriations Committee without full review.

In response to this underhand dealing and lack of transparency Rachel West of the US PROStitutes Collective said: “Why did the Appropriations Committee rush through such a controversial bill without debate and public scrutiny? What do they have to hide and whose interests are served by such undue haste? Imposing harsher penalties on sex workers’ clients is a repressive measure that won’t stop prostitution, will do nothing to help women and young people struggling to survive, but will make it more dangerous and stigmatizing for sex workers to work. The increased raids and arrests that result are likely to disproportionately impact women of color, including immigrant women.”

Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Union said: “The Senate Appropriations Committee failed to do their due diligence in reviewing the implications of this bill. A 48 hour mandatory jail time for clients of prostitutes will result in hundreds of thousands of hours of jail time that taxpayers will be on the book for.  It is appalling that the Appropriations Committee rubber stamped SB1388.”

Sex worker groups will continue to oppose this bill, which is due to hit the Senate Floor Tuesday, May 27. They have issued a Floor Alert which has gone to the Senators (see below).                                                  

 ********************************************************************************************

 “FLOOR ALERT”

To: Members of the California State Senate

From Erotic Service Providers Union and US PROStitutes Collective

Date: May 20, 2014

Re: SB 1388 (Fake Human Trafficking)  REQUEST FOR “NO” VOTE

Erotic Service Providers Union and US PROStitutes Collective representing the interests of sex workers and supporters are opposing SB 1388. The bill entitled “Human Trafficking” claims to amend sections of the Penal Code that relate to human trafficking. But the first of those sections relates to penalties imposed on adult sex workers’ clients. The second section relates to child prostitution. Neither of these offences are “trafficking” and to label them such is a deliberate and dishonest attempt to mislead.

The issue of child prostitution, abuse and exploitation is used to misrepresent the true purpose of the bill which is yet another crackdown on prostitution – which is the exchange of sex for money between two consenting adults.

Imposing harsher penalties on sex workers’ clients will not stop prostitution, nor will it stop the criminalization of sex workers.  But it will make it more dangerous and stigmatizing for sex workers.

Crackdowns on clients and the associated furor are likely to lead to increased raids and arrests of  sex workers which already disproportionately target women of color including immigrant women.

SB 1388 does nothing to address real needs like housing and income for youth and women, particularly mothers, involved in prostitution.  Given that the social safety net for all Californians has been destroyed by severe cuts in social services while expanding prison and high fines and fees, this bill will not help anyone escape systems of violence.

Criminalizing clients disproportionately impacts people of color; police target men of color in street sweeps. This bill will fuel the racial disparities that already exist in jails and prisons, where Black men and other people of color are in the majority. There is nothing in this bill that tells how police will differentiate between customers of child prostitutes and consensual adults.

Fifty percent of the money collected in fines will be going to non-profits and law-enforcement, giving them a vested interest in the increased criminalization of prostitution, again leading to more arrests and encourages corruption. The Senate Public Safety analysis called this phenomena “bounty” and “self dealing”.

Sex workers experience high levels of rape and other violence but this does not mean that prostitution is violence. To conflate the two implies that sex workers don’t know the difference between consenting sex and rape. Domestic violence is the most common form of violence; two women a week are killed by their partner or former partner. But, no-one would sensibly propose banning marriage.

We urge you to vote against this draconian and costly bill that creates more harm for women and children.  It does nothing to protect us from violence, and deprives sex workers of safety.  Please speak for those of us who are most vulnerable.

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