Stop legislation in Oakland that targets sex workers’ clients

URGENT: The September 25 hearing in Oakland has been postponed. We’ll  post  the new date when we know it. In the meantime, please call Oakland City Council members to oppose this proposed legislation (see info below)

Action Alert!  Action Alert! Action Alert!

Stop legislation in Oakland that targets sex workers’ clients because it will undermine safety and increases discrimination against sex workers.

 On July 19 legislation was introduced by Oakland City Council Member Abel Guillen to arrest sex workers’ clients and tow and remove their cars. 

  • Stepping up arrests and the removal of men’s cars who are purportedly looking to pay for sex will force sex workers into more isolated and dangerous spaces, increasing their vulnerability to rape and other violence.  What it won’t do is stop prostitution.
  • Laws criminalizing clients, introduced in the name of “ending demand,” have created a hostile environment for sex workers. After Ireland’s sex purchase law was introduced, reported incidences of violent crime against sex workers rose by almost 50%.i In France, a two-year evaluation of the law found 42% of sex workers were more exposed to violence and 38% have found it increasingly hard to demand use of condoms.ii In Norway, forced evictions, prosecutions and increased stigma against sex workers are prevalent with migrant workers particularly targeted. iii
  • Attack poverty not prostitutes! Crackdowns do nothing about the poverty that pushes women, young people, trans and others into prostitution in the first place. The majority of sex workers are mothers struggling to keep a roof over our children’s heads. One in 6 people in California are going hungry and in some parts of Oakland over 40% of residents live below the poverty lineiv — Oakland City Council should prioritize action to address that.
  • The law will increase police powers and is likely to be used in a racist way to target Black and Brown men by falsely accusing them of being clients. Approximately 42% of arrests nationally are of Black people who make up only 13.2% of the US population. Given the tradition of racist policing in Oakland and recent proven sexual abuse by officers of a young woman, giving the police more powers is dangerous.
  • False claims and inflated statistics about “sex trafficking” are being used to justify this crackdown. No distinction is made between consenting sex for money and trafficking which involves force, coercion and fraud. So any sex worker can be labeled a victim and friends of sex workers accused of being clients.
  • Gender equality must not mean criminalizing clients and sex workers; both should be decriminalized.  Council Member Guillen justifies this measure by pointing to higher arrest rates for women compared to men. But increasing the criminalization of men is not the kind of equality we want.
  • This proposed legislation is a further attack on sex workers, following the disastrous federal FOSTA/SESTA bill which criminalized online advertising. It has decimated sex workers’ livelihoods, putting people onto the streets or into the hands of exploitative bosses.

Here’s what you can do.

► Endorse this Action Alert, send your endorsement to

► Write and call City Council Members (list and model letter below) and tell them why you oppose this legislation.

► Attend Oakland City Council meeting and speak against this legislation. Hearing date will be posted.

Dear City Council Member,

I am writing to urge you to oppose Council Member Abel Guillen’s legislation which allows police to tow and remove the cars of men looking to pay for sex. I am very concerned that crackdown against prostitution will make it more dangerous and stigmatizing for sex workers to work. Sex workers will be pushed into more isolated areas and be more vulnerable to attack. Women will be deterred from reporting violence to police who are focused on prosecution. This legislation does nothing to address poverty which drives women, young people, trans and others into prostitution.

At a time of increasing gentrification and displacement of low-income people from Oakland, crackdowns will cause more people to be pushed out. The cost of police crackdowns are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

I am concerned about the impact that increased policing would have on communities of color. Racist enforcement of the prostitution laws mean more women of color are arrested.  Also police target men of color for arrest in low income communities of color where crackdowns take place.

(Please add something about yourself and why you oppose this legislation)


(Your name)

Current members of the Oakland City Council:

Issued by US PROStitutes Collective.

Endorsed so far by: Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach; Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network; Coyote, Rhode Island; Critical Resistance; Desiree Alliance; Erotic Service Providers Union; Harm Reduction Coalition; Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute; National Lawyers Guild; St James Infirmary; Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike.


i New Statesman, 26 March 2018.

ii Medecins du Monde. (2018). What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act?

iii Amnesty International. (2016). The Human Cost of ‘Crushing’ the Market: Criminalization of Sex Work in Norway.

iv The Mercury News (2011). Bay Area’s five poorest neighborhoods show up in study.



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