SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Prostitutes on Tuesday launched a petition drive urging city officials to decriminalize the sex industry, a move called for in a study that said it could save more than $7 million a year in law enforcement costs.
Nedra Ruiz, a defense attorney who spoke at a morning news conference announcing the drive, said spending money on enforcing prostitution laws is “a total waste of municipal funds.”
“Criminal enforcement promises only one thing – that sex workers will be criminalized, they will be degraded by charges that can haunt them for life and prevent them from seeking other avenues of employment other than the sex industry,” she said.
The 1996 study that called for stopping the prosecution of sex workers was produced by the 29-member San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution, which was set up in 1994 by the Board of Supervisors.
“The situation that prostitute women face internationally as sexual outlaws is similar everywhere,” said Nina Lopez-Jones of the International Prostitutes Collective.
“Criminalization has brought violence, stigmatization, exploitation, racism and other discriminations to millions of women everywhere.”
The proposal has received support from District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who says the Legislature would have to clear the way for San Francisco to legalize prostitution.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who attended the news conference, said decriminalizing prostitution simply means it would not be regulated by criminal law but by other
For instance, if a prostitute was taking drugs, laws covering that kind of behavior would come into play, and she could be offered treatment rather than jail time.
However, Ammiano was realistic about the prospects for decriminalization.
“I think that it’s an uphill battle,” he said, “but this is San Francisco and given the attitudes here, it’s very possible.”