On November 4th, day of the US presidential election, another historic vote is taking place.
The people of San Francisco will vote on Proposition K
Decriminalizing sex work – Prioritizing sex workers’ safety & rights.
US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS) is part of a coalition supporting Proposition K. Five days before the election, we are holding a Town Hall meeting. Join us on
October 30th, Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street, SF
What is Prop K?
It’s a San Francisco ballot initiative calling for prostitution to be decriminalized, and for the police and District Attorney to vigorously enforce laws against coercion, extortion, battery, rape and other violent crimes regardless of whether the victim is a sex worker. Proposition K aims to increase women’s safety, and make it easier for sex workers to report violence without fear of arrest.
Prop K would implement the ground breaking recommendations of the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution set up by the Board of Supervisors which called for decriminalization in 1996. Following the Task Force, the ‘Mitigating Violence Against Prostitutes’ resolution was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2000 — it won widespread support, including from key City Commissions, organizations and individuals.
Prop K is transformational
On election day when many people are hoping for a transformation away from the politics of war, greed and repression, many San Franciscans are also hoping for a transformation for sex workers. Sex workers too are hard working families who deserve recognition and safety. Prop K can change the course of law enforcement, away from consenting sex, towards rape and other violent crime, away from witch-hunting towards practical support.
Who supports Prop K?
According to the polls, a majority of San Franciscans support decriminalization. So does SF’s Democratic Party Proponents of Prop K in the Ballot Information Pamphlet (the election pamphlet the City delivers to all SF households) include sex workers, sex worker organizations and people providing services to sex workers, a public health doctor, a key LGBT club, the National Lawyers Guild, community groups — all spelling out the devastating impact of criminalization and jail. Women’s organizations like Legal Action for Women and the Global Women’s Strike and some of the media also back Prop K.
The Prop K Coalition
The Coalition is led by sex workers and includes supporters from all walks of life from different communities in San Francisco (SF): mothers and grandmothers, students, doctors, nurses, lawyers, community organizers…They have been spreading the word, walking precincts with campaign brochures and window signs, holding events and fundraisers and speaking to the media. The Coalition has called on sex workers and supporters to come to SF to help with the final push
US PROS has been campaigning for decriminalization since we were formed in 1981. We were not involved in drafting Proposition K so we didn’t get all that we wanted in, but it is a unique opportunity to join forces and stand together against the discrimination we have faced for so long. We are one of a number of organizations and individuals who have written their argument in the Ballot Information Pamphlet.
Who opposes Prop K?
The opposition to Prop K is made up of police and the District Attorney; property developers and merchants working with the police, programs that benefit from city contracts for anti-prostitution law enforcement, including some call themselves feminists and have been conducting a moralistic crusade against prostitutes..
Prop K would stop city government funding going to discriminatory anti-prostitute programs that are part of the criminal justice system, and enforce mandatory ‘rehabilitation’ and other repressive measures under threat of jail. The anti-sex worker bias of those opposing Prop K is being reinforced by some of the mainstream media. Rather than putting forward clear, precise and balanced information to the public, they are spreading lies to discredit Prop K and confuse voters, claiming it will prevent traffickers from being prosecuted.
Prop K supports workers and opposes traffickers
Prop K calls on vigorous enforcement of laws against rape and any form of violence and coercion, and that would include traffickers. It would protect all sex workers from exploitation and violence, and immigrant sex workers from being unfairly targeted for raids and deportation.
Jeff Adachi, head of the SF Office of the Public Defender, states that ‘Prop K would not prohibit local law enforcement from enforcing the federal law to combat the exploitation of persons who are kidnapped, transported, abused and held captive by sex traffickers.’ He also points out that right now, traffickers are not being prosecuted: ‘Since the passage of the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act (in January 1, 2006), I am not aware of any prosecutions for human trafficking under this section.’ So for all the fuss about stopping trafficking, traffickers have been getting away with it all along!
It is really immigrant sex workers who have been the target. Those opposed to Prop K say that women of color are being trafficked, but they say nothing about the immigration raids conducted under the guise of ‘freeing victims of trafficking’ to round up and deport women of color. Nor do they mention how many women of color are arrested for prostitution.
Prop K is anti-racist
Prop K would stop enforcement of prostitution laws which disproportionately impact Black and Brown women who have the least resources. Racism ensures that Black and Brown women are more likely to work the streets rather than the safer and higher paid inside jobs, and are therefore more vulnerable to both violence and arrest. Neighborhoods such as the Mission, Western Addition and the Tenderloin bear the brunt of racist policing and courts; as a result the majority of people arrested and going to jail for prostitution and other ‘crimes of poverty’ are people of color. Sex workers and others living and working in predominantly low-income Black and immigrant communities would benefit greatly from Prop K.
Prop K would free funds to fight poverty
Campaign materials highlight the $11.4 million (a conservative estimate) spent each year enforcing the prostitution laws in SF. US PROS has for decades campaigned for the money spent on criminalization to be used instead to tackle the poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, debt, . . . that force women, particularly single mothers and young people, into prostitution to survive.
Measures like Prop K have worked elsewhere
New Zealand decriminalized prostitution five years ago and there has been no increase in prostitution or trafficking. Women say they feel safer as they are more able to insist on their rights and report violence to the police.
Let’s win on November 4th!
The excitement mounting around Prop K is a sign of the growing movement demanding transformational change in the lead up to the presidential election. A win for Prop K is a victory over the years of repression that have criminalized the most vulnerable among us, and the violence and discrimination we have suffered as a result. It will set an important precedent in the US and far beyond.
Check out the Prop K Website: http://www.yesonpro pk.org/
Proposition K, San Francisco, November 2008:
ENFORCEMENT OF LAWS RELATED TO PROSTITUTION AND SEX WORKERS
Ballot Pamphlet Summary- San Francisco 2008
“Enforcement of Laws Related to Prostitution and Sex Workers”
The way it is now:
State and local laws prohibit prostitution. State and federal laws prohibit human trafficking for prostitution or forced labor. Criminal laws also prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion and
rape, regardless of the victim’s status as a prostitute or sex worker.
In 1994, the Board of Supervisors established a Task Force on Prostitution (Task Force) to examine prostitution in the City and to recommend social and legal reforms. In 1996 the Task Force released a report recommending that:
- City departments stop enforcing and prosecuting prostitution crimes;
- City departments instead focus on neighborhood complaints about quality of life infractions;
- The City redirect funds from prosecution and incarceration to providing services and alternatives for those involved in prostitution.
To date, the City has implemented some of the Task Force’s recommendations. In 2003, the City adopted an ordinance transferring the licensing and regulation of massage parlors from the Police Department to the Department of Public Health (DPH). In 2006, DPH adopted another recommendation by establishing an anonymous telephone message line for sex workers to voice concerns about their working conditions.
The District Attorney’s office, in cooperation with the Police Department and a local non-profit organization, manages the First Offender Prostitution Program. This is a diversion program with separate programs for prostitutes and clients who have been arrested. It is partially funded by fees from clients who have been arrested.
Proposition K would prohibit the Police Department from providing resources to investigate and prosecute prostitution. It would also prohibit the Police Department from applying for federal or state funds that involve racial profiling to target alleged trafficking victims and would require any existing funds to implement the Task Force’s recommendations.
Proposition K would require the Police Department and the District Attorney to enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit coercion, extortion, battery, rape, sexual assault and other violent crimes, regardless of the victim’s status as a sex worker. It also requires these agencies to fully disclose the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against sex workers.
Proposition K would prohibit the City from funding or supporting the First Offender Prostitution Program or any similar anti-prostitution program.
The Board of Supervisors would be able to amend this measure by a two-thirds vote if it found the amendments would reduce criminalization of prostitution and violence against sex workers.
A “YES” VOTE MEANS: If you vote “yes,” you want the City to:
• stop enforcing laws against prostitution,
• stop funding or supporting the First Offender Prostitution Program or any similar anti- prostitution program,
• enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion and rape,
regardless of the victim’s status as a sex worker, and
• fully disclose the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against sex workers.
A “NO” VOTE MEANS: If you vote “no,” you do not want to make these changes. Do we need this?