Saturday, November 1, 2008

Proposition K would legalize prostitution in San Francisco

I didn't know about Proposition K, the ballot measure that would decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco, until I read this story in the New York Times today. On both sides of this issue are feminists of different stripes. Indeed, this the de-criminalization of prostitution has been the topic of quite a few feminist legal theory papers over the years, and they've taught me a lot.

In short, those in favor of the proposition say it would empower prostitutes to unionize and will increase their safety by making it easier for them to call on law enforcement for assistance when they are threatened. One long-time advocate for prostitutes who was herself a prostitute for 35 years, Carol Leigh a/k/a Scarlot Harlot (she spoke at UC Davis this spring), had this to say:
Basically, if you feel that you’re a criminal, it can be used against you * * * It’s a really serious situation, and ending this criminalization is the only solution I see to protect these other women working now.
Another self-described "independent, in-call escort," age 22, said she "enjoyed her work" and thought Proposition K would empower prostitutes to achieve better pay and to work more safely.

The NYT gives the impression that everyone else is against Prop K, including big guns like Mayor Gavin Newsome and city D.A. Kamala D. Harris. Harris challenges the characterization of prostitution is not a victimless crime. Harris suggests, of course, that the prostitutes are among the victims, but she does not address how continuing criminalization of prostitution helps them.

If you want to read more, the Huffington Post covered the issue here.

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