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Jun 7 16 4:06 PM

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The San Francisco Examiner

Decriminalization of sex work a step in

the right direction

Tuesday June 07, 2016

The decriminalization of consensual sex work would allow abuse within the sex industry to be brought to light, shifting law enforcement resources away from harassing and arresting sex workers, and focusing instead on those who perpetrate violence against them. (Courtesy photo)


By†Pratima†Gupta†and†Stephany†Ashley†on†June†5¨†2016†1∫00†am


As leading healthcare providers working for

the safety and wellbeing of sex workers in

San Francisco, we were appalled by Mary

Jung’s crude and inaccurate politicization of human trafficking and

sex worker rights in her June 2 oped, “Not in our city.”


The criminalization of prostitution has been widely recognized as

one of the greatest harms facing those in the sex industry, directly

contributing to higher rates of violence, exploitation, HIV and STIs,

stigma, isolation and, of course, incarceration. Just last week,

Freedom Network USA, the country’s largest network of service

providers to victims of human trafficking, released a statement

supporting the decriminalization of sex work, joining Amnesty

International and the World Health Organization in this opinion.

“It is critical that we bring consensual sex workers out of the

margins, providing the services, support, options and protection

needed by all workers,” said Freedom Network USA’s executive

director Jean Bruggeman. “It is only when consensual sex work is

safe that victims of sex trafficking can be more quickly identified

and supported.”

When the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club asked candidates

the question, “Do you support the decriminalization of sex work?”

they were getting at the crucial question of whether individuals who

trade sex for money, goods or survival needs should be treated as

criminals deserving punishment or individuals deserving of equal

protection under the law.


Jung’s assertion that candidates who would support the

decriminalization of prostitution — candidates including Arlo Hale

Smith, Zoe Dunning, Joshua Arce, Alix Rosenthal, Keith Baraka,

Joel Engardio, Trevor McNeil and Marjan Philhour (all of whom

Jung is supporting) — are in favor of creating a “safe haven for

pimps and johns” could not be further from the truth.


The decriminalization of consensual sex work would allow abuse

within the sex industry to be brought to light, shifting law

enforcement resources away from harassing and arresting sex

workers, and focusing instead on those who perpetrate violence

against them. The Freedom Network recognized this last week,

calling the decriminalization of consensual sex work “the most

effective approach to protecting the human rights of both sex

workers and victims of human trafficking.”


As people who provide healthcare and social services to current

and former sex workers every week, we see the very real human

impact of policies surrounding individuals in the sex trades. We

have fought tirelessly to shift San Francisco away from harmful

practices such as arresting women on suspicion of prostitution for

carrying “too many” condoms, and toward greater resources for

victims of violence and exploitation.


We have sat on the Mayor’s Anti HumanTrafficking

Task Force, provided consultation to the WHO on reducing violence against sex

workers in the context of HIV, and spent years in direct service to

and with those individuals most impacted by these policies.

Politicians all too often exploit marginalized people as political

pawns, and Mary Jung is no different. Perhaps she and the

Association of Realtors could speak instead to the housing crisis

and economic disparity they helped create that has put the most

vulnerable San Franciscans, sex workers among them, at risk.

Dr. Pratima Gupta is a candidate for the Democratic County Central Committee and medical director of the St. James Infirmary. 

Stephany Ashley is executive director of the St. James Infirmary, former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and a former sex worker.


"I would no more be a Master than a slave. It does not conform to my idea of Democracy." Abraham Lincoln 1856.

Last Edited By: UncleLewis Jun 7 16 4:08 PM. Edited 1 time