The San Francisco Examiner
Decriminalization of sex work a step in
the right direction
Tuesday June 07, 2016
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
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