ACTION ALERT! ACTION ALERT!
Stop legislation that negatively impacts sex workers in Oakland.
On July 19 legislation was introduced by Oakland City Council Member Abel Guillen to arrest sex workers’ clients, and tow and remove their cars.
Stepping up arrests and the removal of men’s cars who are purportedly looking to pay for sex will force sex workers into more isolated and dangerous spaces, increasing their vulnerability to rape and other violence. What it won’t do is stop prostitution.
· Laws criminalizing clients, introduced in the name of “ending demand,” have created a hostile environment for sex workers. After Ireland’s sex purchase law was introduced, reported incidences of violent crime against sex workers rose by almost 50%.i In France, a two-year evaluation of the law found 42% of sex workers were more exposed to violence and 38% have found it increasingly hard to demand use of condoms.ii In Norway, forced evictions, prosecutions and increased stigma against sex workers are prevalent with migrant workers particularly targeted. iii
· Given the racist policing Oakland is subjected to, a result undoubtedly would be police going after Black and Brown men by falsely accusing them of being clients. Police target men of color for arrest in low income communities of color where crackdowns take place. The introduction of anti-prostitution legislation like Guillen’s gives the police more power over criminalized communities. The massive Oakland scandal involving the abuse of a young woman by police is an example of police corruption which is common.
· Attack poverty not prostitutes! Crackdowns do nothing about the poverty that pushes women, young people, trans and others into prostitution in the first place. One in 6 people in California are going hungry and 1 in 25 families in the US live on less than 2 dollars a day. Many sex workers are mothers struggling to keep a roof over our children’s heads. Oakland City Council should be putting resources to help the poor not making new policing laws.
· False claims and inflated statistics about “sex trafficking” are being used to justify this crackdown. No distinction is made between consenting sex for money and trafficking which involves force, coercion and fraud. So any sex worker can be labeled a victim, friends of sex workers accused of being clients.
· Gender equality must not mean criminalizing clients and sex workers; both should be decriminalized. Gender equality is used to justify this measure with Council Member Guillen pointing to higher arrest rates for women compared to men. But increasing the criminalization of men is not the kind of equality we want.
· This proposed legislation is a further attack on sex workers, following the disastrous federal FOSTA/SESTA bill which criminalized online advertising. It has decimated sex workers’ livelihoods, putting more of us onto the streets or pushed into the hands of exploitative bosses.
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO.
► Write and call City Council Members (list below) and tell them why you oppose this legislation (model letter below).
► Attend and speak in opposition to this legislation on September 11, at the Oakland City Council meeting at City Hall.
► Endorse this Action Alert, send your endorsement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear City Council Member,
I am writing to urge you to oppose Council Member Abel Guillen’s legislation which allows police to tow and remove the cars of men looking to pay for sex. I am very concerned that this legislation is just another crackdown against prostitution. It will make it more dangerous and stigmatizing for sex workers and push sex work even more underground than it already is.
At a time of increasing gentrification and displacement of low-income people from Oakland, crackdowns will cause more people to be pushed out. The cost of police crackdowns are a waste of taxpayers’ money. This legislation does not address poverty, which drives women, young people, trans and others into prostitution.
I am concerned about the impact increased policing would have on communities of color. Racist enforcement of the prostitution laws mean more women of color are arrested. Also police target men of color for arrest in low income communities of color where crackdowns take place.
(Please add other reasons on why you strongly oppose this legislation)
Current members of the Oakland City Council:
Issued by US PROStitutes Collective. www.uspros.net
i New Statesman, 26 March 2018. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/fe