Vote YES on Proposition 35

By: Jen Cecil and Julia Speck
As Maxine Doogan made her case for “no” on proposition 35 in the LA Times and in speaking to the California Joint Senate and Assembly Public Safety hearing, she claimed that she was advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution where in fact she is arguing for the legalization of prostitution, two very different agendas. Legalizing prostitution is not the answer, Melissa Farley, author of Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada, spent 13 years studying legal prostitution in 10 different countries. She says, “Women in legal prostitution from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands experience the same physical and emotional violence as other women do in countries where prostitution is illegal. Whether prostitution is legal or illegal, women in prostitution want to get out of that life and have a safe home, a job that pays enough to live, and receive adequate medical care.” (Farley, 2007).
Maxine Doogan who works as a prostitute by choice and Represents the Exotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project is a very rare minority in this industry who fails to consider the realities that victims of trafficking face. Men and women who are trafficked are NOT prostitutes, they are prostituted by their perpetrators. Farley in her book Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress puts it well when she says “In Prostitution, the conditions which make genuine consent possible are absent: physical safety, equal power with customers, and real alternatives. Until it is understood that prostitution and trafficking can appear voluntary but are not in reality a free choice made from a range of options, it will be difficult to garner adequate support to assist the women and children in prostitution who wish to escape but have no other economic choices.” (Farley, 2003). The reality is that human trafficking is taking place in your backyard, the women and men on the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego,San Francisco and other California cities are primarily American citizens who have not been protected by our legal system.
The City of Citrus Heights summarizes what this measure is achieving well: “This measure makes several changes to state law related to human trafficking. Specifically, it (1) expands the definition of human trafficking to include sexual trafficking, (2) increases the punishment for human trafficking, (3) imposes new fines to fund services for human trafficking victims, (4) changes how evidence can be used against human trafficking victims, and (5) requires additional law enforcement training on handling human trafficking cases. The measure also places additional requirements on sex offender registrants.”
Doogan omits one of those very important aspects of Proposition 35 in her arguments against it, that of mandatory education for law enforcement. As supporters of the proposition and those who fight on the front lines for victims of sex trafficking in California, we can tell you that this is one of the most important steps we can take as a state to protect victims of trafficking. Many victims are still being treated as criminals because of a lack of education, Proposition 35 will change this. What we need to work towards is abolishing, not legalizing prostitution. While Doogan may have made the choice of prostitution herself, she is in the minority.
Another argument made by Doogan is that longer prison sentences won’t keep perpetrators from committing the crimes in the first place. Although there currently may be no correlation between life imprisonment and a drop in sex trafficking crimes, we would argue that giving them softer punishment is not the answer. And we are not even sure that is what Doogan is arguing for. If harsher prison time and fines do not work - what does she want to implement?  Raise the punishment to the death penalty? Castration? What is the “data and evidence-based policy” sentencing she is referring to?
But more importantly, she has again missed the purpose of the proposition on this point. Proposition 35 demands longer sentences for traffickers to protect the victims from retaliation. As it stands today, if the trafficker is convicted at all they are usually back on the streets in just a few short years (or less) and the victim is at risk once again.
Doogan states in her second point that “it expands the sex offender registry and, in so doing, converts it from a useful tool to help police and residents track the whereabouts of potentially dangerous sexual predators into a list that includes non-sex criminals, including traffickers who extort money." I am not sure how she gets away with calling human traffickers "non-sex criminals," I would like to know where the data is to prove that these traffickers have not been sexually involved with the victims in some form along the way. And I absolutely would want to know where each and every man and women that has bought, sold and abused a child or adult sexually for profit is located. How does this not make sense? How is this cluttering a system rather than making it more useful?
She goes on to argue that if she were to give money to her son for his college tuition, he could be charged as a sex criminal and be put in the database for life, this is not true. According to Sharmin Bock in a piece regarding the CASE Act he said, “Prop 35 is narrowly tailored and specifically states that there must be criminal intent to violate the law...Human trafficking is a brutal and clearly delineated crime that involves and requires proof the criminal intent (called mens rea) to exploit another human being for profit. PROP 35 is not something that could ever be triggered by mistake. Prop 35 does not impact prostitution involving consensual adults. There are laws on the books against prostitution, but Prop 35 only covers cases where traffickers profit from the sexual exploitation of a child or the forced exploitation of an adult.”
What is important about this piece of legislation is that it focuses heavily on California State law. Federal law in this area is quite strong (as some opposed to this proposition have pointed out!) But as the CASE Act would let you know, “The federal law against human trafficking, called the ‘Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000’ (TVPA), applies only to federal cases, which are required to be tried in federal courts, by federal prosecutors. Each state is responsible for enacting its own legislation to handle cases within the state.” California is responsible to have legislation for the crimes that happen in our state, and Proposition 35 is taking a step in the right direction to make this happen.
When compared with current state laws (see chart below found on the CASE Act website) you can see that California has drastic improvements to make to be at the federal level.  Not to mention the great leaps that need to be taken to protect minors who are trafficked without force (I think we can all agree that a 14 year old is not able to legally, certainly not emotionally, consent to prostitution) and to appropriately prosecute and sentence repeat offenders of trafficking.
This proposition also seeks to create laws to help in the tracking of internet use. It would require sex offenders to provide information regarding internet access and identities they use in online activities. As someone on the front lines of this fight, we can tell you that a high percentage of sex trafficking is moving off the streets and boarders and onto our computers. Making criminals disclose their internet information is a move in the right direction.
We think it is a no brainer to vote YES on Proposition 35, but you obviously have to weigh the arguments for yourself to decide what you think is best. We hope we have answered some of the questions you might have and explained some of the more difficult parts to understand about the legislation. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have more questions.
YES! on Prop 35. Together we can make a difference in the lives of trafficked victims.
Jen Cecil and Julia Speck work with After Hours Ministry, a street outreach to men and women who are prostituted. Their work with these individuals makes them passionate about the upcoming election and especially the opportunity that is before us as a state with Proposition 35. This article was written to give you their perspective regarding the proposition and some of the opposition towards it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prop 35 violates Constitutional law. The ACLU is already in opposition to the violations and the proposition will loose on constitutional grounds. So vote NO.