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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 7, 2008
Contact: Slava O. email@example.com
Who: Erotic Service Providers Union
What: Signature Collection to Qualify for November 2008 Ballot
When: March 3, 2008
Where: San Francisco, California
A City Hall rally on International Sex Workers Rights Day, March 3rd, saw the kickoff of a local campaign to qualify a measure stop the city from enforcing the prostitution laws and mandate protection for sex workers the November ballot. In the wake of a rising number of murders in San Francisco, most of which again went unsolved in 2007, the measure would start to shift the city’s focus toward fighting violent crime, in recognition of the fact that there is a broad social consensus around the criminal nature of acts like murder, rape, and robbery, while no such consensus exists for offenses like prostitution and drug use.
If voters approve the measure, arresting people solely for the victimless “crime” of prostitution would be prohibited and police would be required to provide equal protection under the law by consistently and rigorously investigating crimes like rape and robbery regardless of the sex worker status of the victim. Prostitutes and clients who are victims of violence are sometimes afraid to go to the police for fear that they themselves will become the targets of law enforcement, as has been known to occur. “Arresting prostitutes and their clients only perpetuates the violence and discrimination against them, and when you have a criminal record it’s harder for those who wish to pursue other careers to exit the sex industry,” said Robyn Few of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
Organizers have until July 30 to collect the signatures of 7,168 San Francisco registered voters in order to put the initiative before voters in the November 2008 election, and sex industry workers and their supporters plan to blanket the city in the effort to stand up for human rights and improve working conditions.
In addition to saving the city money by ending prosecutions under the prostitution laws as recommended by the 1996 San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution, the proposed measure would mandate the end of the controversial “First Offender Prostitution Program.” The program, run by sex work opponent Norma Hotalling, has come under fire as “shame-based” propaganda forced on arrested prostitutes and their clients. Questions have also arisen about exactly where the estimated $11.4 million dollars of government funds it receives each year are going. The Board of Supervisors recently voted 7-4 to have the City Budget Analyst audit the program.
“This audit is a welcome step, but the FOPP should be scrapped entirely,” said Starchild, a Libertarian activist who sits on the steering committee of the San Francisco Taxpayers Union and was acquitted of prostitution last November after a prosecution lasting two years. “San Francisco taxpayers don’t want their money being spent to promote outdated puritan morality, especially in a time of tight budgets.”
â€œWhy should city employees be able to profit off of someone elseâ€™s labor when sex workers donâ€™t have the right to negotiate for our labor and our safe work conditions?â€ added Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Union, the chief proponent of the initiative. “Existing statutes that criminalize prostitution and immigration as well as other forms of regulations of erotic labor serve to intimidate workers from reporting violence.” The ESPU demands that all workers and clients, female and male alike, have the ability to negotiate for labor and work conditions irregardless of legal status, country of origin, or government documentation.