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article imagePetitioners Want San Francisco To Decriminalize Prostitution

By Dave Giza     Jul 20, 2008 in Politics
Petitioners have gathered enough signatures to have a measure on the November 4 ballot which would decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco.
If the measure is passed by voters on November 4, it would ban the San Francisco Police Department from allocating any funds to investigate and prosecute sex workers on prostitution charges. ''Section four of the ballot measure-under the heading ''Prostitution Shall Be Decriminalized''-further states that the city, county, and district attorney ''shall not subject sex-workers to life long economic discrimination associated with having a criminal record.''
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris was quick to criticize the proposed measure saying that if it passed, prostitutes and pimps would have a welcome mat available to them in town.
Proponents of the measure say that it's needed because sex workers deserve equal protection under the law and they want to stop the alleged collusion between owners of popular night clubs and some council members where dancers claim that sexual abuses have occurred. On the other hand, police have cracked down on clubs that aren't as popular. Many strippers are also prostitutes.
There is an Erotic Service Provider's Union in San Francisco and Maxine Doogan is the founder of it. She says that crimes against exotic dancers and prostitutes should be investigated and prosecuted by the Police Department.
The ballot received a total of 12,763 signatures, 5,000 more than what was needed. Three signatures came from sitting members of the San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.
One of the ballot measure's provisions is to reduce racial profiling related to human trafficking of illegal immigrants. Federal and state funds would be prohibited for racial profiling. Although the proponents of the measure don't want to see illegal immigrants exploited, they believe that the District Attorney and the Police Department are using this as a ruse to also target prostitutes and exotic dancers. District Attorney Harris opposes this provision: ''We need to use police resources to investigate where there is a suspicion that women and children, in particular immigrants, are being exploited.''
Currently, San Francisco has a First Offender Prostitution Program which allows men to pay a $1,000 fine and attend a class on prostitution in exchange for having the charge of soliciting a prostitute dropped from their record. The ballot measure would end this practice if passed by the voters in November. ''In April, an audit by the U.S. Department of Justice found that men who participated in the program were 30 percent less likely to be arrested for soliciting a prostitute than men who did not.''
There was an official task force on prostitution established by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1994. Representatives from the Mayor's Office, public health agencies, law enforcement agencies, women's rights advocates and immigrant as well as prostitute rights groups were involved with contributing to the report.
In 1996, the task force released a report recommending that the city departments stop enforcing and prosecuting prostitution crimes and instead try to improve the quality of life issues in the community that many residents continually complain about to authorities.
The ballot measure wants to see this enacted because prostitution crimes are still prosecuted. The ballot measure would become law on January 01, 2009 if passed by the voters of San Francisco.
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