Prostitution Measure …

by on August 21, 2008

To the Editor:

This is in response to “Paid Arguments Make Voter guide Look Like Phone Book.” Paul Hogarth is surprised that “The prostitution measure has created strange alliances on both sides.”

Well, I think it is not so surprising at all. A glance at any world history book will reveal a long history of the “unholy alliance,” beginning with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. We are seeing this again, as the right wing has coopted the language of feminism to further its agenda. Have you noticed how the right wing talks about how we invaded Afghanistan in order to free the women from the sexist Taliban regime?

Well, a few years ago, the Bush Administration also made an unholy alliance with the SAGE Project here in San Francisco. This is the non-profit that runs the First Offender Prostitution Program. This program is based on the arrest of clients and sex workers, so it cannot continue if prostitution is decriminalized. The SAGE project signed on to an amicus brief in support of the Bush Administration’s worldwide policy on prostitution. See for more info. This policy states that no organization can receive USAID if they talk about sex workers as having rights.

Barry Hermanson is on the Board of Safe House, another non-profit that has a connection with SAGE. Because the city will save money to the tune of around $11.4 million per year if the police stop enforcing the prostitution laws, there is nothing stopping SAGE from petitioning the city for that money to expand their voluntary programs for sex workers. I have personally tried to explain this to Barry Hermanson, who spoke out against this measure despite the fact that his own Green
Party did endorse Prop K.

In any case, I see Proposition K above all as a workers’ rights issue. This measure will give sex workers the right to form a union to improve their working conditions. This measure will also improve the health and safety conditions for workers because it allows them to go to the authorities when they are a victim of violence, or if they see evidence of abuse or trafficking.

Of course, workers’ rights and democracy for sex workers is not to easy to stomach for those who have made a cottage industry out of arresting prostitutes and clients, nor for those feminists who have the paternalistic attitude that we must arrest sex workers in order to rescue them. Isn’t this the same attitude of the Bush administration when they said we needed to invade Iraq in order to bring them freedom?

Slava Osowska
Industrial Workers of the World

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