The decriminalization of consensual sex work would allow abuse within the sex industry to be brought to light, shifting law enforcement resources away from harassing and arresting sex workers, and focusing instead on those who perpetrate violence against them. (Courtesy photo)

The decriminalization of consensual sex work would allow abuse within the sex industry to be brought to light, shifting law enforcement resources away from harassing and arresting sex workers, and focusing instead on those who perpetrate violence against them. (Courtesy photo)

Decriminalization of sex work a step in the right direction

As leading healthcare providers working for the safety and well-being of sex workers in San Francisco, we were appalled by Mary Jung’s crude and inaccurate politicization of human trafficking and sex-worker rights in her June 2 op-ed, “Not in our city.”

The criminalization of prostitution has been widely recognized as one of the greatest harms facing those in the sex industry, directly contributing to higher rates of violence, exploitation, HIV and STIs, stigma, isolation and, of course, incarceration. Just last week, Freedom Network USA, the country’s largest network of service providers to victims of human trafficking, released a statement supporting the decriminalization of sex work, joining Amnesty International and the World Health Organization in this opinion.

“It is critical that we bring consensual sex workers out of the margins, providing the services, support, options and protection needed by all workers,” said Freedom Network USA’s executive director Jean Bruggeman. “It is only when consensual sex work is safe that victims of sex trafficking can be more quickly identified and supported.”

When the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club asked candidates the question, “Do you support the decriminalization of sex work?” they were getting at the crucial question of whether individuals who trade sex for money, goods or survival needs should be treated as criminals deserving punishment or individuals deserving of equal protection under the law.

Jung’s assertion that candidates who would support the decriminalization of prostitution — candidates including Arlo Hale Smith, Zoe Dunning, Joshua Arce, Alix Rosenthal, Keith Baraka, Joel Engardio, Trevor McNeil and Marjan Philhour (all of whom Jung is supporting) — are in favor of creating a “safe haven for pimps and johns” could not be further from the truth.

The decriminalization of consensual sex work would allow abuse within the sex industry to be brought to light, shifting law enforcement resources away from harassing and arresting sex workers, and focusing instead on those who perpetrate violence against them. The Freedom Network recognized this last week, calling the decriminalization of consensual sex work “the most effective approach to protecting the human rights of both sex workers and victims of human trafficking.”

As people who provide healthcare and social services to current and former sex workers every week, we see the very real human impact of policies surrounding individuals in the sex trades. We have fought tirelessly to shift San Francisco away from harmful practices such as arresting women on suspicion of prostitution for carrying “too many” condoms, and toward greater resources for victims of violence and exploitation.

We have sat on the Mayor’s Anti Human-Trafficking Task Force, provided consultation to the WHO on reducing violence against sex workers in the context of HIV, and spent years in direct service to and with those individuals most impacted by these policies. Politicians all too often exploit marginalized people as political pawns, and Mary Jung is no different. Perhaps she and the Association of Realtors could speak instead to the housing crisis and economic disparity they helped create that has put the most vulnerable San Franciscans, sex workers among them, at risk.

Dr. Pratima Gupta is a candidate for the Democratic County Central Committee and medical director of the St. James Infirmary. Stephany Ashley is executive director of the St. James Infirmary, former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and a former sex worker.Alix RosenthalArlo Hale SmithDCCCJoel EngardioJoshua ArceKeith BarakaMarjan PhilhourMary JungPratima GuptaSan FranciscoSex traffickingsex workersStephany AshleyTrevor McNeilZoe Dunning

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The J Church train could begin running again later this month on at least part of its surface route. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
First Muni trains will return to service Dec. 19

Three additional bus routes coming back online in January

Smoking cannabis. (Shutterstock)
Supes ban tobacco smoking in apartments but exempt cannabis

San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night,… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Most Read