MillionKids.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating about human trafficking and exploitation, is reporting that California Bill SB357, authored by Senator Weiner and legalizing street prostitution, has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly Appropriation Committee Suspense file. A hearing is scheduled for August 26, 2021 where it will be up to the Chair of this Committee, Lorena Gonzalez, to decide if this bill will be held in suspense or go up for a vote.
“The bill as it is written will have few restrictions on street prostitution,” according to Opal Singleton, President of Million Kids, who has worked to combat sex trafficking for over ten years. “The bill most likely will result in a significant increase in the number of commercial sex workers offering their services publicly in California. The stated intention of the bill is to protect street sex workers from being arrested by law enforcement. We have seen that sex trafficking has long been a critical issue for California with more victims of sex trafficking than any other state according to statistics issued by the Department of Justice.”
Singleton went on, “Most victims are women but can also be men, LBGTQ+ and transvestites. Many victims of trafficking start out as independent commercial sex providers but find themselves with agents or pimps that demand minimum quotas per day and are often, beaten, burned, raped and threatened if they don’t comply with their demands.”
“Legalizing street prostitution will greatly exacerbate the issue of sexual violence,” stated Singleton. “Most important it will be a critical public safety issue as pimps and agents across the nation and internationally will bring vulnerable people to California to make money greatly increasing the competition to the current sex worker. Businesses, churches, schools and residential areas will be challenged as commercial sex providers negotiate transactions publicly. Homeless people will be particularly vulnerable to commercial street sex.”
“If the Chair of the Appropriations committee decides to ‘hold’ on this vote, the issue could conceivably be brought out for a committee vote at an undetermined future date with two days’ notice to the public. If the bill gets out of this committee, then it is set for a vote in the Assembly.” Singleton concluded, “We will be watching the actions taken by the Assembly Appropriations Committee as this vote will have a long term and far-reaching impact on our children, our families and the safety of our communities. We urge Californians who are against this bill to contact their local assembly person or by emailing the Appropriations Committee.”