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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Join The Hookers' Union In San Francisco

Posted by Matt Davis on Tue, Oct 21, 2008 at 3:47 PM

I've been following Sarah's coverage of the prostitution issues on 82nd avenue with hearty interest...there are so many conflicting opinions and underlying issues at stake. It's easy to jump to defending the neighbors, or the prostitutes, or the cops. But I'm not really sure how I'd respond to the issues on 82nd if I were any of them. So...

It's interesting to read this AP article saying San Francisco is pondering a ballot measure to effectively legalize prostitution. If voters approve the measure, it will forbid the authorities from investigating, arresting, or prosecuting anyone for selling sex, freeing up $11m of police money that could be used to help prostitutes organize, say advocates.

The local Democratic party endorses the measure, according to the report, although business groups and the cops say it would allow pimps the run of neighborhoods. But sex workers' advocates say aggressive police policies don't help the victims of human trafficking, who are often run up and down the coast between Portland, San Francisco, and other cities, to work as prostitutes.

The bottom line of the argument seems to be: Stop picking on the prostitutes. Demonizing them only drives the problem underground, where pimps are better able to do the most harm.

If prostitution were effectively legal here in Portland, it's unlikely there would be a spare $11m to fund hookers' rights. But I do see the principle behind the San Francisco measure, and tend to agree with it. My skepticism comes in when it comes to targeting the traffickers. I doubt whether any police department is institutionally equipped or politically motivated to target pimps. It's never been part of the role of police. Indeed, it was just 50 years ago that the city was implicated in essentially running the vice in this town. Still, I'd be interested to hear what those involved in the 82nd Ave debate think of the San Francisco idea.

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