Resolution pushing to legalize sex work in CA introduced by SF supervisor

Ronen says the resolution is a long-term strategy that will likely take years of discussion before passing and implementing.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
SF official introduces resolution to legalize sex work in CA
A resolution pushing to legalize sex work and red-light districts in California was introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen on Tuesday.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A resolution pushing to legalize sex work and red-light districts within the state of California was introduced Tuesday.

The resolution introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen at a weekly board meeting is pushing for state legislators to draft a bill aiming to decriminalize sex work and legalize red-light districts across California.

A controversial conversation on the world's oldest profession.

"Who wants a red-light district on their street?" said Pamela Osgood, a long-time San Francisco resident.

Osgood is one of many neighbors in the Mission District that's seen firsthand the rampant rise in violence tied to alleged sex workers and trafficking operations crowding the neighborhood.

EXCLUSIVE: SF residents say this street has turned into 'Las Vegas Strip' with alleged sex workers

"It's like every night pimps and prostitutes come and take our street hostage and neighbors are shut in." Here's what a group of San Francisco residents witness on a nightly basis.

"There are families that live here, everybody is concerned," she said. "Mostly about the pimps."

Osgood says more police patrols and the city's newly-implemented street barriers are temporary Band-Aids moving the problem and the danger that comes with it from one street to the next.

"It's getting more dangerous," said Supervisor Ronen. "Right there, in your face."

Supervisor Ronen agrees there's no good solutions that will address the world's oldest profession, but Tuesday she proposed one - legalize it.

"If you legalize the trade, you can actually zone areas where it's allowed and zone areas where it's not allowed," Ronen said. "So it's not done on neighbors' front doorsteps."

RELATED: SF supervisor considers sanctioned red-light district amid ongoing sex trafficking problem

Ronen says the resolution is a long-term strategy that will likely take years of discussion before passing and years to implement and properly regulate.

Nico, a long-time Mission District resident, is against it.

"I have daughters, I don't want them to think it's okay for them to do what they see on the streets when they come home," he said.

His neighbor Shawna supports it on the belief that it will help protect women forced into this line of work by way of poverty, lack of education, and other underlying socioeconomic factors.

"We have pimps beating up on the girls in the middle of the night, and customers beating up on the girls," said Shawna. "I'm scared for them."

VIDEO: Oakland police, FBI take action to assess trafficking concerns near school after I-Team report

Oakland officials say city will enhance patrols and install new cameras after I-Team's report revealed possible human trafficking outside a school.

Ronen argues the criminalization makes it harder to protect women who are stuck in abusive relationships with pimps and johns. But critics argue legalization could do just the opposite -- exploit vulnerable victims. Legal brothels in Nevada proving to be an example where owners have been accused of sexual assault and trafficking.

Stephanie Sierra: "What do you say to those who criticize legalizing prostitution will open up a door for that to continue?"

Sup. Ronen: "There are those examples in Nevada, but I'm telling you it's a lot easier to investigate, arrest, and get women to testify against traffickers when they aren't at risk for prosecution themselves."

Sierra: "But some argue legalizing prostitution, inherently, will make it easier for sex trafficking operations to exist."

Sup. Ronen: "Trafficking will never be legal, let me be clear. It's very, very hard to hold traffickers responsible. I believe legalization will make it easier, not harder."

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