Nevada brothels may be key in San Francisco supervisor's push to legalize sex work

Stephanie Sierra Image
Friday, February 24, 2023
NV's brothels can be key in SF supervisor's push to legalize sex work
Here's how Nevada's legal brothels could help in San Francisco supervisor's push to legalize, decriminalize sex work in California.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco supervisor who wants to legalize red light districts has scheduled meetings with five sex workers next week in order to better understand how legal brothels operate in Nevada.

"I have not talked personally with enough sex workers to feel like I'm really listening to their voice in this conversation," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

Sup. Ronen is leading the conversation to legalize sex work in California. Last week, she introduced a resolution encouraging state lawmakers to draft a bill aimed at legalizing red light districts and decriminalizing sex work.

"I've had victims of trafficking who've escaped their trafficker reach out and want to talk," said Ronen. "I'm meeting with sex workers who want decriminalization, not legalization."

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Ronen says she will be meeting with these sex workers to discuss the protections needed to keep them safe. One of those meetings is with Alice Little who reached out to the I-Team.

"We have brothels in specific rural counties, and I happen to be the most successful person that came out of that industry," Little told ABC7's Stephanie Sierra.

Little is a sex worker at the Chicken Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. She says the the Nevada brothel system works because it has the right limitations to ensure safety.

"I get to talk to the Sheriff four times a year...four times a year I'm face-to-face with the local Sheriff to receive my card, do my finger printing and pay my requisite fee," said Little.

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Little says law enforcement conducts random checks at her brothel to ensure the people employed are properly licensed, of legal age, and have cleared STD testing.

"The sheriff will show up completely unannounced," said Little. "It makes us feel safe... the process requires many hoops to go through."

While safety is the priority, Little says brothels operating in Nevada counties also help fund city resources. According to a report from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, counties with legal prostitution earn thousands annually from brothel-related fees, like work cards, applications, licensing and liquor licenses.

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"Up to 30% of one county's discretionary budget specifically comes from the tax dollars paid by the brothels in that county," said Little.

Ronen says these conversations will help develop a long-term plan to protect sex workers who are exploited and trafficked through San Francisco.

"Is it decriminalization? Or legalization? Is it that combined with more aggressive prosecution of pimps and traffickers?" said Ronen. "I want to hear their perspective."

The resolution calling for legislation to legalize sex work is up for a vote next Tuesday.

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