There is absolutely no question that everyone is against human trafficking, that force and coercion have no place in this world. Composed of sex workers’ rights activists, SWOP is committed to ending sex trafficking, however Prop 35’s text reveals many flaws and will do nothing to end trafficking or to help victims of trafficking.
Prop 35’s expansive language will give those currently criminalized as ‘pimps’ the new label ‘traffickers,’ lengthening prison sentences, increasing fines, and adding the possibility of being charged as a sex offender, which starts a lifetime of tracking through the already saturated sex offender registry. Anyone who lives off the profits of sex work can be charged with trafficking, including live-in partners and spouses, children, and support staff, who look to those who are in the industry by choice for sustenance. By increasing the already harsh penalties of criminalization of sex work as a whole, Prop 35 will further discourage sex workers from coming forward to report exploitation, trafficking, and violence.
Lawyers who have analyzed Prop 35 say that it will not result in more traffickers being put in jail, but will actually be used to coerce people (who are not actual traffickers!) into taking plea bargains for lesser charges as the threat of being labeled a sex offender for life is so serious. This will result in more poor women and women of color being sent to prison. Furthermore, if Californians don’t want homeless youth turning to survival sex work, the answer is not locking them within a criminal system, but to offer support services.