California Senator Kamala Harris recognizes how the criminalization of sex work perpetuates stigma and leads to more criminal behavior and the silencing of victims.
Which is why she agreed when asked that sex work should be decriminalized.
“There is an ecosystem around that that includes crimes that harm people, and for those issues I do not believe that anybody who hurts another human being or profits off their exploitation should be free of criminal prosecution,” she told The Root.
For Harris, who has been widely criticized for her support of SESTA (The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017), her willingness to explore decriminalization may be welcome news.
But some think she’s taking the position to solidify her progressive base but won’t actually act on it.
“Her progressive achievements and championing for the underprivileged are completely overshadowed by her hostile initiatives against sex workers,” Lee Jennings, the CEO of online sex worker directory Slixa, told The Daily Beast.
Harris’ call to decriminalize sex work came as New York state works to introduce a bill to do just that in the Empire State.
“Decriminalization is critical to protecting the rights and safety of people who trade sex, no matter where they are on the spectrum of choice, circumstance, and coercion,” NY State senator Brad Hoylman tweeted Monday.
Decriminalization is critical to protecting the rights and safety of people who trade sex, no matter where they are on the spectrum of choice, circumstance, and coercion. #DecrimNY— Senator Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) February 25, 2019
An activist collective called DecrimNY, is working with them to “decriminalize, decarcerate and destigmatize the sex trade in New York City and state,” according to its website.
“The mere introduction of decriminalization legislation marks a major and hard-won point of progress in the public discussion around sex workers’ rights, said The Intercept. “It is a welcome statement for those who have been long disappointed in politicians with allegedly progressive agendas standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to sex workers’ rights.”