California Governor Gavin Newsome signed the Safer Streets for All Act in 2022. This action made headlines due to concerns about the decriminalization of loitering for the intent to engage in sex.
Specifically, there has been a lot of focus on how this change would impact prostitution as a crime.
Benefits for sex workers
Decriminalization changes the landscape for sex workers in California. By removing the legal consequences of loitering for the purpose of engaging in sex, the state takes a significant step towards acknowledging sex work as a legitimate occupation. This change can potentially empower sex workers to seek better working conditions, negotiate safer transactions and access essential healthcare services without fear of legal repercussions.
Another notable effect is that it may lead to a reduction in violence against sex workers. When prostitution goes underground due to criminalization, sex workers often find themselves more vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse. The decriminalization might encourage sex workers to report incidents of violence and exploitation without the fear of facing criminal charges, thereby increasing their safety.
Furthermore, there is the potential for a shift in the dynamic between sex workers and law enforcement. With loitering for sex work no longer a criminal act, law enforcement might focus their efforts on addressing more severe issues, such as human trafficking and exploitation. This shift could, in theory, lead to a more productive allocation of law enforcement resources.
Issues with the law
On the flip side, there is concern that this decriminalization may inadvertently lead to an influx of sex workers. Some argue that by removing the deterrent of legal consequences, more individuals may engage in sex work. This could potentially result in increased competition within the industry. This could drive down earnings for those already working in the profession.
It is essential to recognize that decriminalizing is not equivalent to legalizing prostitution. Prostitution itself remains illegal in many parts of California. This partial decriminalization leaves a grey area that needs further clarification to ensure the rights and safety of sex workers.