By Raymond Nava
Governor Newsom should sign SB357 into law.
Passing SB357 would repeal provisions of existing loitering laws that relate to loitering with the intent to commit prostitution.
Other changes include allowing people who were convicted of a violation to petition the court to dismiss their sentence and potentially seal the conviction.
The current law regarding loitering has led to discriminatory arrests by police. Because the law says it is a crime to loiter with the intent to commit prostitution, this has allowed the police to use broad reasons as cause for arrest.
These reasons can include being in an area where prostitution has been committed before, the way the individual is dressed and simply speaking to other pedestrians. Nothing concrete is needed for police to make an arrest.
Equality California, a non-profit LGBT organization, reported on how people have been targeted by police due to the law.
Being against prostitution in public is an understandable position to have, but the original law makes no logical sense. Prostitution is already illegal.
All the law did was pile on more charges than necessary. The original law reads like it was written solely to give more leeway to police, giving them the justification to accuse people of committing prostitution without any actual proof.
While this is a step in the right direction, SB357 doesn’t address the bigger issue regarding prostitution.
Prostitution has long been an act that is wrongfully criminalized. If the intent of the original law was to reduce the amount of public prostitution, it wasn’t the right move and created more harm.
The real answer to this issue is to legalize prostitution.
If prostitution is legalized, sex workers would be able to freely and safely conduct their business in a way that doesn’t involve them strolling through the streets.
Most sex workers would be able to do their work online and at their place of residence, instead of having to walk the streets looking for clients.
There is no legitimate reason for prostitution to be illegal and there was never a reason in the first place.
Two consenting adults engaging in sex where money is exchanged does not harm anyone and should be none of the government’s concern.
If prostitution were legalized, taxed and regulated like any other industry, it would make more people safe.
Legal prostitution could even help solve some issues with sex trafficking. Legal prostitution could reduce demand for illegal sex work as clients now have a safer and legal option.
SB357 isn’t the answer that we need to solve the real issue, but it’s a step forward.
Police should not be able to arrest people just on mere suspicion and the bill would fix this. Governor Newsom should sign SB357 into law, but the legislature should do the right thing in the future and fully legalize prostitution, so this never has to be an issue again.