Why Prop 35 Matters

Cameron Conaway believes California’s vote this November on a controversial sexual exploitation act will have national implications.

Proposition 35, the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act” will be on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California. It grew from a partnership between California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation. According to CaseAct.org, A “Yes” vote on the act will be a pivotal step towards:

  • Increasing prison terms for human traffickers.
  • Requiring convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders.
  • Requiring all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts.
  • Requiring criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.

Here’s the recent promotional video:

Prop 35 has received endorsed from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, from many members of both the Democratic and Republican parties of California, law enforcement agencies, hundreds of NGO’s and celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith.

On the surface, a “Yes” vote may seem like a no-brainer, and it has even been marketed as such. But there’s a growing base that includes Francisco Lobaco of the ACLU, The Sacramento Bee, the Los Angeles Times and the California Association for Criminal Justice who strongly advocate a “No” vote. Some concerns include the Act’s broad wording, such as: “commercial sexual act of a victim inadmissible to attack the credibility or impeach the character of the victim in any civil or criminal proceeding,” which, critics say, was well-intended and meant to protect the victim, but may mean unfair trails for those accused of trafficking. In addition, the Act, according to the SacBee’s article:

…also requires those convicted of human trafficking, including some who may not have committed any sexual offense at all, to register as sex offenders. They, along with existing sex offenders, would have to report their Internet online screen accounts and identifiers.

Aligned with SacBee’s piece, the LATimes states: “The state already has laws to combat human trafficking. So why is this ballot measure necessary?” The Erotic Service Providers Union has been equally outspoken. Here’s a video testimonial as to why:

On an international scope, California is considered a human trafficking hub. Many criminals now involved in the trade used to bring drugs into the state to disseminate throughout the county until they realized that, unlike drugs, the human body can be sold over and over again. We must remember that sex traffickers do not have as their intention to destroy humans. Their intention is making money, and California is often the cheapest place to fly into and out of. Add to this that global crime, especially global human trafficking, is still a relatively new problem for law enforcement to tackle and it’s easy to see why there’s a desperation to take immediate measures, even if those measure unintentionally strain existing laws or the already tense relationship between modern-day abolitionists and prostitutes. Jeff Biggers of The New York Times recently wrote a piece about immigration called The Arizonification of America. If Prop 35 is passed it could easily lead to something similar: a Californication of America. It will have major implications everywhere throughout the country. In obvious places like Miami, sure, but also in unexpected hubs like the Tri-Lakes area of Taney, Christian and Green Counties in Southwest Missouri. Even if it’s voted down a national precedent could be set. After all, if Prop 35 couldn’t be passed in the country’s most progressive state and with such big name backers, it’s unlikely any other state could pull off something similar.

Prop 35 does feel rushed, and claims that it could further convolute an already complex system are certainly valid. But it does help push victim protection and the sex trafficking agenda to the higher levels they deserve. Supporters of the Act certainly have emotion on their side, however, voters will need to remove this emotion and view Prop 35 through the lens of reason before asking themselves the following:

(1) Will harsher punishments deter criminals in this trade?

(2) Is it better to pass a flawed piece of legislature that can be tweaked, wait for something closer to perfect, or improve what’s already in place?


—Photo the-o/Flickr

About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.


  1. In contrast, EMFs that have shorter wave lengths have a stronger impact.
    Or, does human life get underway 14 to 15 days after embryonic
    development. The focal point of a sound and balanced personality is
    this ego.

  2. Kell Brigan says:

    “Prop 35 doesn’t do anything to change THAT…”
    Prop 35 doesn’t make coffee or file my nails, either. Who cares? What’s important is that is PUTS CRIMINALS IN JAIL. Prop 35 is about CRIMINAL law, not civil. If you want changes to the civil code, put more money into suing pimps and established a precedent in the courts. (Civil court decisions rarely are influences by propositions or law changes nearly as much as they are by court precedent.)

    What’s your real motivation? Why are you so bothered by the FACT that PIMPS are CRIMINALS?

  3. Kell Brigan says:

    And now, the whole GLBTMOUSE business is being used as an excuse for prostitution. It’s also an excuse for adultery, and tyranny (i.e. telling doctors and patients what they’re allowed to discuss in a private doctor/client relationship — FU First Amendment, right GLBT?)

    I’ll trust the POLICE long, long before I’ll listen to “erotic service providers” who look like they’re halfway to being the “After” picture in a Faces of Meth ad.

  4. Sex trafficking, particularly of children, is flourishing in California because the profits are huge and the laws are weak, so traffickers operate with little risk. Gangs are getting involved because it is less risky and more profitable for them to sell children than to sell drugs. Law enforcement organizations, prosecutors, and child advocacy groups throughout the state have endorsed Prop 35. So have the California Democratic and Republican parties and numerous elected officials, private citizens and members of the business community. This is because Prop 35 will increase the penalties up to life in prison and a maximum $1.5 million fine for trafficking of children. (The current maximum penalty only 8 years in prison is $100,000 for selling a child for sex.) Prop 35 will also close the many legal loopholes that have spared traffickers from being convicted. These are really dangerous people who belong off the streets, off the Internet, and away from children. The costs that result from Prop 35 will be negligible, especially when viewed long term. The fines will generate new funds to pay for the vital services necessary to help survivors recover, build new lives, and become contributing members of the community. And law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and social services will see savings through vast reductions in future arrests and broken lives. By voting “Yes” on Prop 35, California citizens will be making a statement that the brutality of human trafficking will not be tolerated in our state.

    • hfran,

      There are many anti-trafficking activists who are against Prop 35. What are your thoughts on some of their reasons?


    • S.Anderson says:

      The legal “loopholes” =
      1. Lowering the bar for “proof” of force/coercion
      2. Making any prior (illegal) acts on the part of the victim inadmissible.
      3. Re-defining “trafficker”.
      4. Inclusion of some very questionable convictions for addition to the Sex Offender Registry

      Lowering the bar for proof = that will be exploited, as it has already been via smart people, who are in need, using these loopholes to access aid that would otherwise be denied to them.
      See “Half The Sky”. (http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/questions-raised-over-symbols-slavery-story-4809)

      Prior acts becoming inadmissible = only if the “victim” presses charges against the “trafficker”, gets “certified” as a victim. Testifying against one’s trafficker is MANDATORY for any of the latter to happen.

      There have been several cases, where the victims refuse to testify. For reasons such as, the trafficker has threatened to kill their family/children/love ones. So, those victims who’ve stood up and said something, get nothing, no support, no financial help, no mental health support, no shelter, no medical care, no education. NADA. Prop 35 doesn’t do anything to change THAT.

      Cite your sources. What “gangs” have gotten involved in trafficking? Show me the independent economic study that proves that selling underage sex is more profitable than selling drugs.

      Law Enforcement orgs support Prop 35, because they stand to gain financially from it. It justifies & provided some measure of job security.
      Human Trafficking orgs support Prop 35, because they stand to gain financially from it. They are afraid to speak out against this proposition, with the exception of a few very brave organizations, because they fear it would put their funding in jeopardy, esp. those orgs that work closely with law enforcement.

      The actual # of trafficked “victims” esp. underage “sex slaves”, is in question. There are <46 human trafficking NGO's in the US. They can certainly do the accounting & figure out budgets & pay a lot of people, but they can't manage to agree upon the actual # of victims? And the only statistics that ARE unbiased & accurate, state there are have been under 20 cases of underage sex trafficking. But there are over 80,000 cases of child abuse in CA. (But evidently, child abuse doesn't have the sexy connotations of 'trafficking', that get people in a lather.)

      Chris Kelly backs Prop 35, because he & the co-author, Sharmin Bock, ran for State Atty General & SF County DA, respectively & LOST. They are mounting their bid for the next election. They stand to gain politically from this.

      SAGE & Chab Dai have RESCINDED their endorsements of Prop 35.
      The City of San Jose has decided to support NO on Prop 35.

      Prop 35 has already been voted DOWN by CA Legislature 3x. (w/a price tag of $250K)
      Now, the price tag is <$1M w/o any explanation to the increase in costs.

      Do you want me to go on? Or are you going to bust out the whole, "Well if one child is saved as a result of this 'raised' awareness, then we've done our job." Why aren't you doing anything about the much larger #'s of abused children that actually LIVE in CA, and are not getting adequate assistance?

      < 80,000 abused kids, in CA ("In 2011, there were 461,567 reports (allegations) of child abuse and neglect in California. Of those cases, 84,756, or 18%, were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system."-source, http://www.kidsdata.org/cache/pdfs/Kidsdata-Overview_Child-Abuse-and-Neglect.pdf)

  5. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Yes, most prostitutres choose it. But there is a subset who are forced into it. I read a convincing account of forced kidnapping and prostitution in Oakland, which was detailed enough to be pretty convincing. Some of the masochistic phenomena detailed on other threads here also explain why young women can remain in subservience to a pimp. In Oakland, pimps may team up to watch abducted girls. I’d make this all a super felony.

    The sex offender registries have resulted in murders of putative sex-offenders. In FL, many can’t be reintegrated with society because they cannot legally live anywhere but under a bridge in one city. (Not true for all of FL, of course.) Again, many placings of “sex offenders” on registries is way over the line. Issues exist with decoys (habeus corpus,) trivial events (urination in public,) and so on.

    • Hank Vandenburgh says:

      ANYTHING involving sex offender registries is not inside the traditions of American law. They are basically an illegal product of hysteria. I’ll grant that the abuse of children in horrible and not to be tolerated. Beef up the specific law and penalty there if you like. I personally would like to see multi-assault spouse beaters punished like putative sex offenders. One of my students and another friend were each multi-assaulted by a husband or boyfriend. The boyfriend assault was by a “black belt” and involved a folding steel baton, breaking bones. As a martial artist, I’d have tried to mess him up if I’d been there. But I don’t think we’re ready to go to public registries for spouse beating. Maybe a forensic-mental health file, though, with a GPS tracker.

  6. Not buying it says:

    Prop-35 will ensnare so many innocent people , particularly men falsely accused & convicted due legal dealing for fear of being labeled as a sex offender, look at the controversial extremists leftist figures who are behind it ( Nancy pelosi- Barbara boxer- Dianne Feinstein ).

    I believe prostitution should be legalized & regulated for the benefit, safety of all involved & stop these anti-male provisions & the ideology behind it.

    • Not buying it:

      How would you address hfran’s comment below about how Prop 35 will increase the risk factor while also closing “the many legal loopholes that have spared traffickers from being convicted?” Do you see this as one of the bill’s positive qualities or do you have another perspective on it?


  7. WTF?! How do you “choose” to be a prostitute as a 14 year old? Wake up.

    • S.Anderson says:

      When your family already has more kids than can be housed, is on financial aid & can’t afford to feed/house the entire family.
      When you’re GLBT & your family puts you out on the street

      1.) You can’t legally get a job 2.) You have no education 3.) You have no resources or access to public resources.
      Then youth DO CHOSE sex work to survive.

      I guarantee you, that you have no idea what it’s like to be a homeless youth. Many, both male & female choose sex work because they are not offered ANY other options, housing for youth is scarce, look at the waiting lists for housing in any metropolitan area.

      Adult housing/shelters are DANGEROUS & many adults & youth CHOOSE to be on the streets rather than face the jailhouse atmosphere of the shelters AND choose to turn tricks, usu. in groups or pairs. Because THAT is the most common scenario of underage youth in sex work, Prop 35 would make one of those kids the “trafficker”, when they are ALL victims.

  8. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    The sex offender registries are such a disaster for minor sex offenders (like people who urinate in public) that I’d hate to see their use expanded. It wouldn’t be bad to get comtrol of pimps– they are a real problem in California with many women being forced into involuntary sexual servitude–but this smacks of hysteria.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    Like a lot of ballot measures, the title of the act seems a really forced to me — “Against Sexual Exploitation.” So, if you vote against it, that means you’re in favor of sexual exploitation? Give me a break. That by itself makes me suspicious that someone’s trying to pull a fast one and trying to prey upon simple hysteria.

    Why not just call it “Californians Against Evil” and aim for an even lower denominator?

  10. “Supporters of this proposition include the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association and the Police Officers Research Association. It is not surprising then that fines collected from sex traffickers will be used for law enforcement! The combined investment of these two organizations — reported as about $700,000 — could pay great dividends since individual fines could reach $1.5 million”. http://californiarsol.org/2012/10/proposition-35/


  1. ESPLERP says:

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