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?