The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Berkeley voters to decide on decriminalizing sex work

by Amanda Luker

Oct. 5, 2004 – Sex workers and their allies are rallying California voters to a measure that would decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley. If "Angel’s Initiative" is passed, it will not legalize prostitution, but would compel the police to deprioritize enforcement of the law.

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Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and herself a former sex worker, is heading the campaign. She argues that decriminalizing the profession would cut down on violence against women, help them get off the street and improve their public health.

Nevertheless, the controversial initiative has encountered stiff opposition. Clergy, school board members, the city council and others have voiced their concerns. "The majority of women who have been trapped [in prostitution] are victims of molestation, rape and violence," said Alesia Adams, who works with the Center to End Adolescent Exploitation. She argued that decriminalization would only "open the floodgates" and lead more young women to become sex workers.

Women’s E-News estimates that 2,000 sex workers are murdered annually in the US. Proponents of Angel’s Initiative, which is named after a murdered sex worker, say it will provide women better protection and make the streets safer for everyone.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Amanda Luker is a contributing journalist.

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