Now That Pot’s Legal, Why Not Sex Work, Too?

The Erotic Service Providers Union showed up at the Capitol armed with nearly 25,000 signatures from an online petition to decriminalize prostitution.

Yes, even sex workers have a union. It’s called the Erotic Service Providers Union, and on Tuesday they petitioned Governor Jerry Brown for the decriminalization of prostitution in the state of California.

The union took to the Capitol in Sacramento this week, armed with nearly 25,000 signatures from an online petition calling on Brown to meet with them to discuss the benefits of decriminalizing sex work.

“We didn’t get in to speak to the governor,” Maxine Doogan, the Erotic Service Providers Union’s founder and president, tells SF Weekly. “They did accept our signatures petition.”

San Francisco voters may recognize Doogan’s name, as she was a co-sponsor of the 2008 city ballot proposition Measure K, which to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco. That measure was defeated, 40 percent to 59 percent.

But the union’s goal is to meet with Brown and take the decriminalization of sex work statewide.

“International organizations including Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, the Lancet, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law have called for the decriminalization of sex work,” the petition presented to the governor says. “Sex workers report that they face more threats from law enforcement than from clients. Police often threaten sex workers or even rape them in exchange for not sending them to jail.”

Getting the governor of California to decriminalize prostitution may sound like a long shot, but Brown did decriminalize prostitution for minors in September of this year. Decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization but would remove any monetary or legal penalties for sex work.

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