No, California Democrats have not legalized child prostitution

California Attorney General Kamala Harris. (Image: Damian Dovarganes/AP)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris. (Image: Damian Dovarganes/AP)

The Washington Examiner is breathlessly insisting that progressive, California Democrats have legalized child prostitution. This is pure poppycock. It will remain illegal in California to sell or buy a child for sex, as it should.

Though it’s important to note that children aren’t prostitutes, because they can’t consent to commercialized sexual activity. The term “child prostitute” is a nonsense phrase that hides the culpability of predatory adults who would exploit them.

If a child is being sold or purchased for sex, they’re a trafficked minor. They should be seen as statutory rape victims. Ideally they would be offered social services and any other protection they require, but at the least, they shouldn’t have a criminal record from having been sexually victimized.

This is simply applying the Nordic model of sex industry regulation to minors.

Yet it also brings California into better compliance with federal law, specifically, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. This bipartisan bill was introduced by a Republican, passed the House with 371 votes, passed the Senate with 95 votes, and was then signed into law by President Clinton.

Under this law, commercial sex acts with minors automatically count as “severe forms of trafficking in persons,” and victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons are to be held criminally harmless for both the sex acts they were victimized by and any crimes incidental to that trafficking.

From the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000:

“Victims of severe forms of trafficking should not be inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as using false documents, entering the country without documentation, or working without documentation.”

To repeat, that law was passed in 2000. In case the Washington Examiner needs this spelled out for them, the trafficking of minors for sex has remained a crime in these United States for all of the last 16 years and I know of no elected officials who wish it to be otherwise.

The California law is further good in that Governor Jerry Brown signed other laws along with it that require the justice system to hold minors harmless for other crimes they were coerced into committing while trafficked.

Michigan could really use a set of laws like this, given that they prosecuted and convicted a 15-year-old trafficking victim who was used as bait in a robbery scheme. Under California’s new laws, Latesha Clay would be free, as she should be, and the men who found her through an online ad could have been prosecuted for trying to buy a minor for sex, as they should have been.

So chill, Washington Examiner. Stop worrying about California, and work on bringing the fire of civilization back to Michigan, which barely qualifies as a democracy anymore and just sent a 15-year-old mother of two to jail for being trafficked.

Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.