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

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

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  • Karla Gjini

    very clear and informative! Thanks Natasha!

  • FierceMild

    A fifteen year old mother of two. I had to pause for a moment to let the bile and tears settle. That poor child! Does anyone know of a campaign or program in place to help her? Can we at least send her care packages in jail? Can we help her children somehow?

  • Just trying to Understand

    I’m interested in how this new law plays out. Does the law allow prosecution of minors if they are not trafficked or is it assumed that all minors are trafficked?

    • Tired feminist

      Every minor counts as trafficked. As it should be, since “traffick” in a broad sense just means “illegal commerce”, with or without physical coercion, and buying sex from minors is already illegal.

      • Just trying to Understand

        What would happen to a 17 year old girl that sells herself? She has no pimp and advertises on Should she be responsible for selling herself? This example is in the minority, I understand that. I think the bill should be a good thing but I’m just afraid that it could lead to more minors on the streets selling themselves because there are no negative consequences.

        • Tired feminist

          She would not be prosecuted, only the buyers; it’s basically the Nordic model applied to child prostitution. The Nordic model criminalizes demand, so I don’t see how this could possibly lead to an increase in supply…

        • Wren

          Uh…people sell themselves out of desperation. It is not something they’re itching to do because it gives them a kick. Prostitution is inherently a negative consequence of abuse and marginalization.

  • Anita Perry

    Since I live in California, I would like to comment. How can the California Democrats say they care about the trafficking of women and children for sex when they support the porn industry? They care about children forced into selling their bodies, and are abused by pimps, but they support porn producers. No, they can’t have it both ways.(1.) California Democrats do, in fact, support pornography, and it’s a safe bet that they take money from porn producers. Much of the world’s pornography is produced in the San Fernando Valley. Last election there was a state initiative on the ballot that would require actors in porn to wear condoms. We are talking about the lives and health of women in this oppressive “industry”. The powerful porn producers spent millions to defeat this initiative. The powerful porn industry tossed in millions to defeat this initiative which was put on the ballot by women and men who don’t want to die from AIDs. The California Democrats are on record as opposing the state initiative that would require actors in porn to wear condoms. Read “Pornland” by Gail Dines. Professor Gail Dines is an expert on pornography, and her book, “Pornland” is, in my opinion, one of the most important feminist books of this half century. It’s that important, and that relevant. Women are being tortured in porn. A billion dollar industry is more important to California Democrats than abused and traumatized women who risk dying of AIDs, contracting gonorrhea of the eye, or anal prolapse from violent and rough anal sex. In what other “industry” is anal prolapse, AIDs, or STDs an occupational hazard? (2.) California Democrats have, in fact, tossed the female sex under the bus in their complete and total embrace of everything “gender identity”. California Democrats have, in fact, gone so totally overboard in all things “gender identity” that it’s Orwellian beyond belief. There was AB1266 which crapped on the work of second wave feminists, and basically gave any male claiming “gender identity” unfettered access to the women’s locker room etc. in any school or college. “Gender identity” in California goes way beyond AB1266. California Democrats do, in fact, believe that males who torture women with electrical wires before raping them should be sent to women’s prisons. Google Richard, “Sherri”, Masbruch. It doesn’t matter how much he likes to torture or kill women, all he has to do is squawk about his “gender identity”, and he gets tax payer funded hormones, and he is sent to a women’s prison. Women on this website probably have heard about the transwoman who is charged with slaughtering a lesbian family in Oakland. Hell, yes, it was a hate crime because Dana Rivers was involved in anti-lesbian activity at Mich Fest, and lesbians have been receiving death threats for years. A lesbian couple and their adopted son were shot and stabbed to death last November. This male killer will get tax payer funded hormones, and he will be sent to a women’s prison. California Democrats are violating the human rights of female prisoners by housing violent male rapists and murderers in women’s prison.

  • Wren

    I’m assuming you meant white men would be “suing.”
    As far as youth being automatically consider victims of trafficking, this has been the practice in many states with safe harbor acts, etc. for a while. Youth may be put back into the state care system or reunited with families as opposed to jail. The only problem or danger is that they might be returning to the situations from which they fled and were lured into prostitution. Certainly, they need trauma care and treatment specific to treating the horrors of prostitution.