‘We can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she supports decriminalizing sex work in the U.S. because it is “consensual behavior.”
In an interview with The Root, Harris admitted that it’s a complicated topic that doesn’t offer an easy solution.
“I think that we have to understand, though, that it is not as simple as that. … There’s an ecosystem around that, that involves crimes that harm people. And for those issues, I do not believe that anybody who hurts another human being or profits off of their exploitation should be … free of criminal prosecution,” Harris said.
“But when you’re talking about consenting adults? Yes, we should really consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed,” she continued.
Sex workers are skeptical of Harris’s position, however, since she opposed decriminalizing prostitution in San Francisco when she served as the district attorney.
“I think it’s completely ridiculous, just in case there’s any ambiguity about my position,” Harris told the New York Times at the time. “It would put a welcome mat out for pimps and prostitutes to come on into San Francisco.”
In her interview with The Root, however, Harris claimed she had always been against “criminalizing women” during her time as San Francisco’s D.A.
“Back when I was elected D.A.,” Harris said, “I was advocating then that we need to stop arresting these prostitutes and instead go after the Johns and the pimps because we were criminalizing the women, but not the men who associated with it, who were making money off of it or profiting off of it.”
Harris also recently endorsed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a bill that would help prevent online sex-trafficking by shutting down websites like Backpage.com, a site that posted classified sex ads.
Sex workers, however, claim the bill will force them offline and onto the streets, making their jobs more dangerous.
“Backpage was providing advertisement for the sale of children, of minors. And, unlike Craigslist, which said we’re going to stop doing it, the people who were running Backpage basically thumbed their nose at us and kept doing it, making money off of the sale of youth, and so I called for them to be shut down,” Harris said. “And I have no regrets about that. Now, on the issue of providing a safe place for sex workers — I am a huge advocate for that, always have been.”