Further distancing herself from her professional prosecutorial past, the supposed feminist Kamala Harris now supports decriminalizing sex work.
Speaking with The Root, the senator from California said she supports the decriminalization of sex work, while adding a few additional qualifiers.
“There is an ecosystem around that that includes 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,” the senator said. “But when you’re talking about consenting adults, we should consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior.”
According to HuffPost, Harris’ comments are in response to the sex worker community accusing her of conflating sex work with sex trafficking. In her 2009 book, “Smart on Crime,” Harris even said that prostitutes should be arrested. “Smart always starts with enforcing the law ― we must arrest the prostitutes as well as the pimps and the johns,” she wrote at the time.
“There are lots of good reasons to root for Kamala Harris,” wrote Melissa Petro, a former sex worker, in The Establishment in 2017. “But the fact that Harris was an active force behind a campaign that endangered the lives of sex workers makes it understandably difficult for people with experiences in the sex trades to throw her our support.”
Sen. Harris recently voted in support of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, a piece of legislation that some sex workers said unfairly confused their trade with that of sex traffickers.
“The legislation holds online platforms, such as Craigslist and Backpage (before it was shut down), liable for user content related to sex trafficking and encourages websites to censor sex-related ads to protect themselves from litigation,” reports HuffPost. “What this has done is move the sex trade further underground and make sex work more dangerous.”
Kristen DiAngelo, executive director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, told HuffPost that Kamala Harris’ supposed shift on the decriminalization of sex workers is an empty promise.
“My take on it is that we are actually starting to do some damage to her campaign … so she had to change her stance,” DiAngelo said. “But do I think she believes it? No.”
Harris has been working tirelessly, perhaps even to her detriment, to distance herself from her prosecution roots. Writing at The New York Times, Lara Bazelon criticized her for falsely portraying herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”
Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.
Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.