No, California Did Not Legalize Child Prostitution

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Image courtesy of The California Endowment.

By Danyeal Escobar

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published by The kNOw Youth Media: https://theknowfresno.org/02/10/2017/no-california-not-legalize-child-prostitution/.)

On Dec. 9, 2016, ABC30 ran the story of a young 17-year-old girl who was rescued from human trafficking and reunited with her family in Merced County. But instead of calling her the survivor that she is, ABC30 called her and the other minors involved “child prostitutes.”

This is a troubling trend that nearly all news outlets are guilty of. Put simply, child prostitutes do not exist.

By law, no minor can consent to sexual acts of any kind, meaning children who are forced into human trafficking are not prostitutes. They are victims and survivors of child rape.

That is the message the Rights4Girls Campaign has been trying to send throughout the nation, but the media pushes that message aside because “child prostitute” is more alluring.

Cases of child rape, like the one in Merced, have caused the revision of California Law 1322, which used to criminalize child prostitution. State SB 1322 has drawn much attention due to many Republicans taking their misinterpretations of the bill public.

Many people, including Republican legislator for the California State Assembly Travis Allen, strongly misunderstood the purpose of the revision. In an article for the Washington Post, Allen wrote, “Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right.”

Similar comments have caused uncertainty and concern throughout California and the nation, even though their interpretations are completely inaccurate.

The bill itself clearly states:

Existing law makes it a crime to solicit or engage in any act of prostitution. Existing law makes it a crime to loiter in any public place with the intent to commit prostitution. This bill would make the above provisions inapplicable to a child under 18 years of age who is alleged to have engaged in conduct that would, if committed by an adult, violate the above provisions. The bill would authorize the minor to be taken into temporary custody under limited circumstances.

Children aren’t being arrested or charged with prostitution because they cannot legally consent to sexual activity. The revision of Bill 1322 is fair and will protect children who experience violence and exploitation by providing them with a safe place to stay while the pimps are taken care of, ensuring the child’s safety and health are cared for.

Before the revision California punished the victims, but that all changes in 2017.

Many think child prostitution is uncommon, but 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. This statistic starts in our neighborhoods.

SB 1322 is a step in the right direction for our communities. The revision of SB 1322 will help protect the children of California.

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Danyeal Escobar is 16 years old and a junior at Edison High School. She loves to capture memories through photographs. She’s a dreamer of food, a sky enthusiast, a secret princess and the future owner of a red panda (or maybe she’ll settle for a cute dog). She plans to continue her passion for writing and photography in college. Danyeal hopes to one day write for a major cosmetic or fashion company’s blog, like her cousin who inspires her.