Seattle won’t decriminalize prostitution, but is trying to eliminate demand

Aug 10, 2015, 11:14 AM | Updated: 2:15 pm

While Amnesty International may begin advocating for decriminalization of prostitution worldwide, Seattle’s city attorney prefers a different approach.

Amnesty International recently announced that it has drafted a policy that will advocate for human rights for sex workers. The proposal reportedly aims for decriminalization of sex work, such as prostitution.

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross ran the idea past Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who said that, locally, law enforcement isn’t going that far. In fact, decriminalizing locally isn’t preferable, and Holmes referred to the city and county’s approach to the issue.

“Previously, under our existing laws, it was typical that arrests and prosecutions for prostitution would be about 60 percent female to 40 percent to 30 percent male,” Holmes told Ross. “In other words, going after the prostituted women at a rate of approximately twice as the johns or the sex buyers.”

But in recent years, the city has turned its focus on the customers, rather than prostitutes.

“We recognize that, in most instances, the women in the life are victims themselves. They are not there by free choice,” Holmes said. “It’s the myth of “Pretty Women,” starring Julia Roberts that persists in all this.”

Holmes said that most of the prostitution he comes by has to do with victimization, but he did tell Ross that there are some who engage the profession independently and are not victims.

“The notion that there is free, consenting exchange in [sex] commerce … if those really exist, prosecutor Dan Satterberg and I are not interested in them. They have nothing to fear from us,” he said. “The only interest is for women engaged in the trade, that they be offered ways out. If they are being harassed by a pimp, we give them protection. If they need resources and assistance to get out of the life, we help them. We recognize they are victims.”

“We also recognize that the trafficking that is going on in this city, the City of Seattle, involving in many cases, very, very young girls, is being driven by the demand side,” Holmes said. “You have here prosecutors exercising their discretion to attack the demand side.”

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Seattle won’t decriminalize prostitution, but is trying to eliminate demand