Human Trafficking And The Election 2012: Part 2 – Proposition 35

In part 1 of our special on ‘Human Trafficking and the Election 2012,’ we focused on the TVPA and outlined its implications. In part 2, we shift our gaze onto regional legislation, specifically in California and Proposition 35, the California Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act). In the limited space below it is impossible to explain all the complexities of those for and against the Act. However we hope presenting both sides will inspire further research into the initiative. 

In short, Proposition 35 proposes the following measures to combat human trafficking, and specifically sexual exploitation, in California:

  • Greater sentences for those convicted of human trafficking
  • Requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders
  • Requires them to divulge their internet access and identities used online
  • Uses the increased fines payed from convicted human traffickers to help afford services to victims 
  • Proposes law enforcement training regarding the issue become mandatory
  • Prohibits the use of evidence against the victim that they engaged in sexual acts 

According to, the official website supporting the Proposition, the initiative “will strengthen penalties against human trafficking and improve Megan’s Law [the law stating law enforcement must make information on registered sex offenders available to the public]  against online predators.” This is done through the careful monitoring of those convicted of sex trafficking and sex offenders’ internet presence. Along with increases in fines and sentences, with specific focus on sex traffickers, the aim is to work towards stamping out sexual exploitation that begins online and deter many from engaging in acts that may be considered sexual exploitation, such as prostitution. 

Daphne Phung, Founder of California Against Slavery, and an ardent supporter of Proposition 35, indicates the act is ‘our opportunity to say we will not tolerate the sexual abuse of women and children in California.’ It is clear from the proposed measures and strong rhetoric, that Proposition 35 proposes significant change in the current law against sexual exploitation. 

In essence, arguments against Proposition 35 presume that it wrongly classifies increased prosecution as innately linked to stemming the issue of sexual exploitation. However, this criminalizing approach, it is argued, fails to create a more victim-centered approach. In addition, because the law would be passed as a ballot measure, there is concern among politicians and professionals in the field that these measures will be passed into law based on voter emotion and not a thorough legislative process. By circumventing the legislative process, which includes publics hearings, testimony from professionals in the field and public comment many think that the bill is being forced on the criminal justice system without due diligence. 

Retired SJPD Lt. John Vanek, who also recently stepped as the head of the Federally funded San Jose anti-human trafficking task force, counters the specifics of the proposition on his blogBefore we embrace the CASE act” he begins, “We owe it to the enslaved to examine it closely, to make sure it has their best interests at heart, and that it fits into the anti-trafficking systems so many have worked so hard to build.” 

A variety of arguments and commentary against the Proposition from anti-trafficking practitioners and other editorials, found here, focus on detailed implications that add to the claim of Proposition 35 not being victim-centered enough. For example, fines paid by sex traffickers do not go directly to the victim. Anti-trafficking organizations may receive more money, but the argument turns to whether the trafficked need financial resources more to make up for wages lost or damages. Focusing on sex trafficking and the sex registry, detractors of the Proposition also argue, does little to stop the large amount of labor trafficking that occurs within California. And they also question whether two-hour mandatory law enforcement training regarding the issue is truly enough. 

It creates an interesting debate that will continue up until election day on November 6th. However, before you go to the polls, please join the conversation at this year’s Global Forum, where, among others, Daphne Phung and Lt. Vanek will discuss these issues surrounding Proposition 35. Whether for it or against it, it promises to be a lively event. 

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