San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution
Final Report 1996
VII. Youth Issues and Policy
Youth are involved in prostitution for a wide variety of reasons, similar to adults. These reasons are compounded because of legal restrictions based on age, especially in employment and housing. Because of labor laws, established to "protect" those under the age of eighteen, most youth are not legally able to work more than part time. For young people who are living on their own and can legally work only part time at a job that pays minimum wage and offers little in terms of skill development and advancement, there are few opportunities for survival other than working in the underground economy, which includes sex work.
Many young people are forced to survive on their own to escape violent and abusive family situations. The dangers they face on the streets may be less than the dangers they face at home. While on their own, there is a total lack of affordable housing options for those under the age of eighteen, unless they are emancipated. In order to become emancipated, however, it is necessary to prove a legal means of supporting oneself. Recommendations below emphasize strategies to reduce the harm done by legal restrictions and an arcane system of "child care." 75 ( See Appendix D: Testimony: Youth Policy Statement.)
While we realize that our society has a long way to go to adequately address civil and human rights for young people, and young women in particular because of the disparity in social services for youth, 76 and that limited financial resources compete for the most effective interventions, the Task Force submits the following recommendations:
The Task Force recommends that the City focus on independent housing, job development and specific shelter alternatives for incarcerated young women. 77 Provision of services, not detention, should be the first priority for youth. Therefore, the Task Force recommends that the City:
I. Establish a mandate to preserve and expand youth employment. Young people need to be paid a living wage ($8.00 - $10.00 an hour, minimum) and have opportunities to develop job skills beyond the service economy. Equal opportunity programs should also include youth.
II. Ensure that services available for adults are also available for youth. 78 These should include housing, health care including pre-natal care and abortions, rape and abuse counseling, drug treatment and detox programs, methadone programs, needle exchange, and self-defense training . Accessibility of services should not be dependent on parental consent.
III. Increase the number of Public Defenders available to people under the age of eighteen.
IV. Increase services available to young women in order to end the gender disparity in social services for youth .79
V. Increase the number of shelter beds for young women in the juvenile court system who cannot be released to parents or guardians. 80
VI. Increase funding for peer-run support groups for youth in the sex industry, including transitional services and programs to provide alternatives.
VII. Youth with experience in prostitution or survival sex should be employed as peer educators, consultants and speakers.
VIII. The San Francisco Youth Commission should investigate the efficacy of child labor laws, age of consent laws, and emancipation. Youth with experience in sex work should be included in the Commission. City departments need to be responsive to the recommendations of this board.
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