States Try to Reform Prostitution Laws—for Better and Worse – By Elizabeth Nolan Brown (Reason) / Mar 17 2023
New bills in six states showcase some right and wrong ways to help sex workers, from full decriminalization to ramping up penalties for prostitution customers.
State lawmakers in at least six states have recently introduced bills related to sex work. Some of these measures would decriminalize prostitution, while others would stipulate stronger criminal penalties for prostitution.
States considering the former have the right idea. Decriminalizing prostitution has been linked to an array of positive outcomes, from lower rates of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections overall to less violence against sex workers. It means fewer law enforcement resources wasted on policing consensual activity between adults, freeing up time and money for stopping and solving serious crimes. It’s supported by organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, and the World Health Organization. It’s also in line with what sex workers around the world say they need.
Lawmakers in Hawaii, New York, and Vermont have recently introduced measures that would decriminalize prostitution for both sex workers and their customers. And a group of Rhode Island lawmakers are pushing measures to protect sex workers and prostitution customers who report crimes.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Massachusetts and Tennessee have introduced legislation that would provide some protections for sex workers while simultaneously strengthening or leaving alone laws related to people who pay for sex.