Bills to decriminalize prostitution have been introduced in Maine and Washington, and Rhode Island and New York are preparing to address decriminalization legislation soon, according to The New York Times.
“This is about the oldest profession, and understanding that we haven’t been able to deter or end it, in millennia,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). “So I think it’s time to confront reality.”
Back in February, at a rally with the pro-prostitution group DecrimNY, Ramos asserted, “This is one of the most taboo conversations for us to be having as a society, and we are not going to stop.”
The pending bill in New York is not expected to pass, according to The Times, but the issue of prostitution decriminlaization is making some inroads.
For instance, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a Democratic presidential contender, supports “sex work” decriminalization.
“When you’re talking about consensual adults, I think that, yes, we should really consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed,” said Harris.
Democratic presidential contenders Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) also support ending the criminalization of prostitution.
Whereas legalization means the regulation of the prostitution industry at the state level, decriminalization makes the sale of sex indistinguishable from any other industry.
A 2016 Marist poll found that 49% of Americans supported prostitution being legal; 60% said they opposed prosecution of those arrested for sex work.
Opponents of decriminalization argue that prostitution is inherently a harmful and dangerous industry that can only be contained by outlawing it.
Ane Mathieson, program specialist at the domestic violence support organization “Sanctuary for Families,” denounced the decriminalization proposals outright. “Prostitution is inherently violent,” she said. “Sex buying promotes sex trafficking, promotes pimping and organized crime, and sexual exploitation of children.”
Many prostitutes are trapped in grinding poverty for myriad reasons and especially because of alcohol and drug addiction, according to the Urban Institute. In addition, 36% of prostitutes in eight American cities reported abusive or violent customers,
Female prostitutes in Colorado have a seven-time higher mortality rate than the most dangerous male occupation in the 1980s, reported the American Journal of Epidemiology in its 2004 article "Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women."