Is Prostitution Next to Be Decriminalized?
By Jesse McKinley, May 31, 2019
ALBANY — Marijuana has gone mainstream, casino gambling is everywhere and sports wagering is spreading. Could prostitution be next?
Lawmakers across the country are beginning to reconsider how to handle prostitution, as calls for decriminalization are slowly gaining momentum.
Decriminalization bills have been introduced in Maine and Massachusetts; a similar bill is expected to be introduced to the City Council in Washington D.C. in June; and lawmakers in Rhode Island held hearings in April on a proposal to study the impact of decriminalizing prostitution.
“This is about the oldest profession, and understanding that we haven’t been able to deter or end it, in millennia,” said Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens who is one of the plan’s backers. “So I think it’s time to confront reality.”
The New York legislation appears unlikely to pass in the coming months, but the idea of decriminalization has already amassed a growing coterie of prominent supporters, suggesting that it might continue to gain traction.
The debate is unquestionably polarizing in many circles, even among advocates for sex-trafficked and abused women who fear that creating a legal path for prostitution will not eliminate, but rather actually encourage, underground sex trafficking.
And decriminalization is already facing intense pushback in state capitals from opponents who call the measures naïve and potentially dangerous.
Still, the issue has crept into the Democratic Party’s nascent presidential campaign:
In late February, Senator Kamala Harris of California became the first candidate to endorse some manner of decriminalization, an idea also floated by another contender, the former Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper. Read more.
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