The Prostitution Quandary

Federal Courthouse Providence State representatives David Segal and Edith Ajello have written a thoughtful piece in today’s Providence Journal laying out their reasons for voting against H5044, which would criminalize all prostitution (including that which occurs indoors). They lay out the realities that might actually cause this proposed legislation to weaken efforts to prosecute the traffickers while sending victims of trafficking to prison. Segal and Ajello support separate legislation, citing the director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Section of the Civil Rights Division, Robert Moosy who has noted. . .

. . . that trafficking victims usually fear law enforcement precisely because they worry they will be prosecuted for prostitution. The proposed law would legitimate and deepen this fear, and lessen the likelihood that women would approach the authorities.

In May the Providence Journal covered the general assembly’s fight over the controversial bill, identifying state and local police departments as supporters while,

Opponents of the bill generally fall into two categories: those such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes what it views as an intrusion into peoples’ privacy, and those such as members of Brown University Students Against Human Trafficking, who say that criminalizing indoor prostitution will mean prosecuting prostitutes, who they view as victims.

4 thoughts on “The Prostitution Quandary”

  1. Yep, but a lot of the policymakers are stuck in a bubble, and don’t get that this isn’t a popular bill. (They mean more than nothing, but I’m not gonna be the one to assert that those Projo polls are scientific.)

  2. Also, Dave, don’t forget that there’s almost 2/3rd majority opposition to this law from the RI population as a whole. Rhode Islanders understand that the legal indoor industry boosts the hospitality, tourism, and commercial real-estate markets and employs at least a thousand people, in addition to keeping prostitutes off of our streets.

    Most Rhode Islanders know that this isn’t a choice between ‘prostitution’ or ‘no prostitution’, it’s about making it work -for- or -against- our state’s overall economic viability.

  3. What I find most interesting is that the exemption for ‘victims’ of trafficking and coercion from prosecution means that we’re making a law to protect women that -only- punishes the ones who are working willfully. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Why should an escort who pays taxes and works willfully (like the couple who positively identified the ‘Craigslist Killer’ in Warwick, or the lawyer-by-day escort) be prevented from working legally and to the benefit of the state?

    Also, saying that outlawing indoor prostitution will ‘rout out traffickers’ is already -proven- to be a false argument, since we can see that other states which already have the laws are still ‘havens’ for traffickers, according to the experts. California hasn’t had a single sex-trafficking conviction yet, and they’re 35-times our population.

    I think more than anything, what this and the ‘underage stripper OMG!’ furor call for is not criminalization, but comprehensive regulation that assures that workers are doing their jobs willfully, safely, not under duress, and in accordance with tax and existing labor regulations.

  4. matthew lawrence

    You learn something new every day. Like today, I just learned that there’s two A’s in quandary. Crazy!

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