For years, we’ve been told that prostitution exists in mainly poor countries of the world, and it is not something we see or hear about in our regions. In reality, it is happening all over the country, and a group of lawmakers in state of Vermont is pushing to decriminalize it. Today, on the federal level prostitution is illegal in almost every state, including Vermont, where it is a misdemeanor. Currently, sex work is legal in a state of Nevada only, where it’s permitted in licensed brothels in eight counties.
Rep. Selene Colburn, P-Burlington is asking "Does consensual sex between adults on any terms need to be criminalized?" She has introduced a new bill supporting three other Vermont women lawmakers supporting a position that decriminalization should help sex workers to be safe, and prevent them from becoming a victim of human trafficking. "If sex workers of any gender aren't afraid of prosecution if they come forward with concerns about more coercive conditions, they're going to be much more willing to come forward," Colburn said.
Another proposed bill would give sex workers a protection in case they have to come forward to police with information about a crime. This ‘good Samaritan law’ will give sex workers protection without having to fear prosecution for their work. Advocates of this bill state that the current law prevent it from happening. The other very important point that must be taken into consideration is health, and STD infections spread. World Health Organization (WHO), says that decriminalizing sex work could help control of health of workers and clients as well as lead to a reduction in new HIV infections.
"There have been many studies that show for sex workers, it cuts down on violence, it increases public health outcomes," Colburn said.
At this time, there has been a nationwide movement to push for the decriminalization of sex work, so other US states are moving forward with this discussion.
When several US states have legalized marijuana use, the first step they took was a vote to decriminalize it. What is a difference between decriminalizing and legalizing? In the case of prostitution in Vermont, decriminalization means there will be no charges brought if someone is caught engaging in prostitution or arrests made (basically meaning that there will be no punishment in Vermont), but there will be no law on the books proclaiming that prostitution is legal.
Changing the laws around the buying and selling of sex is an uphill battle around the country, and so far no state besides Nevada, has accepted this modification. Another democratic state proposed to decriminalize prostitution. In New York, where a decriminalization bill was introduced last year, advocates are pushing for a repeal of criminal penalties for prostitution. Nina Luo represents a Decrim NY, a group working to decriminalize the sex trades in New York City and in the state of New York. A proposal to decriminalize the buying and selling of sex was proposed in Washington, D.C., and the same content in Massachusetts and Maine in recent years have not had grip.
The question is: "Is there a reason that we need to criminalize adult consensual sex between people on any terms?" said Colburn.
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