Prostitution is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. In most of the United States, sex work is unregulated, thus denying rights that accrue to other workers. With sex work criminalized, workers are reluctant to report crimes committed against them. Sex trafficking is more pervasive than many people care to acknowledge. According to the World Population Review, the United States is one of the highest-ranking nations in the world in terms of human trafficking, which includes both forced labor and sex trafficking. Statistically, the victims of sex trafficking are female, while the perpetrators and clientele are largely male.
But the “world’s oldest profession” may be in for a change as far as its legality in Louisiana is concerned. After millennia of being looked down upon, including by those who engage in its services, sex work could attain a status of legitimacy. Things may finally be looking up for sex workers.
Right on time for International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3rd, New Orleans District 91 State Representative Mandie Landry has proposed a new bill decriminalizing prostitution in Louisiana.
In an interview for WDSU, Landry said, “The younger generation, people my age and younger, don’t understand at all how the government could ever enter your bedroom and tell you what to do.” Adding, “If two people engage in a relationship in their own home, whether they exchange money or not, it’s between them.”
The bill, which will be presented to the Baton Rouge legislature on April 12th, would allow prostitution in the state while continuing to criminalize actual sex trafficking.
House Bill No. 67 explains that the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates, relative to the rest of the western democracies, stating that, “…America’s incarceration rate is five times higher.” In response to that, the bill states, “To begin a large-scale decarceration effort to reshape the American legal system by dramatically reducing the incarcerated population, decriminalization of sex work would need to be done.”
Groups that have encouraged the decriminalization of prostitution range from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the case of the WHO, they explain that prostitution is 30 times more likely to result in HIV. However, “Sex workers face high levels of stigma and criminalization almost everywhere, and modelling studies indicate that decriminalizing sex work could lead to a 46% reduction in new HIV infections in sex workers over 10 years; eliminating sexual violence against sex workers could lead to a 20% reduction in new HIV infections.”
Decriminalization has had other benefits as well, according to Vox. In Germany, a nation in which prostitution is fully legal, sex trafficking convictions decreased. In the Netherlands, sexual abuse, rape, and even drug crimes decreased as well.
Landry likely has an uphill battle for herself in a state as conservative as Louisiana, but it’s certainly a sign that the times are changing.
Are you a victim of trafficking in need of help? If so, go to https://humantraffickinghotline.org
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