Bill aiming to decriminalize sex work ends in committee, sparks debate

Louisiana News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Representative Mandie Landry says it’s time the ‘world’s oldest profession‘ is removed as a crime.

On Tuesday, Landry’s bill that would repeal “certain prostitution-related offenses,” is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.

The bill would decriminalize several statutes surrounding sex work. Rep. Landry said she was approached by a group called women with a vision on the issue of sex workers fearing getting help they often need for fear of being arrested.

“Many are shut out of services and this is why we come before you today to decriminalize sex work because what people deserve and what we have recognized especially in the pandemic is people deserve resources to be kept and held in their community, to not be stigmatized and shamed,” Said Lakeesha Harris, a Reproductive Justice and Sexual Health Program Manager for Women with a Vision.

Several current and former sex workers shared their stories of their experience in the profession. When they find themselves the victim of a crime, often rape or assault, they are worried they’ll be arrested admitting to being a sex worker. Sex workers also often do not get the healthcare they need to prevent being discriminated against or reported.

“Sex workers often tell us that sex work is not inherently violent. It’s the criminalization that places them at greatest risk. The needs to avoid arrest of both sex workers and their clients means that street based workers have to move to isolated areas,” said A’Niya Robinson, a Lawyer with the ACLU of Louisiana

Those against the bill shared concerns of the bill could make it harder to stop traffickers and could make Louisiana a sex tourism spot.

“The legislation is framed as an effort to support and protect sex workers but it does much more. In fact the bill repeals several key provisions that prevent exploitation including pimping, purchasing sex, and brothel operating,” said Caitlen Macias with World Without Exploitation.

Those who testified in favor stated decriminalizing sex work emphasized the bill is only covering consensual trade of services between adults.

“With sex work this is the first time we’ve been able to educate y’all on this and I know people have a lot of questions overall from this bill but I’m glad to have the opportunity,” Rep. Landry said.

In the end, Rep. Landry was asked to defer her bill, to which she agreed.

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