Louisiana state lawmaker proposes decriminalizing prostitution

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Rep. Mandie Landry says it's time the 'world's oldest profession' goes legit in Louisiana

Mandie Landry

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) – Sexual acts between consenting adults should remain just that, state Rep. Mandie Landry said, regardless of whether they involve a financial transaction. She said she will author a bill in the Louisiana Legislature that would do away with the state’s existing laws that outlaw prostitution.

“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,” said Landry, a Democrat from New Orleans. “If two people engage in a relationship in their own home, whether they exchange money or not, it’s between them.”

Existing laws against human trafficking, rape and sexual assault are not impacted in the proposal, Landry said. Prostitution involving minors will remain illegal because minors cannot give consent, she added.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams said he was familiar with Landry’s proposal but did not take a specific stance on it. He said he supports a criminal justice approach that targets the individuals behind forced sexual labor, rather than its victims.

“If this piece of legislation can allow us to be more targeted about human trafficking, about sexual assault, about homicides, then it has a very real value,” Williams said.

Critics of full decriminalization of prostitution have raised fears that it will allow pimps and purveyors to go unpunished. Landry said cases against sex traffickers would be more successful if her proposal becomes law because victims would no longer be treated as criminals themselves and be more willing to assist prosecutors.

The New Orleans chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America issued a statement Wednesday in support of Landry’s proposal.

“We all consume the work of sex workers, and these workers deserve fair compensation and freedom from fear of criminalization,” the statement said, in part.

The organization Women with a Vision marked International Sex Workers Rights Day on March 3 with a statement calling for the decriminalization of prostitution.

“We stand with sex workers in their right to labor without harm, their right to economic access, their right to a healthy working environment, and their right to engage in consensual sexual labor,” Deon Haywood, the group’s executive director, said in the statement.

Landry introduced a similar version of her proposal in 2020 but then sidelined it once the COVID-19 pandemic forced state lawmakers to prioritize other matters. The 2021 legislative session begins April 12.

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