N.H. Lawmakers Weigh Decriminalizing Prostitution

Feb 1, 2016 3:42 PM PST

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire lawmakers are considering to decriminalize prostitution statewide.

Last week, the state Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard House Bill 1614-FN, sponsored by state Reps. Amanda Bouldin (D-Hillsborough), Carole McGuire (R-Merrimack) and Elizabeth Edwards (D-Hillsborough). 

According to language in the New Hampshire bill, the proposed statute “legalizes consensual sex between consenting adults and makes any solicitation of sexual contact involving a person under 18 years of age or through the use of force or intimidation a felony.”

The bill is supported by sex-worker rights groups such as Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE), Rhode Island chapter, the U.S. PROStitutes Collective and ESPLERP.

Last week, COYOTE RI Executive Director Bella Robinson testified before the New Hampshire Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in favor of the decriminalization bill.

"The main reason I want to see prostitution decriminalized is because it is the only harm reduction model proven to reduce violence and exploitation in the sex industry," she said. "It is crucial that sex workers can work together and share work space to ensure their safety."

“Many sex workers utilize third-party support staff to help keep them safe." But with current laws, these individuals "are legally classified as traffickers." 

"This is groundbreaking," ESPLERP President Maxine Doogan told Reason.com. "The criminalization of prostitution is a failed policy. The 'War on Sex' hasn't stopped anyone from buying or selling sex, but it has caused a lot of collateral damage, to poor women, women of color, and trans women.

“It’s about time that the government stopped intervening in what consenting adults do in private."

Doogan, president of the Erotic Services Providers Providers Legal Education and Research Project, or ESPLER Project, helped lead a challenge over the constitutionality of California’s anti-prostitution laws. That case continues in federal court.

Robinson discusses COYOTE RI’s stance about the bill in this video here.

Pictured: COYOTE RI Executive Director Bella Robinson

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