Please write and/or call into members of a new House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in New Hampshire to study decriminalizing sex work!
Dear Friends, New Hampshire bill, HB 287, introduced earlier this year proposes a study on the decriminalization of sex work. A Subcommittee has been set up for five members and they have a year to work on the study.
Background: Last year a bill was put forward in the legislature to decriminalize prostitution in NH. This is the only known bill proposing decriminalization in the US! The Subcommittee to study decriminalization is a direct result of that bill and an exciting opportunity to keep the debate on decriminalization moving and growing.
First meeting of Subcommittee is September 5: We are in touch with Elizabeth Edwards, one of the sponsors of HB 287. The first meeting of this Subcommittee is September 5. The committee hearing is open to anyone to attend. Campaigners for decriminalization including Bella Robinson of COYOTE/Rhode Island will be attending. Melanie Dante, a Pennsylvania advocate for sex workers and survivors, and Eris Vayle, both known well for the Philadelphia December 17th effort to de-escalate gender based violence, will also attend.
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The importance of making our voices heard: Anti-decriminalization forces are gearing up to try and influence the committee. Donna Hughes, an anti-sex work academic who led the effort to criminalize prostitution in Rhode Island, has been invited to attend the September 5 meeting. A Catholic Church bishop is also attending.
It is urgent that we inform the members of the Subcommittee why we support decriminalization. It would also be useful to send them articles that explain the difference between sex work and trafficking. Also important for committee members to see studies on the high costs to taxpayers of enforcing prostitution laws and the incalculable human cost of criminalization. We hope you will consider writing or calling Subcommittee members, and if at all possible attending the first or subsequent meetings. When the Subcommittee hears our views face-to-face, it makes a big difference. Letters, articles, phone calls also have a crucial impact. Some of us attended and spoke at a hearing last year on the bill to decriminalize sex work and we had a positive impact on House Criminal Justice committee members.
Some points to make in your letter may include that decriminalization would:
§ Increase safety as sex workers could work together and more easily report violence;
§ Enhance health as sex workers could more easily access services and wouldn’t be deterred from carrying condoms for fear that they will be used as evidence of prostitution;
§ Free up police time to focus on the investigation of violent crimes such as rape and domestic violence rather than the policing of consenting sex; § End criminal records which bar sex workers from getting other jobs. This is crucial for anyone who may want to leave the sex industry and is unable to. Impact of policing of prostitution
Though there is no evidence that decriminalizing prostitution attracts crime – in fact, it decreases crime, much as revoking prohibition reduced crime, criminalizationencourages police corruption. The major police abuse scandal in the Oakland/Bay Area of some 30 police taking advantage of and having sex with a young woman, including when she was underage, is the tip of the iceberg. The illegal status of sex work gives the police enormous powers over sex workers using the threat of arrest. One study showed that 14% of sex workers reported being threatened with arrest unless they have sex with a police officer and 8% reported being arrested after having sex with a police officer.
Impact of poverty: You may also want to raise that rising poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into prostitution, teenagers are trading sex for food. An aim of reducing prostitution would be better achieved by tackling poverty and providing resources.
Decriminalization works: New Zealand successfully decriminalized prostitution in 2003 and a government review showed positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.
Support for decriminalization: Many prominent organizations support the decriminalization of sex work including Amnesty International; UN AIDS; United Nations Development Program; World Health Organization; Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women; Human Rights Watch; United Nations Population Fund; The Lancet Medical Journal; Open Society Foundation. Please see below the list and emails/phone numbers of committee members to send your letters to or call.
Linn Opderbecke (603)742-4119
Action Alert issued by US PROStitutes Collective