She’d been deceived and manipulated by pimps. She’d been abused and raped by sex buyers.
But when the police came, she was arrested. And her exploiters went home.
Far too often, victimized persons bear the brunt of prostitution arrests, while those who exploit them hide in the shadows. But this week brought a historic victory.
In a trailblazing move, Maine has become the first U.S. state to decriminalize prostituted persons while increasing criminal penalties on some sex buyers.
Maine is Leading the Way in Positive Reform of Prostitution Laws!
Over the last month, Maine’s state legislature passed two landmark bills both introduced by State Representative Lois Galgay Reckitt. The first, LD 1435, recognizes the fundamentally exploitative nature of prostitution by decriminalizing prostituted persons while maintaining criminal penalties against sex buyers, pimps, and brothel-keepers and increasing penalties for engaging in commercial sexual exploitation with a minor or a person with a mental disability.
The second measure, LD 1436, facilitates sealing records for prostitution charges and commits the state to increase exit services for prostituted persons who want to leave the sex trade.
Tricia Grant, a local survivor of sexual exploitation, said:
“Today, I am so proud to live here in Maine … This legislation is firmly rooted in anti-trafficking and acknowledges that arresting and revictimizing people for their own exploitation is not the solution. Rather, holding the exploiters and abusers accountable is the answer.”
Survivors of sex trafficking and abuse often find themselves in situations where they are wrongfully charged as criminals. Our laws must change to provide more reliable funding for programs that help survivors exit, restore, and heal. pic.twitter.com/4nX9jjISG9— National Center on Sexual Exploitation (@NCOSE) May 15, 2023
Partial Decriminalization Models Like Maine’s Have Been Successful in Other Parts of the World
The approach of decriminalizing and providing exit services to prostituted persons, while criminalizing sex buyers, pimps, and brothel-keepers, is known as “partial decriminalization”—or the Abolition Model, Equality Model, Nordic Model, or Swedish Model.
Partial decriminalization models have been successful in other nations like Sweden (1999), Norway (2009), Canada (2014), France (2016), Ireland (2017), and Israel (2020). The model has been shown to better support people exploited in the sex trade, while deterring exploiters and preventing sex trafficking.
According to a Norwegian government commissioned study, partial decriminalization ‘reduced human trafficking and has not increased violence against women.’
NCOSE congratulates Maine for being a national leader with this groundbreaking legislation. We warmly thank Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt for her hard work in supporting LD 1435 and 1436, and Governor Janet Mills for listening to survivors who advocated for this legal paradigm shift. We are also deeply grateful for our advocacy partners: the Jensen Project, Rights4Girls, and World Without Exploitation (WorldWE).