Maine’s Landmark Law Penalizes Sex Buyers, Pimps, and Decriminalizes Victims in Prostitution

NCOSE Press Statement logo

WASHINGTON, DC (July 11, 2023) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) praised the State of Maine for approving two landmark measures, one (LD 1435) that decriminalizes people exploited in prostitution but maintains or increases penalties against sex buyers and a companion bill (LD 1436) that facilitates record sealing for prostitution-related charges. This is the first time in U.S. history that such a legal approach to prostitution has been approved by a state legislature.

“Maine is leading the way in positively reforming laws concerning prostitution – its new law affirms that the vast majority of people in prostitution should be viewed as victims rather than lawbreakers and rightly punishes sex buyers/pimps. This ‘Equality Model’-style bill has been successful in other nations such as Sweden, Norway, France and Canada, as it puts accountability for human rights violations directly on the exploiters,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO, National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

“Partial decriminalization helps prevent sex trafficking, as seen in other parts of the world. According to a Norwegian government commissioned study, partial decriminalization ‘reduced human trafficking and has not increased violence against women.’ Prostitution is inherently harmful, and this law takes a hard stance that Maine will protect those who are being prostituted from those who are exploiting them.

“These measures will also ensure that those being prostituted are not punished for what often amounts to acts of survival or functions of addiction. LD 1436 starts to build a pathway for those who want to leave the sex trade.

“We are grateful to Governor Mills for listening to survivors of manipulation, abuse, trafficking, and addiction who advocated for this legal paradigm shift regarding prostitution. We thank Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt for her hard work in supporting this solution for survivors,” Hawkins said. 

About National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)   
Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography.   

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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