An organized effort in New Hampshire to remove all laws controlling prostitution was defeated this week.
This issue first began in 2016, when House Bill 1614 to fully decriminalize prostitution was introduced into the New Hampshire House of Representatives by Representatives Elizabeth Edwards, Amanda Bouldin, and Carol McGuire. This bill failed to pass.
But these organized sexploitation industry advocates weren’t willing to give up just yet.
They began seeking state authorization for a biased study to ensure a recommendation supporting the removal of all laws criminalizing prostitution in New Hampshire. The proposal for this study was introduced as House Bill 287.
The text of the bill outlining the study called for input only from organizations known to support full decriminalization of prostitution. Leading pro-organized sexual exploitation organizations like Amnesty International, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, and the Open Society were named as entities whose “research” was to be consulted. The legislation calling for the study failed to recognize the importance of input from survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, service providers, faith-based groups, community groups, and law enforcement personnel who investigate sex trafficking.
The blatantly stilted focus of the study made it clear that its goal was not to accurately assess the “positive and negative results” of fully decriminalizing prostitution. Its goal was to pave the way toward legitimizing the highly exploitative sex trade.
That’s why Vice President of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Lisa Thompson, joined Kelly Roy-Williams, Founding Director of Illuminating Love Ministries, and Dr. Donna M. Hughes, Professor at the University of Rhode Island, in writing to members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and other members of New Hampshire’s legislative leadership.
They contacted these leaders to explain that fully decriminalizing prostitution means “that all laws controlling the buying and selling of sex will be removed from the law books, making prostitution legal…Because commercial sex will be legal, pimps and ‘sex workers’ will be able to freely advertise prostitution services. Pimps will be able to openly recruit women and girls into prostitution, without fear of legal repercussions. If that happens, New Hampshire’s Employment Security office could suggest to unemployed women that they accept ‘jobs’ in the sex industry, making prostitution a job like any other.” Additionally, full decriminalization of prostitution would make New Hampshire a destination state for sex buyers and the increased crime that comes with it.
A survivor in New Hampshire, said this about the proposal to decriminalize prostitution:
“Please do not consider the decriminalization of prostitution. The law is a teacher. So-called sex work is dehumanizing and brutal. In my experience, buyers used me as an implement for their pleasure, often violent and sickening . . . . I believe decriminalization further erodes societal respect for the innate dignity of each person. Please protect people.”
And so Lisa Thompson didn’t stop at writing New Hampshire political influencers. She also reached out to local groups and individuals to help create a grassroots campaign against this harrowing proposal. Other groups including World Without Exploitation joined in the campaign and organized this incredible letter from prostitution survivors which was shared with state legislators in New Hampshire.
It is vital for advocates of sexual justice to join together with survivors of prostitution in speaking out. We know that sexploitation is nobody’s job.
With the combined efforts of NCOSE, survivors, academics, World Without Exploitation, local leaders, many New Hampshire officials heard our message and the bill was prevented from continuing with a vote of 12-8.
Without intervention from survivors, experts and advocates like Lisa Thompson, Kelly Roy-Williams, and Dr. Donna M. Hughes there is no way to know which direction that vote would have gone.
This is an important victory in our fight for a world free from sexploitation!