Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that would decriminalize prostitution in the state.
The bill, introduced by House Speaker Joseph Souki, would also end a state law that states police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations, the Associated Press reports.
The bill, HB1533, specifies that it “repeals the penalties for consensual adult prostitution.”
Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she’s trying to convince lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women in the sex trade are disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.
“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.
Souki said he doesn’t have a position on the bill, but he introduced it as a favor to Ryan.
Kathryn Xian, a longtime anti-sex trafficking advocate, said legalizing the selling, promotion, or buying of sex would make it harder to prove violence and abuse in the industry.
“If this bill passes and everything was no crime whatsoever, then abuses against women and children would just shoot through the freaking roof,” Xian said. “It would be exponentially harder to prove violence in the industry. It would be almost impossible to prove any sort of labor abuse.”
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the bill, along with another bill to decriminalize marijuana, could be a way to reduce the prison population.