Bill to decriminalize prostitution/sex work shelved at the state capitol

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE (WVUE) - Outside the state capitol building a rally took place in favor of House Bill 67 by Representative Mandie Landry which would decriminalize prostitution in Louisiana.

“Sex workers are going to keep organizing, we’re going to keep supporting one another. We’re going to keep fighting the system that criminalizes us,” said Amira Barakat Al-Baladi who was a rally participant.

Following the rally hours of testimony were given before state lawmakers who sit on the House Criminal Justice Committee which held a hearing on the legislation.

Landry also discussed the intent of her legislation.

“This bill would decriminalize prostitution,” said Landry. “What this bill would do is basically just stop arresting people over the age of 18 who engage in consensual sexual behavior, sexual activities, excuse me, for money,” said Landry.

One after another those in favor of the bill took a seat at the witness table.

Lakeesha Harris said she is a former sex worker. She now works for Women with a Vision, based in New Orleans.

“I am the Director of Reproductive Health and Justice at Women with A Vision. I am a taxpayer in the state of Louisiana and a homeowner, this is where I’ve chosen to make my home, and most importantly, I am a second-generation sex worker, former sex worker. Sex work allowed me the ability to take care of my six children,” said Harris.

Ariel Quinn also addressed the lawmakers.

“I began doing various forms of sex work six years ago because I sought a job that allowed me the time to aid my community and the flexibility to work on art,” Quinn said.

She said it is time the laws are changed.

“We’re asking you to repeal these 13 laws and decriminalize our work. These laws that no doubt were created to protect us are in fact actively harming us. We are here today to tell you that we don’t need saving by anyone or anything except these 13 laws,” she said.

Some said having prostitution be a crime exposes sex workers to violence and abuse.

“I was leaving my legal sex work job, stripping, to do illegal sex work known as escorting or full-service sex work,” said Al-Baladi who stated she works as a stripper. “He raped me because he knew he could get away with it. I was willing to consensually have sex with him.”

Opponents showed up as well to fight the bill.

Sex work involves more than prostitution advocates say.

Pastor John Raymond leads New Horizon Church in St. Tammany Parish.

“What legal prostitution does is create a world where women and men sell their bodies to meet their financial needs but legalizing commercial sex only creates greater financial problems and emotional scars,” said Raymond at the hearing.

Sheri Lochridge is with Covenant House in New Orleans and she spoke against the bill.

“We respectfully ask you today to say no to this bill that would place far too many youths and marginalized populations at risk of being the next victim of human trafficking,” Lochridge said.

Dr. Will Hall is with the La. Baptist Office of Public Policy.

“If you legalize prostitution it is going to increase human trafficking,” Hall stated.

After some legislators on the committee vocally objected to the bill being sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration, Landry agreed to voluntarily defer it. That is a move to keep it from being killed by legislators on the panel.

“I will ask to voluntarily defer it for the sole reason that I think there is a chance we may want to ask for a study resolution,” Landry said.

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