Hawaii lawmakers are considering decriminalizing prostitution in the state after the speaker of the House introduced a bill that would also legalize buying sex and acting as a pimp.
The proposal also would end a state law that says police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations.
Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she is trying to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women are over represented in the sex trade and therefore disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.
House Speaker Joseph Souki said in an interview that he does not have a position on the bill and he introduced it as a favor for Ryan.
“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.
But long-time anti-sex trafficking advocate Kathryn Xian said legalizing the selling, promoting or buying of sex would make it harder to police 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.”
Asked about the part of the bill that strikes language preventing police from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Souki said: “No, again I have nothing to say about the bill.”
Hawaii has an unusual history with prostitution investigations. Until 2014, it was legal for police officers to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations, but state lawmakers changed that after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole in a story.
The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment about the bill.