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Bill to legalize prostitution looks for more support


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There's quite a bit of stuff being brought up in Hawaii again lately from Civil Unions this session and now the idea/talk of legalizing prostitution next session perhaps. It's good to see that are people out there that are not afraid to bring these issues to the table even though they are not very popular.

Bill to legalize prostitution looks for more support

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

The idea may not catch on this session, but a bill to legalize some prostitution in the Islands has the backing of at least 14 lawmakers and many women's rights advocates.

Supporters say they mainly want to start debate of the sensitive topic and explore ways to offer alternatives to decades of selling sex on Honolulu streets. The proposal has the endorsement of 13 co-sponsors in the state House, one sponsor in the Senate and the influential Hawaii Women's Coalition, whose members represent more than 200 organizations.

The prostitution decriminalization bill would permit sexual favors traded in private, and it would designate areas where prostitution is allowed.

"In general, talking about sex is scary for people," said the Rev. Pam Vessels of the United Church of Christ in Kalaupapa on Moloka'i. "We need to talk about it, not get excited about it and throw rocks at each other. Do we really care if consenting adults are engaging in sexual acts for money?"

Although it appears unlikely the bill will get a hearing in either the House or the Senate this session, its advocates hope more lawmakers will support it in time. A resolution may be introduced soon asking the Legislative Reference Bureau to study the proposal.

"It's one of those bills you do it for public dialogue instead of trying to get it passed," said Rep. Bob Herkes, D-5th (Ka'u, S. Kona), one of the bill's co-sponsors. "It helps to find out what the public thinks, and this is the way to do it."

Prostitutes have a hard time getting help if they're hounded by the police in addition to facing the dangers of their profession, said Tracy Ryan, head of the Hawai'i Libertarian Party.

Extensive arrest records make it difficult for them to find legitimate jobs when they want to get out of prostitution, she said.

Laws call for a $500 fine and up to 30 days jail time for soliciting prostitution.

"I've only found a handful of people who think prostitutes should go to prison, even though many people are concerned about prostitution," Ryan said. "By criminalizing them, you're only adding to their problems."

Honolulu police made 339 prostitution arrests in 2005 and 255 in 2004, accounting for less than 1 percent of total arrests, according to annual crime reports. Statistics for 2006 are not available.

Maj. Kevin Lima, commander of the narcotics and vice division, said he opposes the decriminalization bill because it would be more difficult for police to investigate child prostitution if paying for sex between adults were legal.

"There are some unintended consequences of that bill," Lima said. "It's probably not a good idea."

Honolulu has a long history of prostitution dating back to the whaling days, to the red light districts of Chinatown during World War II and streetwalkers in neighborhoods surrounding Waikiki.

Prostitution remains a significant problem today in part because Hawai'i is such a popular tourist destination, Lima said.

These women should be helped out of their situation, but legitimizing them isn't the answer, said Kelly Rosati, a spokeswoman for the Hawai'i Catholic church and executive director for the Hawai'i Family Forum.

"Oftentimes the point at which a woman is arrested is where help begins," Rosati said. "This is exploitation, and the woman deserves to be helped out of this industry."

But others argue that the real issue is that home and business owners don't want prostitutes in their communities, and they don't get much help in jail, said Meda Chesney-Lind, a University of Hawai'i criminologist and author of "The Female Offender."

"Maybe we can start having a conversation about being smart on crime instead of just tough," she said. "We don't criminalize other forms of victimization, so I don't think we should do that for prostitution."


THE PROPOSAL: A bill would legalize some prostitution in Hawai'i, including permitting sexual favors traded in private and designating areas where prostitution is allowed.

STATUS: It's unlikely the bill will get a hearing this session, but it has the endorsement of 13 co-sponsors in the House, one sponsor in the Senate and the influential Hawai'i Women's Coalition, whose members represent more than 200 organizations.

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Well, i think its an okay idea because it frees police up to concentrate on more serious crimes in the city. If the sex is between to consenting adults and that they are dumb enough to pay for it, then sure why not. However, i'd imagine that the city would probably try to find a way to tax it! haha :P

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