By Guy Page
A bill to create a study group “for the purpose of modernizing Vermont’s prostitution laws” was introduced Wednesday into the Vermont House. It alleges state law prohibiting prostitution is steeped in racism.
H.268 is sponsored by Representatives Selene Colburn of Burlington, House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad of Moretown, Kate Donnally of Hyde Park, John Killacky of South Burlington, Emilie Kornheiser of Brattleboro, Jim Masland of Thetford, Bill Notte of Rutland City, Barbara Rachelson of Burlington, Taylor Small of Winooski, and Rebecca White of Hartford. Grad, Colburn, Donnally, Notte and Rachelson all sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill has been sent.
A virtually identical bill aimed at legalizing prostitution in Vermont, H.568, passed the House last year but was stalled in the Senate.
The bill alleges that current prostitution laws are rooted in white supremacy: “The majority of Vermont’s laws on prostitution were adopted more than 100 years ago and have remained largely unchanged since that time. … A section of law codified in 1910 pursuant to ‘An act to prevent what is commonly known as the ‘white slave’ traffic,’ prohibits transportation of persons into and out of the State not only for the purpose of prostitution but also for ‘any immoral purpose.’ Historically, these types of laws were used to prosecute men of color for having relationships with white women.”
H.569, a companion bill to H.568, maintained penalties for coerced prostitution but legalized consensual prostitution. Critics of legalization say the practice is inherently oppressive and that few women freely choose prostitution as a career choice.
H.268 also would provide limited immunity for people reporting information about crimes when the information was gained while engaged in prostitution.
For more information on human trafficking in Vermont, contact New Englanders Against Sexual Violence.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.