Sex work decriminalization bill will get committee vote

HB 287 is not about legalizing prostitution, according to sponsor

CONCORD – The bill to create a study committee looking into decriminalizing sex work, or prostitution, is expected to get a committee vote next week.

The bill, HB 287, seeks to establish a committee that would investigate decriminalizing sex work, not legalizing it, said Rep. Elizabeth Edwards, D-Manchester, one of the prime sponsors.

The bill has been in hearings in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which is scheduled to take up the bill for a vote on Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building. This is the second time the bill has gone through the committee process.

The bill initially gained a positive vote out of the committee last year, but was sent back by House leadership. Edwards has said that Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, opposed the measure. Talking to The Telegraph recently, Jasper said he is not a fan of the proposal.

“I don’t believe we should have a sex trade in New Hampshire, and I don’t think the vast majority of New Hampshire thinks so, either,” Jasper said.

The bill would create a committee that would investigate the issue, and make recommendations to the Legislature based on those findings. Edwards said decriminalizing sex work is something that is supported by Amnesty International, the World Health Organization and other organizations. Decriminalization would allow the men and women who are engaged in sex work to access better health care, and be able to go to police if they are assaulted in their work, free from fear of arrest.

Sex workers are vulnerable to abuse and rape and exploitation under the current legal status quo, Edwards said. Edwards said the bill in not about legalizing prostitution.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider the bill on Tuesday, during a 10 a.m. executive session.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or or @Telegraph_DF.