A coalition of Vermont lawmakers is pushing H630, a bill that would “repeal the prostitution laws that currently prohibit ‘indiscriminate sexual intercourse’ and consensual engagement in sex work for hire by adults (18 years old) while retaining strict prohibitions and felony criminal penalties for human trafficking of persons who are compelled through force, fraud or coercion to engage in sex work.”

In a related move, Burlington voters recently approved a charter change repealing anti-prostitution language. The charter change will go before the Legislature for approval.

“I feel quite certain that if this proposed Burlington Charter change goes through both House and Senate, legislators pushing full decriminalization statewide will take H630 off the wall and push it fast to the finish line before end of session,” said Maggie Kerrin, Vermont chair of New Englanders Against Sexual Exploitation and director of outreach and advocacy for the Vermont Right to Life Committee Inc. “If that happens, prostitution and any/all aspects related to it will be fully decriminalized by July 1, 2022.”

She noted that in the Fall of 2021, both the Montpelier City Council and the Burlington City Council began discussions about repealing city ordinance language regarding the prohibition of all aspects of prostitution, in effect, decriminalizing brothel owners, pimps and the buying/selling of men and women. “This action would result in enormous harm to those who would become nothing more than mere ‘commodities’ and would also result in increased trafficking, to include trafficking of children,” she told Vermont Catholic. “Montpelier City Council seems to have put this action on hold since last fall, but Burlington City Council has pushed this forward with a very clear intent of repealing all language regarding prostitution from their city ordinance, and they are now pushing it in the legislature to have this language removed from their city charter.”

Testimony is currently taking place regarding this in the House Government Operations Committee.

“Prostitution is a very serious affront to human dignity in that it demeans the prostitute. The prostitute’s humanity is debased to the level of an object is merely sexual satisfaction of the patron,” said Deacon Pete Gummere of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, an ethicist. “Prostitutes are often treated violently by both patrons and their procurers (pimps), and many prostitutes were victims of sexual abuse within their family when they were children.”

The average age of a woman going into prostitution is 14 years; many enter younger, he pointed out. “Prostitutes are often trafficked by their families as children/young teens. Quite often they enter to support a parent’s substance abuse habits.”

Once involved in prostitution, the woman’s self-esteem diminishes even further, Deacon Gummere said.

“And of course, the basic principle stated in the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” but also fornication applies,” he added.

In addition, Deacon Gummere said prostitution demeans the patrons involved, sending the message that they need to pay for their sexual satisfaction.=

Efforts to decriminalize prostitution statewide have been presented in the legislature since 2020 with the stated effort to fully decriminalization prostitution statewide.

If H630 were to pass, it would pertain to anyone who has reached the age of 18 and over.

Kerrin, speaking from her Vermont Right to Life role, said, “We are very concerned about the number of forced abortions that would result from forced, trafficked and prostituted individuals.”

She continued, “To be clear, there is absolutely no way, if decriminalized, to separate prostitution and sex trafficking. They are inextricably intertwined.  Where you have one, you will have the other. Once you create and establish that market, you will need to have the supply required to feed it. That supply comes from trafficked men, women, and children.  And it comes through force, fraud, threat, intimidation, coercion and numerous other tactics used to entrap victims into the trade.”

She urges Vermonters of all faiths to voice to their legislators their objection to this push toward the decriminalization of prostitution statewide: “The role of our elected officials is primarily the safety and welfare of its communities. In Burlington, and statewide, we are seeing a terrifying increase in drug use, overdose deaths and gun violence. It is becoming nearly a daily occurrence to hear of a shooting occurring in the streets of our cities and towns. Passage decriminalizing prostitution will make Vermont a sex tourism destination for not only the nation, but worldwide.”