Banning Brothels has Opponents?
Despite the fact that prostitution can occur behind closed doors in Rhode Island, prostitution actually is illegal in the state. AG Lynch and many others have long sought to close that loophole. But, somehow, for some reason, they continue to meet with opposition. Rep. Joanne M. Giannini, D-Cranston has done yeoman’s work in presenting a comprehensive package of legislation that seeks to address all of the past issues that opponents have had. In addition to offering new legislation dealing with prostitution, solicitation and the closed door loophole, she’s offered two bills concerned with human sex trafficking involuntary servitude and a separate one dealing with sex trafficking of a minor. Yet, those testifying against the bill meant to close the loophole were either unaware or chose to ignore the portions of Rep. Giannini’s comprehensive package.
The majority of the witnesses blasted the bill.
Opponents included Nancy Green, a concerned Providence resident.
“I feel like it is very easy to arrest [prostitutes] and toss them in jail,” she said to the small group of legislators gathered around a long table inside a cramped committee room. “I want to see us go after people at the top.”
Green’s concerns were echoed by a young social worker, a policy analyst, and the head of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. They all said that the bill would unfairly target the prostitutes, who opponents say are often forced into prostitution.
…Giannini was visibly upset when she addressed the committee after her bill was repeatedly criticized.
“My intent was never to punish the women with this bill,” she said. “I’ve added the pimps and the people who own the buildings … and the Johns. When was the last time you saw a John in the paper?”
Shaking her head incredulously after her testimony, Giannini dismissed the opponents as those who would rather see prostitution legalized.
“They’ve had two years to come up with a solution,” she said of her peers in the Assembly. “The solution they’ve come up with is ‘Do nothing.’ ”
The same can be said for her co-legislators in the past.
In an interview earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva Weed said she hasn’t seen Giannini’s latest proposal, but that she has serious concerns about past efforts to close the prostitution loophole.
“The concern I’ve always had has been that by focusing on the women on this issue, we are only focusing on half the problem,” she said. “I’d rather see better enforcement of the laws that are on the books.”
Apparently, Sen. Paiva-Weed was unaware that Giannini has dealt with those concerns already, but that’s still no excuse for not taking action on this in the past. Talk about making the perfect the enemy of the good. Finally, it also appears as if time is running out on all of the bills as the deadline is April 12, according to the ProJo report (Steve Peoples). Majority Leader Fox is a co-sponsor on some of the legislation, but when asked if it was a priority, he could only offer that platitude that, “It’s a priority like any other bill.”
Gee, it sure hasn’t been in the past.