HONOLULU, HAWAII (KHON) — There’s a controversial proposal that would legalize prostitution in Hawaii between consenting adults.
It was introduced by House Speaker Joe Souki on behalf of Tracy Ryan, who is the head of Hawaii’s Libertarian Party.
It’s already facing fierce opposition, so KHON wanted to find out what’s behind a bill like this moving forward.
The bill has already passed a first reading. KHON went to Tracy Ryan and to Joe Souki who says just because he introduced it doesn’t mean he supports it.
Souki said he introduced House Bill 1533 as a courtesy, a practice that’s common among lawmakers.
“I”ve been doing this for 35 years for all kinds of requests, but it needs to go through the democratic process,” Souki said.
If passed, prostitution would not be a crime if it’s consensual sex between two adults.
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“I have a representative who looks at all bills and gives them a fair hearing and that’s exactly what I’m doing. By request – not that I favor it,” Souki said.
KHON asked Souki why he introduced the bill if he doesn’t favor it.
“I’m the only one that can do it by courtesy. I’m the only one that can do it,” he said.
When KHON asked Souki if he ever considered saying no to the request, he replied, “I have never said no to a citizen of the state of Hawaii who wants this bill to be heard.”
Tracy Ryan is behind the bill. Ryan tells KHON the law needs to be changed because it unfairly harms consenting adults, especially those who are transgender.
“Prostitution is the way that transgender women have traditionally made their way in the world, not everyone, but lots of them,” Ryan said. “If you’re a prostitute, and somebody attacks you, it’s called a bad date. Who are you going to tell? You can’t go to the police. They should have the same rights to their health and safety protection as anybody else.”
Kathryn Xian, an advocate against human trafficking, is calling this bill the legalization of pimps and johns. Xian said this problem is a bigger one than you might think.
“We know for a fact that the majority of women caught in prostitution, and women, are not there by choice but by coercion, force or fraud,” Xian said. “In the bill there is nothing that defines what consent is.”
City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is against the proposal too.
“My concerns about the bill is that it would make it very difficult for us to prosecute sex trafficking and for us to curb that problem which is an international problem,” Kaneshiro said.
Ryan doesn’t believe the bill would open the door for more people to become victims of human trafficking.
“No, absolutely not,” Ryan said.
Kaneshiro said he does plan to voice his concerns to the state legislature.
For a link to the bill log onto http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2017/bills/HB1533_.htm