Burlingtonians voice their thoughts on decriminalizing sex work
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A controversial vote would decriminalize sex work in Burlington. Sex workers and anti-trafficking groups made their voices heard to Burlington City Councilors Monday night.
“Why are you stripping law enforcement of the means to investigate prostitution cases to protect those who are victimized by it?” said Michelle Morin, a Burlington resident.
A proposed charter change would decriminalize sex work in the city by removing that portion of the document entirely.
“This would not affect the state statutes under Title 14 that do regulate and criminalize these activities we often refer to as prostitution or sex work,” said Daniel Richardson, Burlington’s city attorney.
Some say it will keep sex workers safe by allowing them to contact law enforcement without the worry of getting in trouble.
“Due to systems not being in place to protect the working class at this time, people are forced to risk their health and safety just to pay their bills. Exploitation does not stop by silencing consensual sex work,” said Henri with the Ishtar Collective.
But a majority of people tell councilors it’s a bad idea, saying this type of business can’t thrive without the dangers of human trafficking and sex tourism.
“You clearly make the choice to ignore their voices and traumatic lived experiences, as well. What an enormous insult that is to the pain they have been through,” said Maggie Kerrin with New Englanders Against Sexual Exploitation.
The charter change will be on the ballot before voters on Town Meeting Day in March.
On Monday night, the council also delayed a discussion on property taxes until next week.
The City Council was supposed to discuss the nearly $24 million infrastructure bond Monday, this is after residents rejected it in December. Mayor Miro Weinberger is pushing for voters to vote again.
The item will be discussed at next Monday’s City Council meeting and councilors will have to decide whether to put it back on the ballot for voters.
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