Ohio legislation this week seeks to turn the fight against prostitution in a different direction: finding fault with suppliers and buyers rather than sex workers.
Attorney General Dave Yost, along with members of the statehouse and senate, proposed two bills focused on ending human trafficking on November 12. in the Ohio General Assembly.
These bills target johns and pimps – purchasers of sex and those who make a profit from sex workers – by increasing penalties for those found guilty.
The first proposed bill would include a new criminal penalty for anyone who benefits from a prostitute. It also includes the creation of a registry for anyone convicted of buying sexual services. This database would keep the names for at least five years after the offense. Penalties for buying sex from a prostitute include informational classes about sex trafficking, 30-day jail time, and even 60-day jail time upon third offense. A second bill would define receiving or possessing money obtained through prostitution as a crime, punishable by law.
Yost, who has made fighting human trafficking a priority in the state of Ohio, directly connects prostitution and sex trafficking. While it is a commonly held belief that prostitutes give sex freely for a profit, Yost argued that it’s often not free.
“The ‘yes’ that comes from (the prostitute) is probably coerced, and more importantly, the person buying the sex has no way of knowing if it’s coerced or free,” he said.
The bill is sponsored by State Senator Tim Schaffer, R-Athens, and by State Reps. Jena Powell, Rick Carfagna and Cindy Abrams in the House.
“This is something we’ve needed to do for a long time,” said Yost. He’s backed by the statistics. Ohio is the fourth worst state in the United States for human trafficking, according to Powell. The topic has been in the spotlight from the news in recent months. Results are finally making their way to the courts, with a great deal of support.
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Allegra Thatcher is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost.