What does Decriminalization of Sex Work Mean?

Prostitution consists of either:

  • engaging in, or offering or agreeing to engage in sexual conduct for a fee, or
  • paying, or offering or agreeing to pay to engage in sexual conduct.

Sexual conduct need not actually take place, nor must money actually change hands. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712-1200.)

The bills to decriminalize prostitution in Hawaii re-define prostitution as consensual adult sex work.

Click here for a detailed guide to terminology

To decriminalize consensual adult sex work would remove prostitution from the penal code.

Criminalization: Prostitution is currently prohibited through penal codes in the Hawaii Revised Statutes. These codes are enforced by police and courts and always frame the people involved as criminals.

Decriminalization: Prostitution is recognized by the state as a form of sex work and sex workers are afforded the same legal protections as other workers.

Sex work can be regulated through other areas of the Hawaii Revised Statutes that address public health and safety, commercial zoning, and labor.

Laws that criminalize rape, force, fraud, coercion, sex with minors and other forms of abuse would continue to be enforced under decriminalization.

Legalization: prostitution is regulated through the penal code and enforced by police.

The terms “legalization” and “decriminalization” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings.

Sex workers around the world want Decriminalization not Legalization.

Who Supports Decriminalization?

Discussion of Hawaii’s Current Laws and Proposed Changes

Current LegislationCurrent Legislation

Who Supports Decriminalization?

Support Decriminalization of Sex Work in Hawaii

Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter supports Hawai’i State Legislature H.B. 1533 and S.B. 264

Hawaii Harm Reduction Conference: Sex Work & Human Trafficking January 2018

Honolulu Conference: Hawai’i Harm Reduction Conference 2019

Sex Work Issues In the News