Story at a glance

  • Texas has become the first state to make paying for sex a felony.
  • The new law will go into effect on Sept. 1.
  • There are conflicting beliefs from experts as to whether it will help trafficked sex workers or harm them.

Texas has become the first state to make paying for sex a felony.

Signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in June, the state Senate passed HB1540 unanimously on May 20. The law, which will go into effect on Sept. 1, charges those who pay for sex with a felony in an attempt to shift the blame away from those engaged in prostitution, who are often victims of sex trafficking.

“We know the demand is the driving force behind human trafficking,” Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D), who authored the bill, told Click2Houston. “If we can curb or stamp out the demand end of it, then we can save the lives of numerous persons.”

There are conflicting views by experts as to whether the law will lead to system reform that aids trafficked sex workers or if it will only further harm them. 


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“This law is a rethinking of the traditional supply side in prosecutions that tended to target the women who were involved in these activities and not the buyers,” Sandra Guerra Thompson, director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law School, told NBC News “It’s also coming from a growing awareness that oftentimes, those involved are from a vulnerable class.”

However, Kathleen Kim, a professor at Loyola Marymount University Law School who focuses on human trafficking, has an opposing view.

“Putting individual 'johns' in jail will do absolutely nothing for victims of trafficking,” Kim said. "In fact, it harms them because evidence demonstrates that the more resources that go into law enforcement approach, the more that victims lose because resources that ought to be going towards things like victim benefits, social services support, and legal advocacy, is still unavailable and maybe even diminished because more resources are going toward a dominant criminal enforcement approach.”


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Published on Aug 13, 2021