One of the guiding principles of every just and compassionate society is the strong protect the weak. This ideal is the bedrock of our criminal justice system when it comes to violent crimes. This is especially true when it comes to predatory sex crimes like rape and child molestation. As a society we show little understanding and even less leniency for these types of acts. Unlike other offenders the punishment for sexual predators has a very public face. In order to discourage recidivism and to protect an unsuspecting public these predators must enroll onto the state’s sex offender registry where their names and photographs will remain for 15 years.
Citing these same noble intentions, Louisiana has seen fit to be the only state to include another group of sex offenders onto this despised registry: street corner prostitutes who perform oral sex. Their reasoning? Oral sex is considered a ‘crime against nature’ and as such those caught performing it deserve this prolonged public humiliation and all the repercussions that follow. Not all prostitutes or those who solicit the deed — just those performing this ‘unnatural act.’ These women constitute forty percent of the City of New Orleans’ sexual offender’s registry. This seems to be excessively punitive for women providing a solicited service that doesn’t “involve children, force or lack of consent.”
Thanks to Rep. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, these women no longer have to register as sex offenders. The Louisiana Legislature passed House Bill 141 which was signed into law by Governor Jindal. Louisiana law no longer metes out different punishments based on the archaic distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” prostitution.
Why has it taken so long to make this change? Who knows — the only thing that matters is that we have taken another small step toward justice and common sense.