There are no clear-cut solutions when it comes to topics of legalizing, decriminalizing or regulating prostitution, but one theme sounded louder than others during a recent panel discussion hosted by the Zonta Club of Hilo, Hawaii, USA: Empathy matters.
“The first thing you need to know about sex work is that each individual is unique with their own story,” said panelist Tracy Ryan, executive director of Oahu-based Harm Reduction Hawaii. Ryan has been an advocate for transgender and sex-worker rights for more than 25 years.
The five-person panel also included Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, the Rev. Bryan Siebuhr of Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, behavioral health therapist Zahava “Z” Zaidoff, and the Rev. Eric Anderson of the United Church of Christ’s Church of the Holy Cross.
The Zonta Club has chapters around the world and aims to empower women through service and advocacy. Hilo’s club was founded in 1950.
“Zonta wants to be the thought leader in the community with women’s issues,” said panel moderator Kathleen McGilvray, a Zonta member and executive director of the Hilo YWCA. “We know it (prostitution) is provocative (and) we all have a strong view, but I think it’s important to come together and discuss.”
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(Photo: From left, County Prosecutor Mitch Roth, the Rev. Bryan Siebuhr, behavioral health therapist Zahava Zaidoff, the Rev. Eric Anderson and Tracy Ryan of Harm Reduction Hawaii speak on a panel discussing the legalization of prostitution Saturday at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo. HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)