Monday, October 04, 2004

Legalization/Decriminalization of Prostitution

In a recent post, Amp wrote a side note about prostitution:

In particular, I like this new law, because it focuses on punishing johns (in my opinion, prostitution should be decriminalized, but being a john should be a frequently-enforced felony).

In the comments to that thread, a few people have objected to his statement. Amp, himself, has not [yet] responded to these comments, but I thought I would. It should be noted that I am not, in any way, speaking for Amp, but rather, for myself.

In the past, I have been torn on the subject of legalizing prostitution. But the more I read on the subject and (more importantly) the more I work with women in the sex industry, the less torn I become. I definitely lean towards being opposed to legalization. I do, however, strongly agree with Amp about decriminalizing prostitution and prosecuting the johns. And so does the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women:

CATW favors decriminalization of the women in prostitution. No woman should be punished for her own exploitation. But States should never decriminalize pimps, buyers, procurers, brothels or other sex establishments.

There is an excellent article written for CATW by Janice Raymond which pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. The following is simply a summary of the arguments. To read the reasoning of the arguments, you'll have to read the whole article.

The following arguments apply to all state-sponsored forms of prostitution, including but not limited to full-scale legalization of brothels and pimping, decriminalization of the sex industry, regulating prostitution by laws such as registering or mandating health checks for women in prostitution, or any system in which prostitution is recognized as "sex work" or advocated as an employment choice.

As countries are considering legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry, we urge you to consider the ways in which legitimating prostitution as "work" does not empower the women in prostitution but does everything to strengthen the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry.It expands it.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.

  • Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex Industry increases child prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice.

  • Women in systems of Prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.


ginmar said...

I've wrestled with this topic for years. You'd be amazed how many well-meaning people there are out there who believe in shiny happy prostitutes because it's just so unpleasant to confront the reality of prostitution.

In particular, no one ever wants to take on the ugly motivations of the johns, who in my opinion want to use prostitutes so they can avoid having to deal with women as people. I don't see why we should legitimize that need.

Anonymous said...

right. but i've been criticized for years for saying something similar to amp:

if the laws criminalizing prostitution are for the 'protection' of women - do they actually accomplish that? Do we criminalize being burgled so that we can arrest those awful people who don't protect their precious belongings with due diligence - thus encouraging robbery?

Of course not. And being convicted of a crime (any crime) doesn't help a woman (or anyone else for that matter - not only women are prostituted even if they are the majority/plurality {before you scream at me, i say this because, among other things, "girls" are NOT "women" and children under 18 are a huge percentage of prostituted people})"get out of the lifestyle" by getting a "legitimate job" or housing, etc.

It also 'deligitimizes' their testimony against pimps and johns. I fail to find a single benefit EXCEPT (if you want to call it that) that after conviction the legal system has control over them and can use that control to help get them away from the people who abuse them. They don't always do this, of course, but it is a possibility.

Anyway, I don't claim to know the exact "answer" interms of a comples of laws and social policies/allocation of resources.

But I can't find any reason not to legalize prostitution and put our focus on trafficking & solicitation.