Should We Legalize Prostitution?
What is sex trafficking? According to Shared Hope International, sex trafficking can be defined as “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion”. Most people who end up being trafficked are tricked into working. The emotionally, mentally, or financially vulnerable are preyed on. In fact, most people are sucked into the business before they are even fourteen years old. They are manipulated into a world of suffering that can be almost impossible to ever fully escape without some sort of trauma or damage afterwards. At the same time, some have looked at sex trafficking, and in turn, prostitution, in a less emotional and more logical light.
There are strong arguments on both sides of the fence. One large argument in favor of prostitution is the worldwide profit that can be made. According to people such as Mark Liberator, the publisher of his magazine, the Liberator, prostitution is harmless. Several other arguments have been made in favor of legalizing prostitution, including those on the health and well being of the workers, as well as making a profit. According to Erin Fuchs, the author of the article “7 Reasons Why America Should Legalize Prostitution”, routine checkups and acquiring benefits could be in contract for any sex worker. Not only would the workers be “taken care of”, the business of prostitution could be taxed, bringing in a large chunk of money for the federal budget. However, some ideas are seemingly better in theory.
Although in theory legalizing prostitution may seem effective in eradicating criminal behavior in the sex world, such as sex trafficking, it does not follow through. In places like Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal, women line up in windows of brothels. Tourists as well as natives come by to “pick out” whichever woman they want for the evening. Although this was done with the intentions of cutting out the illegal trafficking aspect of prostitution, it did not do much. Still out of 482 brothels, 239 were shut down for illegal activity, leaving only 243 up and running. Inevitably, with prostitution comes a negative fallout.
More often than not, the working girls end up damaged emotionally and physically. According to Janice G, Raymond, a co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women as well as a Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics professor at the University of Massachusetts, most prostitutes are left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even after they quit working. Excess drug and alcohol use is common among current and former prostitutes, and it only gets worse with PTSD. Many women cannot hold a job or keep their relationships intact. They cannot support themselves or their families. Not only do these women have to deal with emotional scarring, but physical as well.
Assault and attacks are very common in the field of prostitution. Pimps will often beat their girls to keep them motivated to work efficiently, leaving them with bruises, scars, and broken bones. According to Kolab, a sex trafficking survivor from Cambodia, she was forced to have sex with up to 50 customers per day. “I had to give [the pimp] all my money. If I did not [earn a set amount] they punished me by removing my clothes and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me”. And even after these girls are able to escape, they are usually left riddled with sexually transmitted diseases that can affect their immune system, fertility, and various body parts.
With all of this being said, would it be right to legalize prostitution? As we have seen in the Netherlands, legalizing immoral activity does not necessarily dissolve the underlying problem. Women will continue to be trafficked against their will whether prostitution is legal or not. These women are left broken, sometimes beyond repair, so their pimps can make a quick buck. The answer to this question seems like a no-brainer. No amount of money is worth exploiting a person to that degree. It is not worth ruining a person’s life and damaging those around her. Although many have tried to completely abolish sex trafficking, it seems incredibly difficult to end. After all, it is the “oldest profession in the world”. It does not seem logical to manage a dark business of exploitation by legalizing it. When the entire concept of prostitution is quick, objective sex, it does not seem logical to display women in windows like slabs of meat in an effort to keep women from being abused. Any way you approach prostitution, it is still a dangerous profession. Prostitution will never consist of willing and consenting women; sex trafficking will always be behind the shadows. There is no way to walk away from it unharmed.