Legal Prostitution Encourages Human Trafficking

by Sally Colton

Phoenix police arrested seven women and two men in connection with a prostitution ring last week. The ring focused on recruiting illegal immigrants as young as 19, and transporting them throughout the Valley using taxi drivers. This recent investigation and arrest brings up the question as to whether these women were illegally practicing prostitution as a result of their own choice, or if they were being forced into it by human sex traffickers.

Human sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing illegal industries in the world, bringing in 7 billion dollars annually. As this problem continues to grow, the United Nations is scrambling to find a functional solution to hinder this recent wave in criminal activity.

The UN’s latest consideration is to follow the lead of countries that have legalized prostitution and allow women the right to sell their bodies for sex. The rationale behind this is that if women are allowed to legally practice prostitution, they will be less vulnerable to human traffickers who will take advantage and abuse them. The problem with this, however, is that legalizing prostitution doesn’t necessarily mean that more women will want to become prostitutes. In fact, what most likely occurs is that the demand for prostitutes will increase because “johns,” a name used for consumers of prostitution, won’t have as many legal road blocks to access the services they want.

Studies have shown that countries that have legalized prostitution have not been able to get a handle on the growth of illegal trafficking. For example, the Netherlands, a country well-known for its legalization of prostitution, continues to struggle with human traffickers smuggling women from outside the country into brothels within.  A study from 1999 showed that nearly 80% of the women in brothels in the Netherlands had been trafficked from around the world. Similarly in Australia, the police have found it difficult to enforce the rights of legal brothels as compared to the illegal brothels. Studies on the state of Victoria have shown there are anywhere between 70 and 400 illegal brothels currently open for business. These illegal brothels don’t have to live up to the expectations of the legal brothels, including having to ensure that human trafficking victims aren’t being forced into employment. The lesson to be learned from this is that legalizing prostitution only encourages an increased demand of prostitution services, but does not increase the supply.  This just further encourages illegal trafficking practices.

Instead of legalizing prostitution, one solution to the human trafficking problem might be to penalize the johns that actually necessitate the services. Sweden has taken a strong approach in this regard, claiming that the johns requiring a variety of sexual partners create the incentive for human traffickers to “stock” a large supply of prostitutes, and the best way to solve the human trafficking issue is to cut off financial resources provided by consumers. This approach seems to make sense, considering that human traffickers wouldn’t be in the business of trafficking if they couldn’t get paid for it.

The answer to suppress human sex trafficking is not to promote the degradation of women by saying that prostitution is okay; nor is the answer to make the world’s stance on sexual slavery muddied and unclear. The only way we’re going to be able to stop traffickers is by squashing laws that legalize prostitution and promote global laws that enforce the rights of women to equality.

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5 thoughts on “Legal Prostitution Encourages Human Trafficking

  1. Sex trafficking is also becoming quite a problem in Portland, Oregon. Some studies are showing that runaway girls are solicited for sex trafficking within 24 hours after they hit the streets.

  2. Thank you for your article highlighting issues associated with sex trafficking. I agree that one approach which could help reduce sex trafficking is to focus on the demand side. Another way to combat sex trafficking is to bring the issues into the public’s awareness. The movie “The Burning Bed:” staring Farrah Fawcett placed domestic violence on the public’s radar screen and made it easier to prevent and prosecute. I believe we need to get the truth about sex trafficking out to the masses using popular media.

  3. You think a solution to the problem “MIGHT” be to go after the johns? Hello. It’s the only solution. We start by prosecuting the pedophiles that pay for sex with little girls and scare them enough to think twice about picking up a young girl from a corner. Those 19 year olds didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be prostitutes either.

  4. This is really torchering me to know how many people are turning there backs on these girls and men that need help, I say men because I know that there are also some men out there that are prostitutes too even though most are girls, it disgusts me that so many men go and use these girls like there nothing more than sex dolls. These men know what there doing is wrong, and I was taught that real evil wins when the good do nothing, so then men that know these girls are in trouble really must be charmers. If there is anyway I can help a prostitute by sending a little money evey day or send them letters of encouragement please let me know….And I dont care if the johns call me sexist, because with what believe in and what they do, I think its the cauldrin calling the kettle black.

  5. Cassie’s solution to stop prostitution, by paying the prostitutes, is the only sensible solution. The problem is that they’ll simply want more. What Cassie doesn’t understand is that a lot of prostitutes are not coerced into the world’s oldest profession.

    What social justice is this? If fornication should be legal, why shouldn’t fornication under influence of money be legal? Many prostitutes aren’t trafficked and have chosen their profession based on the $200K income they earn. Why should they face discrimination and be forced to work at jobs that only pay $30K simply because other people do bad things? It seems like you’re causing immense harm to a lot of people. If you want to stop human trafficking, require the prostitutes to be licensed with domestic identification and signed consent. Banning the use of non-citizens as prostitutes would be very effective also.

    Also, what about male prostitution such as that portrayed in “Hung? “

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