Prostitution inflicts an awful toll on the broken souls who are forced to submit to rape-for-pay. “Supply side” social theory suggests legalizing prostitution will remove the social stigma and eliminate the violence. Experiments in legalizing prostitution are proving however that — like other government takeovers of vice — no one is better off as a result. The answer is to deal with the demand from customers.
Misguided attempts to reduce stigma through legalization mean governments benefit financially from sex trafficking at the expense of people in prostitution.
My friend Rachel Moran describes in her book, Paid For, how she was taken into state custody at 14 and within a year, was homeless, hungry and vulnerable. Her lack of choice fed her into the belly of prostitution. For the next seven years, she lived through repeated rapes from buyers and relentless violence. But physical harm and exploitation were not all she endured.
For Rachel and countless survivors worldwide, societal stigma is a concept that they have faced all too often. It arises because society dehumanizes people in prostitution, treating them as second class citizens at best.
Stigma prevents prostituted people from accessing adequate health care and places them at higher risk of violence by abusers who often act with impunity.
To some, the solution is simple – legalize the commercial sex industry and stigma will vanish.
But experts, government reports and academic publications are increasingly confirming what survivors have been saying for a long time – that the legalization or decriminalization of the commercial sex industry does not reduce stigma, does not eliminate violence and fails to make things safer for people in prostitution. …
When governments fail to tackle the demand side of the commercial sex industry, they not only fail to protect people in prostitution, they also financially benefit through the increased tax income generated from the exploitation of people.
But they are not the only ones to benefit. By bringing the commercial sex industry ‘above ground’, traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers all profit in this billion dollar business.
In an effort to prioritize the human rights and safety of people in prostitution, Sweden, Norway and Iceland have adopted the Nordic Model, an approach that criminalizes the purchase of sex, decriminalizes the sale of sex and provides exit strategies for those who are being purchased. …
After courageously exiting the commercial sex industry, Rachel Moran explains in Paid For what is fundamentally wrong about government attempts to legalize prostitution rather than focus on demand: “To be prostituted is humiliating enough; to legalize prostitution is to condone that humiliation, and to absolve those who inflict it. It is an agonizing insult.”
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