Prostitution is the exchange of sex acts for money or other things of value such as food or shelter. Those advocating for full decriminalization present prostitution as a job like any other, but that’s deceptive. Systems of prostitution thrive on gender inequality, deeply rooted social injustices, as well as force, fraud, and coercion. Full decriminalization eliminates legal restrictions on pimping, sex buying, and brothel keeping, not just the act of selling sexual access. Here are ten reasons why this is disastrous public policy:
Exploitation and Human Trafficking: Full decriminalization of prostitution often leads to increased exploitation and human trafficking. Without effective regulation and oversight, criminal networks are able to flourish, leading to an increase in the trafficking of vulnerable individuals who are coerced or forced into the sex trade.
Violence and Abuse: Decriminalization does not eliminate violence and abuse within the sex industry. In fact, it can exacerbate these issues by normalizing the buying and selling of sex. Research consistently shows that individuals involved in prostitution face high levels of violence, including physical and sexual assault, and decriminalization does little to address these dangers.
Health Risks: The decriminalization of prostitution can have negative public health implications. The spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) becomes harder to control without proper regulations and regular health screenings. Additionally, access to healthcare services and support for those in the sex trade may be limited, leading to increased risks and poor health outcomes.
Gender Inequality: Prostitution is an industry that predominantly exploits women and reinforces gender inequality. Full decriminalization perpetuates the commodification of women's bodies and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes that objectify and dehumanize women.
Normalizing Demand: Decriminalization normalizes the demand for paid sex, perpetuating the notion that it is acceptable to buy and sell sexual acts. This can further contribute to a culture of entitlement and the objectification of individuals, particularly women, reducing them to mere objects of sexual gratification.
Exploitative Business Practices: Full decriminalization can lead to the establishment of brothels and other commercial enterprises that profit from the sale of sex. This creates an environment where exploitative business practices thrive, with little regard for the well-being and consent of those involved.
Economic Inequality: Decriminalization can deepen existing economic inequalities. It often fails to provide meaningful employment alternatives for individuals in the sex trade who may be seeking to leave. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and limited options, trapping individuals in exploitative situations.
Distortion of Consent: The power dynamics inherent in the sex industry make it difficult to ascertain genuine consent. Decriminalization does not adequately address these power imbalances and may even reinforce them. The notion of freely given consent becomes blurred when financial transactions are involved.
Deterioration of Communities: Areas with high concentrations of prostitution often experience increased crime rates, drug use, and community deterioration. Full decriminalization can perpetuate these negative effects, as the lack of regulation and oversight creates an environment conducive to illicit activities.
International Human Rights Obligations: Many countries have signed and ratified international conventions against human trafficking and the exploitation of individuals, particularly women and children. Full decriminalization of prostitution may be inconsistent with these obligations, undermining efforts to combat human trafficking and protect vulnerable populations.
Full decriminalization of prostitution is not just. The lived experiences of people in the sex trade around the world reveal the abuses, harms, and chronic traumatization intrinsic to prostitution. Not only is this impossible to ignore, but it demands a just response.