10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution
Janice G. Raymond
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW)
March 25, 2003
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.
1. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry. 2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking. 3. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry. It expands it. 4. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution. 5. Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex industry increases child prostitution. 6. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution. 7. 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. 8. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health. 9. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice. 10. Women in systems of prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.
1. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.
What does legalization of prostitution or decriminalization of the sex industry mean? In the Netherlands, legalization amounts to sanctioning all aspects of the sex industry: the women themselves, the so-called clients and the pimps who, under the regime of legalization, are transformed into third party businessmen and legitimate sexual entrepreneurs.
Legalization/decriminalization of the sex industry also converts brothels, sex clubs, massage parlors and other sites of prostitution activities into legitimate venues where commercial sexual acts are allowed to flourish legally with few restraints.
Ordinary people believe that, in calling for legalization or decriminalization of prostitution, they are dignifying and professionalizing the women in prostitution. But dignifying prostitution as work doesn't dignify the women, it simply dignifies the sex industry. People often don't realize that decriminalization, for example, means decriminalization of the whole sex industry not just the women. And they haven't thought through the consequences of legalizing pimps as legitimate sex entrepreneurs or third party businessmen, or the fact that men who buy women for sexual activity are now accepted as legitimate consumers of sex.
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.
2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.
Legalized or decriminalized prostitution industries are one of the root causes of sex trafficking. One argument for legalizing prostitution in the Netherlands was that legalization would help end the exploitation of desperate immigrant women trafficked for prostitution. A report done for the governmental Budapest Group* stated that 80% of women in the brothels in the Netherlands are...
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