Legalizing Prostitution is an Agonizing Insult

Societal stigma 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.

The Netherlands introduced legislation in 2000, which legalized prostitution. Yet, the country is a known destination for sex tourism and continues to experience the commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in both its legal and illegal sectors But the Netherlands is not alone in recognizing the huge failings in what was intended to de-stigmatize prostitution, to bring it “out of the shadows” and to reduce exploitation. In New Zealand, where prostitution and activities surrounding it were decriminalized in 2003, there have not been significant reductions in street and underage prostitution.

Neither legalization nor decriminalization cures the inherent gender inequality that arises when a buyer purchases the body of a woman or girl. By bringing the commercial sex industry “above ground,” traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers all profit in this billion-dollar business.

After courageously exiting the commercial sex industry, Rachel Moran explains 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.”

Learn more at Lauren Hersh’s Huffington Post article: The Failed Prostitution Experiment.

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