Legalized prostitution doesn’t work

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The Article

Prostitution is a risky business.

That’s why our society discourages girls from making it a career choice, and encourages prostitutes to pursue an alternate line of work.

But rather than working to get women out of this dangerous business, an idealistic law professor and his students from Osgoode Hall have decided to help prostitutes by joining forces with three women (a dominatrix, a former sex trade worker and a working prostitute) and pushing for the full legalization of prostitution in Canada.

Under our current laws, it’s illegal to run a bawdy house, communicate for the purposes of prostitution and live off the avails of prostitution. The Osgoode Hall elites believe this amounts to a legal failure to uphold a prostitute’s right to liberty and security.

They reason that if we get ladies off the street and onto soft mattresses, they won’t be exposed to the “horrors of predatory killers.” By legalizing communication so they can sell their services, prostitutes can have meaningful conversations with prospective clients and accurately ascertain if they’re upstanding citizens who aren’t given to hitting women or violent sex. By legitimizing transactions using money made from “the avails” of prostitution, women can use their earnings to hire security guards.

Right. That’s the first place the money will go. Right after the pimp and the drug dealer.

These women are being horribly misled if they believe that creating laws to sanction the buying and selling of human beings will give them more liberty or security. It’s like men on the Titanic protecting women by throwing them into the water and telling them to hang onto the side of the ship. In either case, it’s not hard to figure out the final result.

Evidence from countries that have already taken this step make it abundantly clear that legalizing prostitution won’t enhance anyone’s liberty and security—it will only enhance sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

In 2000, The Netherlands fully legalized prostitution. It wanted to bring the profession out of the shadows of criminal activity and protect the sex workers. Sounds like our noble, altruistic Osgoode Hall plan but, as they should note, it didn’t work and is now being reversed.

Seven years later, Amsterdam’s infamous red light district had spread decline throughout the city. No longer a hot tourist destination, it degenerated into the stomping grounds for organized crime, money laundering and drug abuse. It became a prime destination for human trafficking for sexual exploitation (for about 7,000 women per year).

The dream was that legalization would eliminate pimps and turn prostitutes and brothel owners into honourable, taxpaying citizens. But officials say the industry remains dominated by organized crime and sex slaves. About 96 per cent of prostitutes are working illegally, 80-85 per cent of prostituted women are of non-Dutch origin, and 70-75 per cent have no legal papers to live or work in The Netherlands.

Australia didn’t fare much better. It legalized prostitution in 1999 for the same reasons as the Netherlands, yet a just-released report by the University of Queensland Working Group on Human Trafficking shows legalization has been an abject failure in reducing organized crime and bettering the lives and conditions of sex workers.

A decade later, only 10 per cent of the industry operates in legal brothels; the other 90 per cent is still mired in underground sex markets that use human trafficking victims and forced prostitution. Even women in licensed brothels say they experience exploitation and coercion. Organized crime and human trafficking have both increased significantly. In short, conditions for prostitutes have never been worse.

Oops. That didn’t work.

According to Dr. Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute, an American think-tank, resolving the problem of prostitution is more complicated than establishing, “ergonomic standards for mattresses and minimum wages.”

It’s true that approximately 300 sex workers have gone missing from Canada’s streets over the past two decades, and that’s why the Osgoode lawyers were quick to play the highly emotional Robert-Pickton serial-killer card.

But before we let fear determine our course of action, we should remember that this violence doesn’t stem from the laws governing the occupation—it’s inherent to the occupation itself. As long as we allow people to sell their bodies for money, buyers will always be under the impression that they own that body and can do whatever they want to it.

The only way to really protect women is to stop the evil of that transaction.

Susan Martinuk
Latest posts by Susan Martinuk (see all)

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