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Prostitution and Trafficking

If I’ve heard it once…I’ve heard it a hundred times. “It’s time to just make prostitution legal, then trafficking won’t be such big business.”

This of course looks at the problem from the viewpoint of consenting adult participation and doesn’t look at all of the issues found within the greater picture. The most basic ones of which are those people who are coerced, defrauded, and forced into prostitution. It also completely ignores those who are under the age of 18.

It’s a simplistic viewpoint at best. And definitely one that ignores the fact that many who are being trafficked have been manipulated into thinking they have no choice, no options, and no hope.

More than that, when you look at countries that currently have legal prostitution what you’ll find is that they have just as high or higher the rates of trafficking victims within them, often being used as sanctuary throughputs to “train” new victims of trafficking without much attention being given by law enforcement officials.

In some cases the situation makes it rife for bribes and pay-offs of officials so the victims and trafficker can blend in with ease alongside those who are consensually participating in prostitution.

Essentially open market prostitution allows an appearance of legitimacy that criminal entities and individuals can exploit and work alongside, making it more difficult to identify and prosecute those who traffic illegally in.

Basically, at the end of the day most of the money from legal prostitution still goes into the pockets of traffickers and that’s not just me saying that. This is a reality according the Swedish governments own research. “International trafficking in human beings could not flourish but for the existence of local prostitution markets where men are willing and able to buy and sell women and children for sexual exploitation.” 

And here’s a reality for proponents of prostitution: “Few activities are as brutal and damaging to people as prostitution. Field research in nine countries concluded that 60-75 percent of women in prostitution were raped, 70-95 percent were physically assaulted, and 68 percent met the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state-organized torture. Beyond this shocking abuse, the public health implications of prostitution are devastating and include a myriad of serious and fatal diseases, including HIV/AIDS.”

And another study of five countries found that: “the burden of physical injuries and illnesses that women in the sex industry sustain from the violence inflicted on them, or from their significantly higher rates of hepatitis B, higher risks of cervical cancer, fertility complications, and psychological trauma,” were completely “overlooked” by research. 

No matter how you slice it, legal prostitution increases the rate of trafficking victims and the vast majority of money primarily goes to the traffickers even in legal prostitution.

SOURCE: Swedish Ministry of Industry, Employment, and Communications. 2004. Fact Sheet: Prostitution and Trafficking in Women.

SOURCE: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Archives:The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking 

SOURCE: Raymond, J. et al. 2002. A Comparative Study of Women Trafficked in the Migration Process. Ford Foundation, New York.

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