Government hooker

0
809

BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) – In recent years, the conversation surrounding sex work has changed. Many people have realized that Canadian laws surrounding the procurement of sex have not been successful in its prevention. Currently, the sale of sexual services for money is legal, but many of the attendant activities (advertising it, setting up brothels, etc.) are not. Sex work has cemented its reputation as “society’s oldest profession” and, for those pursuing its legalization, that’s a justification for ending its prohibition.

They believe the sex trade will exist regardless of its lawfulness and should therefore be made legal, as regulation will bring it within government control, helping to minimize the negative effects of sex work like exploitation, drug addiction, and physical abuse.

In most circumstances, this logic is sound. If the illegality of something does not curb behaviour, the effective harm reduction strategy may be to integrate that behaviour into the legal system. However, with regards to sex work, this could produce more harm than good.

Alexandra Mackenzie, a Vancouver advocate for the abolition of prostitution and co-founder of the organization Our Lives To Fight For, produced a powerful documentary outlining the pitfalls of legalized prostitution. In order to get a more complete understanding of the issue, Mackenzie interviewed academics, concerned community members, and former prostitutes.

In doing so, she discovered that “no country has successfully legalized prostitution without substantial growth of human trafficking, organized crime, and underage prostitution.” She wrote on Simon Fraser University’s Journalists for Human Rights blog that, “In 2007, the mayor of Amsterdam called the legalization of prostitution an ‘abysmal failure,’ due to a significant increases in organized crime, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.” She added that, a year later, the National Dutch Police estimated that between 50–90 per cent of women in the legal brothels in Holland were “working involuntarily.”

The sex trade is a very lucrative industry that perpetuates gender inequalities that will not be solved if prostitution is legalized. The sex trade will not become safer or easier to regulate. Legalization will only validate women (primarily) as commodities, which dehumanizes sexual interactions.

Furthermore, legalization could perpetuate socioeconomic inequalities. For example, people applying for welfare are usually expected to complete an in-depth job search before they will be awarded government aid. In 2002, the German government legalized prostitution as a legitimate profession; in 2005, The Telegraph reported that women applying for welfare in Germany who were having difficulty finding work in traditional industries were being advised to apply to brothels. If they refused, benefits could be denied.

In this circumstance, legalized prostitution could actually result in an influx of impoverished women participating in the sex trade. Of course, this would be contrary to the legalization objective, which is to minimize women’s non-consensual participation in the industry. Sadly, the probability that financially disadvantaged women will be forced to sell sex as a means for providing for themselves and their families will likely increase.

So what is the solution? If prostitution isn’t legalized and regulated, then sex trade workers will be more susceptible to violence, disease, and drug addiction. If it is, the government is responsible for propagating inequity, with little evidence the policy will be socially beneficial.
Fortunately, there is a third option: the Nordic model. The Nordic model decriminalizes the sale of sex, but criminalizes the act of buying sex. Across Scandinavia, countries including Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have implemented this policy and seen positive results. By making the demand for paid sex illegal without punishing sex workers, the law recognizes prostitution as a form of exploitation and places the participation risk of hefty fines, incarceration, and public shame on the buyer, not the seller, of sex. This legislation, in tandem with subsidized housing, job training programs, and drug rehabilitation, has helped many women exit the industry.

Mackenzie wrote, “Since the law was implemented in 1999, street prostitution [in Sweden] has decreased by 50 per cent with no increase in indoor prostitution.” She added that there has been a “considerable decline of human trafficking into Sweden.” Perhaps, then, this is the best way forward.

David Swanson
The Link (B.C. Institute of Technology)

Comments are closed.

More News