Argument: Legalization of prostitution may actually reduce sex trafficking

Issue Report: Prostitution


  • “Trafficking in Human Beings – Third Report of the Dutch National Rapporteur.” The Bureau of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking. Mar. 2005 – “The fight against THB [trafficking in human beings] for sexual exploitation is often confused with the battle that some people wage against prostitution…[T]here are disadvantages associated with a repressive approach, since such an approach does not distinguish between victims and independent sex workers, and clients will not play a role as a potential source of information on trafficking practices…
It is often said in the media that the lifting of the general ban on brothels has led to more THB. This is not a correct conclusion. Before the lifting of the general ban on brothels, THB and other (criminal) abuses were taking place in all sectors of prostitution. Some of these sectors are now under control and can be assumed to have rid themselves of their former criminal excesses, or are doing so…It is possible that THB is increasing in the illegal, non-regulated or noncontrolled sectors. If this were to be the case, it still cannot be assumed that the extent of THB is now at the same or even above the ‘old’ level it was at before the ban on brothels was lifted. It is in fact likely that this is not the case, merely because not every client is keen to get involved in the ‘secret’ prostitution sector.”
  • Marjan Wijers, LLM. Chair of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings. “Women, Labor, and Migration: The Position of Trafficked Women and Strategies for Support”, a chapter in 1998 book “Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition” – “Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers…[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed.”
  • Rita Nakashima Brock, PhD, Founding Co-Director of Faith Voices for the Common Good. Sex Workers Outreach Project. Jan. 25, 2004 – “Prohibition gives cover to traffickers. It allows them to use the laws against prostitution to intimidate, especially when it comes to children. Women and girls being held against their will are afraid to go to police because they will be treated as criminals.”
  • David A. Feingold, PhD, Coordinator of Trafficking-HIV/AIDS Programs, Culture Unit, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Bangkok. “Think Again: Human Trafficking”. Foreign Policy. Sep.-Oct. 2005 – “The intersection of the highly emotive issues of sex work and human trafficking generates a lot more heat than light. Some antitrafficking activists equate ‘prostitution’ with trafficking and vice versa, despite evidence to the contrary. The U.S. government leaves no doubt as to where it stands: According to the State Department Web site, ‘Where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.’ By this logic, the state of Nevada should be awash in foreign sex slaves, leading one to wonder what steps the Justice Department is taking to free them. Oddly, the Netherlands, Australia, and Germany–all of whom have legalized prostitution–received top marks from the Bush administration in the most recent Trafficking in Persons Report.
Moreover, some efforts to prohibit prostitution have increased sex workers’ risk to the dangers of trafficking, though largely because lawmakers neglected to consult the people the laws were designed to protect. Sweden, for example, is much praised by antiprostitution activists for a 1998 law that aimed to protect sex workers by criminalizing their customers. But several independent studies, including one conducted by the Swedish police, showed that it exposed prostitutes to more dangerous clients and less safe-sex practices.”