Even though legalizing prostitution will protect women by allowing them to conduct business indoors in safer, healthier conditions, prostitution should remain as it is under the Criminal Code of Canada and should not be legalized because current laws prevent the commercialization of prostitution and protect women involved from violence and human trafficking thus decriminalizing prostitution could cause women to view it as a career and lead to red light districts across the country. In a bid to control the influx of prostitution, the Canadian government banned all form of communication with the aim of purchasing or selling sexual services (Young, 2008)
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Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking
Human trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution has been recognized as one of the most problematic global issue. Several nations in the world have enacted rules to control the vice and also to address the needs of the victims (Monique, 2003). Sex trafficking occurs both within the country’s boundaries and across the borders and involves transportation of people whose motivation is based on profiteering (Chuang, 1998). Canada for a long time has acted both as a destination and a transit point for human trafficking (Qadeer, 2003).The increased vulnerability to duping and exploitation of women is largely attributable to political, economic, and social factors of societies (Derks, 2001). The cultural set up of many communities in the developing countries tends to marginalize women which expose them to cyclic poverty. Such cultures place very little value on the role of women in work and tend to disregard their contribution in economic development. Lack of adequate educational and employment opportunities tend to aggravate the problem further which increases their level of vulnerability.
Although legalizing it might be true that prostitution helps contain the trade by taking it from the back street, the Prostitution industry provides a façade for human trafficking where victims are duped into taking job offers later to be subjected to human slavery by prostitution rings. A survey carried out in the Netherlands found out that “80% of all prostitutes in the brothels had been trafficked into the country” (Budapest Group, 1999: 11). According to International Organization of Migration, “70% were trafficked from Eastern and central European countries.” (IOM, 1995: 4). The situation was complicated by the legalization of prostitution as an acceptable economic activity hence giving room for sex workers from the European Union block to obtain work permits as long as they can provide prove of self employment. This provided a loophole for traffickers to ship in more women whom they coach on how to prove that they are self-employed in order to obtain work permits. Following the legalization of prostitution in Germany, 75% of prostitutes in the country were immigrants from the South American countries according to Altink (1993). Many NGOs contend that these women must have been trafficked because there was no way the poor women could have afforded the cost of facilitation of their own travel arrangements nor the set up fees for their businesses without external aid. This points out at an organized ring of human trafficking.
The sex industry increases child prostitution
The sex industry is responsible for the increase in child prostitution across the globe. For example according to ChildRight organization, child prostitution in Netherlands has increased drastically from 4000 in 1996 to about 15000 in 2001. Of these, they estimate that about 5000 are from Nigeria (Tiggeloven, 2001). In Australia, child prostitution was reported to be highest in the State of Victoria where prostitution was legal. Studies carried out by ECPAT unearthed evidence of organized commercial child trafficking in the state which questions the ethics behind legalization of prostitution. Recruitment of young children into the trade is increasingly becoming rampant across the globe. Today, the internet is awash with child pornography content which fuels the trade. Cases have been reported where employment bureaus are set up in the name of recruiting girls for licit jobs but who are later coerced into prostitution. It is reasonable to conclude that as long as the prostitution business remains legal, children will continue being recruited into the illicit trade.
Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution
Most prostitutes do not engage in the business by choice but are forced into it by a myriad of factors that conspire to push them into the business. Choices are usually imposed upon her by the clients rather than through a consensual agreement. Many more are coerced into the business especially those that are trafficked.
Women will still suffer physical violence from pimps and buyers
Another worrying consequence of decriminalizing the trade is the abuse of the prostitutes in the hands of pimps and clients who subject them to physical violence. It is true that legalization empowers women against abuse by pimps and clients through various policies instituted in the law but in reality many prostitutes are injured and sometimes even killed by ruthless clients and agents. Studies have revealed that the greatest cause of death in most prostitutes was homicide. The prevalence of homicide in active prostitutes was 17 times higher than non prostitute population (Anonymous, 2004). In a study carried out in Colorado Springs, it was found that homicide accounted for 19% of the causes of deaths among prostitutes (Potterat et al.2004). Some people masquerading as clients are known to inflict serious injuries or even death upon the prostitutes. For example, Steve Wright, a fork lift truck driver was charged in 2006 with murdering five prostitutes in London (Cheston, 2008). Others are reported to lure the prostitutes into backstreet dens where they have violently robbed them and sometimes murdered them.
In a study carried out by CATW 5, 80% of the women interviewed admitted to having been assaulted by their pimps and the clients and also suffered from the effects of sexual exploitation and violence. Violence was visited by the pimps to enforce compliance, to attain sexual gratification, to force new recruits into prostitution, as punishment, and to intimidate them. Besides these, rape cases are also rampant among prostitutes many of whom will admit to having been raped at an instance. Another risk facing prostitutes is battery when they demand for the use of condom during sex. This means that prostitutes work under very dangerous environments and those who seek to legalize it do not address the security of the sexual worker who is under the mercy of pimps and the clients. Hence going by the potential risk associated with practice it makes sense to retain the rules as they are rather than legalize it.
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Monitoring prostituted women does not protect them from HIV/AIDS or STDs
The existing legalized systems only make it mandatory for health checks and certification on the prostitutes without any requirements on the side of the clients. This is discriminatory on the women as it fails to protect them from infection from HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases from their clients. In a study carried out among the U.S. prostitutes, 47% of those interviewed revealed that their clients expected sex without a condom, while 73% said that they got higher payments without using condoms (Raymond, 2003). Another 45% admitted to physical violence on insisting on the use of condoms. It is a fact that legalization allows authorities to enforce the condom policy but many prostitution establishments had condom policies on paper which were however not enforced. In fact, many pimps pressured women not to use condoms in pursuit for higher pays. Furthermore, the safety policies employed by the brothels did not work to protect the prostitutes. Security officers on duty did not enforce the use of condoms as they were more interested with security of the business while the prostitutes’ was relegated to second place.
Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution
Although it appears valid that legalization reduces the attractiveness of prostitution, in reality it motivates men to overindulge in the procurement of sex in a socially acceptable setting.
Many men who would not risk buying women for sex would now see prostitution as acceptable
Decriminalization of sex makes it acceptable to those men who would not have otherwise risked soliciting for it. Legal legitimization of prostitution paves way for a broader social and cultural legitimization of marginalization of women as sexual commodities. This tends to have a negative socialization effect of each coming generation of men who adapt to the prevailing societal perception. The growing boys have the urge to experiment with the prostitutes due to rampant exposure through explicit publicity. This inclines them to the vice which they deem normal as they grow and easily follow their predecessors into brothels. Further, with legalization comes excess supply which further pushes down the prices for the sex services hence increasing affordability which in turn encourages more men to indulge.
The disabled persons in legalized countries are also accorded sexual services by being taken to brothels by government employed workers. For example in Victoria in Australia, sex is advertised along highways just like any other commodity while hotels and club encourage businessmen to host their corporate meetings in them where they are served women between breaks (Sullivan & Jeffreys, 2001). Sweden just like Canada’s current law prohibits and punishes any pedaling or purchase of sexual services which helps to curb the demand for sexual services.
Women will have to compete to provide services by engaging in unsafe activities with clients.
Due to excess supply of sexual services, women are forced to enhance their service offering through differentiation by engaging in anal sex and sex without condoms, sexual bondage and domination among others (Raymond, 2003). Some engage in unprotected sexual orgies with multiple partners who increase their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Oral sex among prostitutes with clients also increases their vulnerability. Competition from brothels that had no mandatory requirements for condoms also made the brothels abandon condom use to attract more customers, a situation that put the women at a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Its no doubt that although legalizing prostitution could somewhat protect women by allowing them to conduct business indoors in safer, healthier conditions, prostitution should remain as it is under the Criminal Code of Canada and not be legalized for two main reasons. First, current laws prevent the commercialization of prostitution and protect women involved from violence and human trafficking. But most importantly, decriminalizing prostitution could cause women to view it as a career and lead to red light districts across the country.
Altink, S. (1995). Stolen Lives: Trading Women into Sex and Slavery, London. Scarlet Press.
Anonymous. (2004). Prostitution laws: health risks and hypocrisy. Canadian Medical Association. Journal , Vol. 171 ( Iss. 2), p. 109, 111 (1 pp.).
Cheston, P. (2008). Forklift driver in court over serial killing of prostitutes. Web.
Chuang, J. Redirecting the Debate over Trafficking in Women: Definitions, Paradigms, and Contexts.” Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 11 (1998):65-107.
Derks, A. (2000). Combating Trafficking in South East Asia: A Review of Policy and Programme Responses. International Organization for Migration Research Series. Web.
IOM (International Organization for Migration) (1995). Trafficking and Prostitution: the Growing Exploitation of Migrant Women from Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: IOM Migration Information Program.
Potterat JJ, Brewer DD, Muth SQ, Rothenberg RB, Woodhouse DR, Muth JB, et al. Mortality in a long-term open cohort of prostitute women. Am J Epidemiol 2004; 159:778-85.
QADEER, N. (2003). Canada take note: a comparative perspective on trafficking. Canadian Woman Studies, Vol. 22 (Iss. 3/4), p. 72-77.
Raymond, J.G. (2003). 10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution. Web.
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Sullivan, M. and Jeffreys, S. (2001). Legalizing Prostitution is Not the Answer: the Example of Victoria, Australia. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Australia and USA. Web.
Tiggeloven, C. (2001). Child Prostitution in the Netherlands. Web.
Young, A. (2008). The state is still in the bedrooms of the nation: The control and regulation of sexuality in Canadian criminal law. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 17 (Iss. 4), p. 203-220 (18 pp.).