Is Legalized Prostitution A Good Thing?

I recently came back from Europe where I spoke at a university in Tubingen, Germany. In front of a U.S. Criminal Law class of bright, idealistic students from many different countries, I explained my work and the dark side of the laws and legislations that are supposed to protect women and girls from human trafficking. Being that this was a working crimanl law class where there was a “mock” lobbying exercise to show students what it means to argue both sides of the law in order to get the legislation you’re lobbying for passed. The topics ranged from should the death penalty be legal (taking into account the mass incarceration problem in the U.S.) to should everyone have the right to bear arms to should prostitution be legal.
The topic of lobbying to legalize prostitution surprisingly, was not a big hit with the students. In fact some didn’t even realize that Germany had recently legalized prostitution. Hamburg boasts to be one of the biggest Red Light districts in Europe with legalized prostitution-never speaking about trafficking. Despite the fact that they had to find the pros of legalizing it, all they could think about was the cons of making it legal or a viable job for that matter. This is a hard subject to debate let alone lobby for. The young ladies in the group found it especially hard because they understand that a lot of young women their age are forced into prostitution and trafficked. How could they possibly lobby for something that will hurt them and many others their age. But again this is a “mock” lobbying exercise so it’s not real. But it sure felt real.
This is also a debate that has been discussed in the U.S. There is signifigant backlash to legalizing it and massive support for the Nordic Model implemented by Sweden. But our research turned from the U.S. to Gemany very quickly once it was found out prostitution was legalized in their country.
Studies done by German scholars show that there are signifigantly larger reported incidences of human trafficking where prostitution is legal. They say that this is the case regardless of the model being used to come to this conclusion. The same outcome is reported overall and is not specific to a particular region in the world. Even if prostitution resides in a legal status, it can still operate illegally thus increasing the supply and demand which in turn will increase legalized prostitution with no clear evidence of human trafficking taking place. Legalization will also push Pimps and Traffickers to recruit more local or national women or foreign women without legal residency.  Conversely there will be an insufficient supply of national and foreign individuals who are “willing”  to work in prostitution making trafficking more attractive to the Pimps and Traffickers. In the end, none of this will reduce the numbers of trafficked women.
Clients to patronize this industry have specific tastes and they are always looking for something “exotic” from a remote area of the world, this is the perferred demographic. Keeping up with this demand makes it more and more unlikely that women coming into the country will have legal status which leads them directly into trafficking. Germany has a tough stance on women being in their country illegally. If they are not willing to testify against their pimp and recount their story, they are immediately deported back with no services or resoures of any kind. Research on a study of Denmark and Sweden shows that in 2004 Denmark had 2,500 individuals who were trafficked into their country vs. 500 individuals in Sweden where the Nordic Model was introduced. This is according to a global data report.  Denmark, however, is signifigantly larger than Sweden and has 6,000 women in prostitution which is three to four times larger than Sweden. Despite this, the two countries have their fair share of trafficked persons whether prostitution is legal or illegal. Sweden’s Nordic Model is continually reducing the demand by arresting those who buy sex and forcing them to pay penalties.
Unlike Sweden, Germany is more liberal with their prostitution laws. Today in Germany prostitution is regarded as a “regular job” that is subject to taxes and available to any woman that is “willing” to take the risks and dangers that come with the job. Based on a global data report Germany has one of the largest prostitution markets in Europe with 150,000 people working as prostitutes.The number of prostitutes in Germany is more than 60 times that of Sweden regardless of their population of 82 million. According to the ILO, in 2004 the estimated number of trafficked victims in Germany was approximately 32,800-about 62 times more than Sweden. It’s not clear what that number is today, i’m inclined to say it has tripled but there is nothing to support that at this time. Germay legalized prostitution to not only regulate it but to increase profits for the country without any-if at all-regard for those individuals who will be trafficked as a result. More and more they are starting to see that this was a mistake, one that they can’t take back-that would probably start a riot with men who feel they are entitled to a woman’s body no matter the cost.

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