Sunday, April 11
Our last blog! Prostitution in the US, Netherlands and Sweden.
The debate on whether prostitution is a victimless crime and whether it should be regulated or legalized has raged on for decades. One side asserts that prostitutes inflict harm on themselves and therefore the crime is victimless. The other side protests that they may also inflict harm on the client through STD. Well, the first side points, the client does know the danger before going, doesn’t he? And what about when the client transmits the STD? Yes, but, the second side reloads, society does suffer through the acceptance of loose morals… What morals are we talking about, the first side snaps, when we have legalized pornography? And how can a free society legislate the sexual behavior between consenting adults? We should legislate, the second side retorts, because money is changing hands… Men are buying women... "Not women" the first side answers, merely their services.... and so on and so on and so on….
Most of the debate however is based on ideological approaches to a sensitive matter while cherry picking the statistics that suit the particular ideology. This is why it is useful to not only look at some facts but also some alternative models in the western world. In the US the evidence demonstrates that prostitution is rarely a career choice. The majority of those working as prostitutes are street youth who more frequently report histories of childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse. More than 50% have been forced into the sex trade. Sexual and physical violence are common, while the risks for AIDSand the probability for mental disorders are very high. Street prostitutes are also more likely to be abusers of crack cocaine, and heavily identify with street life. Girls typically become prostitutes at age 13 or 14 with close to 90% of them wanting to escape the work. The mortality rate for prostitutes is 200 times that of women of similar age and race.
The grim statistics seem to support the argument against legalization. Not so fast, the legalization side protests, because –as they claim- legalization will bring down the violence against prostitutes. Plus, what is the point of criminalizing the oldest profession on earth since men will always seek out their services?
This is where the war against prostitution resembles the war on drugs. They both have concentrated on the supply side having ignored the huge demand side that keeps the supply going. How do you deal with that?
So here are some alternative models. In the Netherlands prostitution involving Dutch or other EU citizens is a legal occupation, and most prostitutes work in brothels or sex clubs that require a permit. The reason why the legalization applies to EU citizens is the trafficking problem many countries face, with kidnapped or lured girls from Easter Europe or Asia brought into the country as sex slaves and forced to work underground.
The Swedes have moved away from total legalization and concentrated on battling the demand side. According to the "Sex Purchase Act" passed in 1999 it is illegal to buy sexual services. The law punishes the client only but not the prostitute as the act is considered a form of violence and exploitation against women. The client may be punished by fines or up to six months in prison, plus the humiliation of public exposure. Although accurate statistics can not be found, some estimate the number of prostitutes in Sweden to have dropped by 40%. Traffickers avoid Sweden since the clients are hesitant and according to Nicholas Krstof the bottom line is that if you want to rape a 13-year-old girl imported from Eastern Europe, you’ll have a much easier time in Amsterdam than in Stockholm.
Three different models on a multi-dimensional social problem. Your thoughts?