Should We Legalize Prostitution?

By Raymond Viger

For many decades I believed that legalizing prostitution would help women who work the street and solve all their problems. But I can’t ignore the experiences of those nations that have legalized it. After having deeply researched the topic, I am now fundamentally convinced that legalization would cause more problems than it would solve. It’s too easy to get rid of the question and reply in haste.

The Effects of Legalization

For more than a decade, countries like Australia, the Netherlands and Germany have legalized prostitution. For some, they haven’t yet been able to manage the negative effects; for others, they’d like to go back in time.

In legalizing prostitution, we’re asking entrepreneurs (ex-pimps) to be nice towards the women working in their now-legal brothels. But once a girl gets a little old (example: 23), or she starts looking a little worn around the edges, she gets replaced quickly, to please the clientele. It’s the jungle of supply and demand, where the customer is always right and profits mean everything.

What happens to these women who are thrown out of their brothel? Do they go back to working the streets? You can see why in countries that have legalized prostitution they have three times more women working the streets than prior to legalization.

And are these women safer and happier exercising their profession? On the one hand, a client will take a streetwalker over a brothel girl because she costs less, because the client is violent and can’t go into the brothels, because he has requests that a brothel girl won’t accede to like having sex without a condom… On the other hand, citizens might be led to being less tolerant of streetwalkers: “We legalized prostitution so we wouldn’t have to see you out on the streets! Go back to your brothel!”

Prostitution and $10 Dances

Closer to home, in a similar domain, we can ask ourselves if legalizing $10 dances (lap dances in booths) improved the quality of life for dancers. What happens to women who dance but who don’t want to give blow jobs in a booth? Did this keep organized crime out of bars? Why would things be any different if we legalized prostitution?

Only street prostitutes would be singled out for law enforcement attention. Other forms of prostitution would be legal. Nonetheless, repression has its consequences. We give them citations, criminalize people, and put them in prison. We hear horror stories: women beaten up by clients and who can’t file a complaint because they’re considered criminals; police who blackmail women to give up information on what’s going on in the milieu… And a raid just moves the activity from one neighborhood to another.

What are our choices other than to legalize prostitution? Limiting ourselves to either legalizing or criminalizing puts us at a dead end. In Sweden they criminalize the clients. Prostitutes are considered victims and can receive help and support. The formula seems to be working, because up until now there has been a reduction in the number of prostitutes in Sweden.

Our society should debate new approaches and new choices. Your comments and opinions are important.

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