Prostitution myths justify the existence of prostitution, promote misinformation about prostitution, and contribute to a social climate that exploits and harms not only prostituted women but all women.
—Dr. Melissa Farley
In my last post, I made a very simple case: sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped demanding women and children’s bodies for sex. I also posed a straightforward question—if legislators and society truly care about the millions of women abused through commercial sexual exploitation, why isn’t everyone calling for the government to address demand?
Sadly, the first reason is that too many men from all walks of society buy women for sex, believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies, or are desensitized to the sexual commodification of women (see previous post).
Let’s move on to reason 2.
Reason 2: There is a growing movement of people who claim that by fully decriminalizing prostitution, we can eradicate the trafficking component.
For instance, in a recent article about New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s alleged solicitation of sex at a massage parlor in Florida, author Samantha Chang stated, “His arrest spotlights a bigger issue – which is that prostitution should be legalized. Research suggests that this is actually better for the women who do sex work.”
First off, research does not suggest that prostitution is better for women when it is legalized. This is a myth. (I’ll get to that in a moment).
Second off, it’s not just people like Samantha Chang who advocate for the legalization of prostitution. New York State Senators Jessica Ramos, Julia Salazar, and Brad Hoylman are currently forming a bill to fully decriminalize prostitution, which they call “sex work” (Don’t Pass This “Pimp Protection Act”).
To be fair, some people who support the full decriminalization of prostitution may have honest intentions. As Samantha Chang goes on to say in her article, “By decriminalizing the sex trade, prostitiutes would have the same protections as any other worker. So they could feel free [to] call police for help and seek medical care without worrying that they might end up in jail.”
Sounds reasonable, right?
Here’s the problem—the facts tell a different story.
Germany and New Zealand
First off, you have to realize what “full decriminalization” means. It means fully decriminalizing pimping, brothel-keeping, and buying sex. Germany and New Zealand have done exactly that, and the facts are tragic.
In her speech before the Italian Parliament in Rom in 2018, Dr. Ingeborg Kraus reported,
“Far from protecting the women, ‘the German model’ has become ‘hell on earth’ for them…prostitution has risen up to 30% since 2002…3500 brothels are officially registered. But we know that there are at least as many illegal brothels…It is the German state, by normalising prostitution and by guaranteeing a total decriminalization of the sex buyers, that has contributed to an enormous increase in demand…There is ‘a right’ to buy sexual acts and there is no need to feel guilty about that any more… I will preserve you from details, but today, completely legally, you can buy a woman and piss her in her face, do group rapes, or force her to swallow semen…The “German model“ of legalising prostitution has shown itself to be a law obliging the criminal world and has turned Germany into traffickers’, procurers’ and brothel keepers’ Eldorado, as Manfred Paulus, Chief Inspector with the police, has stated… Approximately 50% of the punters are in relationships, so women are being cheated by their partners and husbands: Do the calculation yourself: every day 1.2 Million men buy sex. They are not the same every day. We must realize, that Germany is a country where millions of women are being cheated on… The system of prostitution ferments hate! It pollutes human relationships. A state that legalises the buying of sex, forments hate among men and women, and destroys and traumatises relationships and families for generations.”
(Side note: I highly recommend reading her full speech here.)
In New Zealand, the situation is very much the same. Sabrinna Valisce, a former survivor of New Zealand prostitution, supported full decriminalization before it was passed into law. But when it was, she experienced it’s brutality first hand and now violently opposes it.
For the sake of time, I won’t say more on the issue. Read Sabrinna’s comments here.
Unfortunately, Samantha Chang mistakenly reports that “human trafficking in New Zealand vanished after it legalized prostitution.” I wish she had read the 2013 study in the European Journal of Law and Economics that found that human trafficking and sexual exploitation are “most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized.” I wish she had read the 2012 quantitative study that showed that countries with legalized prostitution on average have a larger degree of human trafficking.
Pimps (traffickers) know this. They know that if law makers and society target demand, the commercial sex industry will shrink, and they will make less money. They know they will have a harder time hiding.
So you know what they do? They advocate for the full decriminalization model under the guise that it’s for the benefit of the women being prostituted—the very women they are exploiting.
For instance, Amnesty International—a human rights organization that has more than seven million members and supporters worldwide—has taken a pro-decriminalization stance for the last few years. It’s bad enough that a human rights organization of that magnitude and influence supports full decriminalization.
But here’s whats worse: Amnesty’s policy decision was guided by Alejandra Gil from Global Network of Sex Work Projects, a pimp and sex-trafficker who is now serving 15 years in prison (A Human Rights Scandal).
The Nordic Model
So if full decriminalization fails so miserably, what’s the other option? It’s the Nordic model. First adopted in Sweden, this model only criminalizes sex buyers, pimps, and traffickers. It doesn’t criminalize women being prostituted. On top of that, it offers prostituted women social services and exit opportunities.
“The Nordic model is about more than just changing the law. It is also an idea — it is about changing the culture, and the culture is what needs to change as well as our legislative approach. What the Nordic model and its proponents are saying is that men are not entitled to access the bodies of women and girls, even if they pay.”
—Meghan Murphy, Journalist
Since the introduction of the Nordic model to Sweden in 1999, prostitution and human trafficking have declined, consistent with other studies showing “a casual link from harsher prostitution laws to reduced trafficking.”
Watch this video by Exodus Cry to learn more about the Nordic model.
Simply put, the Nordic model works because it targets demand.
Stay tuned for the final part in this 3 part series, where I’ll address reason 3 and how you can make a difference in stemming the tide of demand.