by Elizabeth (Liz) Berney, Esq.
I was surprised that one of my favorite Great Neck News letter writers recently proposed “The Client Number 9 Legalization Law.” (See “Legalize Prostitution and Pursue Real Crimes,” Great Neck News, May 26, 2011, in which the author stated that (former Gov. Eliot) Spitzer would not have lost his governorship if prostitution were legal.) I’m voting “no” on this one.
Prostitution is the world’s most hazardous “profession.” Its “workers” are subject to abuse and rape, live in constant fear, resort to drugs to cope with the pain of their situation, and are frequently killed in the “workplace.” According to an American Journal of Epidemiology study, prostitutes die at the average age of 34 – less than half the life-expectancy of the average American. According to various studies, 90 percent of prostitutes hate what they are doing. Many describe it as “paid rape” and “slavery.” They long for a way to escape.
Because prostitution is not an occupation that most women wish to volunteer for, countries that have legalized prostitution have experienced huge increases in the human trafficking of women and young girls, to meet increased demand for “sex services.”
This is a serious criminal and human rights violations issue. As former President Bush stated in a 2003 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the trafficking of persons is “a special kind of evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable.”
A 2004 U.S. State Department Report on Human Trafficking estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 adults and children are trafficked each year, and noted that some NGOs’ estimates are far higher. The report estimated that half of those trafficked were for the purposes of sexual exploitation. (Other purposes included serving as child soldiers, working in quarries and sweatshops and other forms of slavery.)
The real life stories included in the State Department report of how young women and children have been lured, tricked, kidnapped, or threatened into sexual slavery are chilling.
For instance, traffickers lured a Czech woman, Katya, to the Netherlands by offering her a lucrative waitressing job. Then, against her will, they threw her into a brothel and obtained her compliance for years, by constantly threatening to kill Katya’s 2-year-old daughter.
The 2004 State Department Report concluded: “The United States government takes a firm stance against proposals to legalize prostitution because prostitution directly contributes to the modern-day slave trade and is inherently demeaning.”
The State Department report also found that sex slave trafficking is closely related to organized crime, and drugs and weapons trafficking. Legalizing prostitution will not help focus law enforcement efforts on the “real” criminals; rather, it will make it easier for real criminals to operate.
Legalizing prostitution will also not increase tax revenues. Who in the world will write “pimp” or “prostitute” on a Form 1040, and face a lifetime of stigmatization? What “customer” will issue a 1099 form to a prostitute who serviced him? Even if sex “sales transactions” are legalized, receipts from prostitution will remain underground.
New York has more than its share of trafficking and sex exploitation, even without the legalization of prostitution. New York State’s Anti-Trafficking law, enacted in 2007, explained that New York “is a destination for trafficked persons from all over the world who are forced into various labor sectors, such as . . . sex work.” Legalizing prostitution would only make these human rights violations worse.
(Author’s Note: This article was first published in the June 2, 2011 Great Neck News, New Hyde Park Courier and Williston Times. You may reprint it on your website if you mention the newspapers where it was first published. Please also mention my website. Liz)