WASHINGTON, May 2, 2012 —No one wants to see anyone, whether it is a housewife or a prostitute, brutally raped. For prostitutes, brutality from johns or even policemen is a reality. The century old question lingering over one’s mind remains; will legalizing prostitution really end violence against prostituted women and stop sex trafficking? The Swedish authority has an answer to that question.
Some sex workers’ advocates argue that legalizing prostitution will end violence against women in prostitution and eliminate sex trafficking. They say once prostitution becomes legalized, prostitutes can come forward to the police to file complaints about the violence. It will also eliminate criminals from trafficking women and children in to prostitution. They assume that once the sex market is legalized, prostitution becomes part of the legal economy, which will prevent criminals from partaking in the market.
Case studies in other countries show that legalization is not the solution to end the violence against prostituted women and eliminate sex trafficking. In Germany, the federal authority announced that human trafficking increased by 70 % between 2005 and 2010 and 11 percent between 2009 and 2010. The federal authority added that most of human trafficking cases involved women forced into prostitution. Whereas the authority legalized prostitution to end criminal involvement in the market, the number of organized criminals in German prostitution increased in the past.
German authorities expressed concern over the rising number of children in prostitution. The 2010 annual report by German federal authorities stated that one in five victims of sex trafficking were underage and 41 of them were younger than 14 years old.
Studies show that buyers look for children to prostitute when prostitution become legal. In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, child prostitution has increased dramatically during the 1990s. According to Amsterdam-based Child Right organization, the estimated number of children in prostitution increased by more than 300% between 1996 (4000 children) and 2001 (15000 children).
When it comes to the number of children exploited in prostitution, Australia’s case is no exception. The number of children prostituted in the state of Victoria rose above those in other states, where prostitution is not legalized. Victoria also had the highest number of prostituted children in Australia.
The legalization of prostitution in Australia has failed to protect prostituted women from violent clients. In 2011, A 65 year old sex worker was found dead. Police later suspected that one of her regular clients killed her during a sex act. During the same week, police found another 24 years old sex worker’s dead body in a separate incident. Even after the legalization, violence against women in prostitution remains common.
Swedish authorities know how to stop violence against prostituted women and curb sex trafficking. In 1995, Sweden passed a ground-breaking law to end prostitution and sex trafficking of women in the country. The regulation takes an innovative approach to respect the choice of women and men in prostitution to sell their bodies but criminalizes buyers, pimps, and brothel owners that profit from the sales.
The Swedish authority created the bill to promote gender equality in the country. From the Swedish legal point of view, women selling sex have been forced to do so by circumstances or coercion. According to CNN, buyers of sex now face “hefty fines, an embarrassingly public police notification and possible time in prison with a maximum four- years sentence. Swedish society now looks down on buyers of sex. The public refers sex buyers as “a cod,” the same term referring to a loser.
Currently, the Sweden has about 200 prostitutes in its capital city, with population of 2 millions. Prostitution on the street is virtually gone, although the authority still battles sex trafficking and prostitution online. Many pimps and brothel owners do not see the hefty fines worth the battle.
Legalization isn’t a solution to end violence against women in prostitution. If anything, it offers the leeway for brothel owners, pimps, and johns to exploit women and children. And the government gets to part take that exploitation through taxation.
If sex workers’ advocates are looking for a solution to violence against women under the current criminalized sex market, they should advocate for decriminalizing prostitution. Allow women to sell their bodies. But, criminalize buyers, pimps, and brothel owners who profit from taking away a woman’s divine rights over their own bodies. That is until she realizes the sense of her worth.
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