Women that are trafficked into the sex business are not the criminals, yet that is the manner in which they are dealt with in places where it is illicit. Regularly pimps go free and the women are imprisoned, despite the fact that they are even though they are arguably the least at fault. Because they are automatically criminals, they cannot go to the police for help when they are mistreated. They do not have access to many resources they should like health care.
The government has tried to rid the sex trade for 1000 year, but prostitution thrives in the age of the Internet. The reality that sex work is not going anywhere. If we treat it as just another service industry, sex workers – be they male or female, homo- or heterosexual – can come out of the shadows and start to shed the stigma of criminality. What consenting adults do behind closed doors, whether they pay for it or not, is no concern of the state.
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Legalizing and regulating prostitution will make live safer for sex workers and help break the pimps and trafficking gangs who exploit them. The traffickers thrive because the sex business is driven underground. Legalise it, and they will fade away. Prostitutes will feel safer going to the police if they no longer fear prosecution.
“In the most recent government research, a 2008 survey of 770 sex workers by the New Zealand government, most reported that they were not likely to report violence to the police, which the government attributed to their sense of stigma” (NYT). The police will be able to focus resources on cracking down on the real villains – the criminal gangs who exploit sex workers. The experience of places like Nevada, Switzerland and New Zealand show that legalised, regulated prostitution works. Globally, the prostitution business is worth $186 billion. Income on that scale could generate a lot of tax revenue.
It’s been estimated legalising prostitution across the United States could give the tax authorities around $20 billion a year. In Germany – which liberalized its prostitution laws in 2002 – the legal industry is worth around €16 billion and tax revenue is a major contribution to some city budgets. It’s time the sex industry is taxed like any other business, so that those revenues can benefit society.
Overall it would also improve the quality of life for many of these women, they could be in unions and get fair wages. They could also report to managers instead of abusive pimps and work in clean locations, not alleys and basements. It becomes a profession, safe and less stigmatized. This is also much safer for clients, as they can be assured a clean bill of health from the sex worker.