Does legal prostitution lead to human trafficking and slavery?
The U.S. Department of State, in its June 2007 issue of the "Trafficking in Humans Report," stated:
"Sex trafficking would not exist without the demand for commercial sex flourishing around the world. The U.S. Government adopted a strong position against prostitution in a December 2002 policy decision, which states that prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing and fuels trafficking in persons.
Prostitution and related activities—including pimping and patronizing or maintaining brothels—encourage the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a façade behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate. Where prostitution is tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery. Few women seek out or choose to be in prostitution, and most are desperate to leave it. A 2003 scientific study in the Journal of Trauma Practice found that 89 percent of women in prostitution want to escape prostitution but had no other options for survival."
Margareta Winberg, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, said at the Seminar on the Effects of Legalisation of Prostitution Activities in Stockholm on Nov. 5-6, 2002 that:
"I believe that we will never succeed in combating trafficking in women if we do not simultaneously work to abolish prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Particularly in light of the fact that many women in prostitution in countries that have legalised prostitution are originally victims of trafficking in women."
Richard Poulin, PhD, Professor of Sociology at the University of Ottawa, wrote "The Legalization of Prostitution and Its Impact on Trafficking in Women and Children" posted Feb. 6, 2005 on Sisyphe.org:
"Although there was a belief that legalization would make possible control of the sex industry, the illegal industry is now 'out of control'. Police in Victoria [Australia] estimate that there are 400 illegal brothels as against 100 legal ones. Trafficking in women and children from other countries has increased significantly. The legalization of prostitution in some parts of Australia has thus resulted in a net growth of the industry. One of the results has been the trafficking in women and children to 'supply' legal and illegal brothels. The 'sex entrepreneurs' have difficulty recruiting women locally to supply an expanding industry, and women from trafficking are more vulnerable and more profitable."
Christine Stark, MFA, author and activist, said on "Justice Talking" on National Public Radio (NPR) on Mar. 4, 2002 that:
"...[Y]ou don't legalize organized rape. You just don't do that. What we have found is that legalization has caused an increase in the trafficking into the area where the legalization exists. The state then becomes the pimp… Legalizing prostitution creates more demand and mainstreams abuse of women and children... [I]t also makes it difficult to hold traffickers accountable."
Barrett Duke Jr., PhD, Vice President for Research and Public Policy, Research Institute of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention, is quoted in the May 4, 2004 Pakistan Christian Post as having said:
"Instead of legalizing prostitution, they should work very vigorously at ending prostitution, which in our opinion would significantly contribute to the eradication of trafficking in persons and human sexual slavery."
Michael J. Horowitz, LLB, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, at the May 4, 2006 "Germany's World Cup Brothels: 40,000 Women and Children at Risk of Exploitation Through Trafficking" Hearing before the U.S. House of Representative's International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, said:
"At least as importantly we now also wage intellectual and policy battles, as we must, against trafficking's apologists and appeasers. Those adversaries, some well-meaning, believe that the fight against traffickers can never be won and can thus only be waged at the margins. They call for the legalization and regulation of the commercial sex industry, precisely as their 19th century counterparts sought to 'reform' African chattel slavery by seeking improved health conditions on slave ships and by calling for episodic Christmas holiday breaks for field hands…
Today's appeasers fail to understand that legalizing prostitution always increases illegal prostitution. They fail to understand that the emotional capture of victims by brutal and experienced traffickers makes it certain that the victims will almost never feel free to testify about the lives they are forced to endure. They fail to understand that 'Pretty Woman' story is a lie, that the Academy Award electors who awarded this year's Oscar to the profoundly infamous song 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp' provide cover and protection for the real world of slavery."
The Bureau of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, in its Mar. 2005 report "Trafficking in Human Beings - Third Report of the Dutch National Rapporteur," stated:
"The fight against THB [trafficking in human beings] for sexual exploitation is often confused with the battle that some people wage against prostitution...[T]here are disadvantages associated with a repressive approach, since such an approach does not distinguish between victims and independent sex workers, and clients will not play a role as a potential source of information on trafficking practices...
It is often said in the media that the lifting of the general ban on brothels has led to more THB. This is not a correct conclusion. Before the lifting of the general ban on brothels, THB and other (criminal) abuses were taking place in all sectors of prostitution. Some of these sectors are now under control and can be assumed to have rid themselves of their former criminal excesses, or are doing so...It is possible that THB is increasing in the illegal, non-regulated or noncontrolled sectors. If this were to be the case, it still cannot be assumed that the extent of THB is now at the same or even above the 'old' level it was at before the ban on brothels was lifted. It is in fact likely that this is not the case, merely because not every client is keen to get involved in the 'secret' prostitution sector."
Marjan Wijers, LLM, Chair of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, in the chapter "Women, Labor, and Migration: The Position of Trafficked Women and Strategies for Support" of the 1998 book Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, wrote:
"Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers…[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed."
Alison J. Murray, PhD, lecturer at the University of Sydney, in the chapter "Debt-Bondage and Trafficking: Don't Believe the Hype" of the 1998 book Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, wrote:
Blanket statements about prostitution and the exploitation of women are propaganda from a political agenda which seeks to control the way people think and behave. The situations which the anti-traffickers rail against, insofar as they do exist, are a result of economic, political and gender inequalities which should be our central cause for concern. The vast range of sex industries and contexts requires an understanding of diversity and difference and a realization that prohibition and unitary 'moral values' are part of the problem, not the solution.
The Economist, in the Sep. 2, 2004 opinion article "Sex is Their Business," wrote:
"Criminalisation forces prostitution into the underworld. Legalisation would bring it into the open, where abuses such as trafficking and under-age prostitution can be more easily tackled. Brothels would develop reputations worth protecting."
Rita Nakashima Brock, PhD, Founding Co-Director of Faith Voices for the Common Good, is quoted in a Jan. 25, 2004 Sex Workers Outreach Project press release as having said:
"Prohibition gives cover to traffickers. It allows them to use the laws against prostitution to intimidate, especially when it comes to children. Women and girls being held against their will are afraid to go to police because they will be treated as criminals."
David A. Feingold, PhD, Coordinator of Trafficking-HIV/AIDS Programs, Culture Unit, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Bangkok, in the article "Think Again: Human Trafficking" of the Sep.-Oct. 2005 Foreign Policy, wrote:
"The intersection of the highly emotive issues of sex work and human trafficking generates a lot more heat than light. Some antitrafficking activists equate 'prostitution' with trafficking and vice versa, despite evidence to the contrary. The U.S. government leaves no doubt as to where it stands: According to the State Department Web site, 'Where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.' By this logic, the state of Nevada should be awash in foreign sex slaves, leading one to wonder what steps the Justice Department is taking to free them. Oddly, the Netherlands, Australia, and Germany--all of whom have legalized prostitution--received top marks from the Bush administration in the most recent Trafficking in Persons Report.
Moreover, some efforts to prohibit prostitution have increased sex workers' risk to the dangers of trafficking, though largely because lawmakers neglected to consult the people the laws were designed to protect. Sweden, for example, is much praised by antiprostitution activists for a 1998 law that aimed to protect sex workers by criminalizing their customers. But several independent studies, including one conducted by the Swedish police, showed that it exposed prostitutes to more dangerous clients and less safe-sex practices."