Last updated on: 1/3/2018 | Author:

Would Legal Prostitution Better Protect Prostitutes from Violence?

PRO (yes)


Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA (SWOP), in the “Our Values: Sex Work Is Work” section of its website, (accessed Jan. 3, 2018), wrote:

“We maintain that consent and the upholding of individual rights are key differentiators between sex work and sexual assault, and we reject the notion that sex work is inherently linked to violence…

The presence of sex workers in social movements, the visibility of sex workers in communities of all kinds, and societal awareness of sex worker rights as fundamental to human rights in no way perpetuate violence, sexual assault, slavery and trafficking in persons. We believe that when sex work is decriminalized, and when sex workers do not suffer from stigma and discrimination, issues of abuse in the sex trade can be better identified, addressed and nullified.”

Jan. 3, 2018


Stephen Kastoryano, PhD, Assistant Professor in Empirical Econometrics at the University of Mannheim (Germany), et al., in an Apr. 19, 2017 Cato Institute Research Brief titled “Street Prostitution Zones and Crime,” available from, wrote:

“The Netherlands holds a long tradition of regulated tolerance toward prostitution. Besides the well-known window prostitution in red-light districts, the Dutch government also regulates other parts of the sex industry…

Our empirical results show that opening a tippelzone [designated legal street prostitution zone in the Netherlands] reduces sexual abuse and rape. These results are mainly driven by a 30–40 percent reduction in the first two years after opening the tippelzone. For tippelzones with a licensing system, we additionally find long-term decreases in sexual assault and a 25 percent decrease in drug-related crime, which persists in the medium to long run.”

Apr. 19, 2017


Alison Bass, MLA, Assistant Professor of Journalism at West Virginia University, in her 2015 book titled Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law, wrote:

“While antiprostitution laws have done little to stem the thriving industry in recreational sex, they exact a high price on public health and safety. Although violence is not intrinsic to the sex trade… many sex workers fear getting arrested if they report violent clients or exploitative pimps. Hence, criminalization allows killers and others to prey on women with impunity. Predators target prostitutes precisely because they are less likely to go to the police, and nonprostitutes are victimized as well when killers go unchecked…

[L]aws criminalizing prostitution also foster corruption among some police offers, who harass sex workers for free sex in exchange for not arresting them.”



Melanie Reid, former Columnist and Senior Assistant Editor of the The Herald, wrote in the Dec. 12, 2006 The Herald article, “Why are prostitutes allowed to be easy prey?” that:

“There is no doubt that deadly violence against sex workers is a recurring social pattern. Nor is there any doubt that serial killers know sex workers are afraid to seek protection from police; or that the public believe violence is part of a prostitute’s job description. Until prostitution is legalized, these women will continue to toil down on the ocean floor, miles away from the light, in constant fear of predators.”

Dec. 12, 2006


Ronald Weitzer, PhD, Professor of Sociology at George Washington University, in the July 1, 2005 journal Violence Against Women article “Rehashing Tired Claims About Prostitution,” wrote:

“In fact, there is evidence that some systems of legalization provide a relatively safe working environment. Although no system is risk free, women working in legal brothels and window units in the Netherlands experience very little violence. Workers and managers have instituted elaborate procedures to respond to violent customers quickly and effectively. Similarly, in Nevada’s legal brothels, the risk of violence is very low.”

July 1, 2005


Barbara G. Brents, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Kate Hausbeck, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Mar. 2005 Journal of Interpersonal Violence article “Violence and Legalized Brothel Prostitution in Nevada,” wrote:

“There is strong indication from the interview, document analysis, and ethnographic data presented here that legal brothels generally offer a safer working environment than their illegal counterparts. Regulated brothels offer particular ways of dealing with pragmatic safety issues and minimizing actual violence… Nevada brothels offer specific mechanisms to protect workers via the ways transactions are organized, the ways technology is ordered, the visibility of customers, the bureaucratic relationships among customers, managers, and workers, and the cooperation with police based on the mere fact of their legality. All of these mechanisms work to eliminate systematic violence and to discourage an atmosphere of danger and risk.”

Mar. 2005


Melissa Ditmore, PhD, Coordinator of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, wrote in the Feb. 28, 2007 article “Debating Legalized Prostitution” that was posted on the Washington Post’s PostGlobal website:

“Decriminalization would better protect people in the sex industry from violence and abuse…

Police cannot and do not simultaneously seek to arrest prostitutes and protect them from violence. Currently, under New York Criminal Procedure Law, sex workers who have been victims of sex offenses, including assault and rape, face greater obstacles than other victims. Indeed, women describe being told, ‘What did you expect?’ by police officers who refused to investigate acts of violence perpetrated against women whom they knew engaged in prostitution. The consequences of such attitudes are tragic: Gary Ridgway said that he killed prostitutes because he knew he would not be held accountable. The tragedy is that he was right – he confessed to the murders of 48 women, committed over nearly twenty years. That is truly criminal.”

Feb. 28, 2007


Kirby R. Cundiff, PhD, Associate Professor of Finance at Northeastern State University, wrote the Apr. 8, 2004 working paper entitled “Prostitution and Sex Crimes,” for the Independent Institute, that stated:

“It is estimated that if prostitution were legalized in the United States, the rape rate would decrease by roughly 25% for a decrease of approximately 25,000 rapes per year…

[T]he analysis seems to support the hypothesis that the rape rate could be lowered if prostitution was more readily available. This would be accomplished in most countries by its legalization.”

Apr. 8, 2004


Linda M. Rio Reichmann, JD, an undergraduate student at the time of the quote, who later became Director of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Child Custody Pro Bono Project, stated in an Apr. 1991 Archives of Sexual Behavior article titled “Psychological and Sociological Research and the Decriminalization or Legalization of Prostitution”:

“A study conducted in Queensland… show[ed] a 149% increase in the rate of rape when legal brothels were closed in 1959, while other offenses against the person by males increased only 49%.”

Apr. 1991

CON (no)


Inna Shevchenko, President of FEMEN International Association, an international feminist protest group, in an Aug. 17, 2015 blog post for the Huffington Post, titled “Amnesty International’s Policy Does Not Protect Prostitutes: Why Legalisation Doesn’t Work,” wrote:

“Legalisation does NOT reduce violence.

Women who bring charges against pimps and clients will bear the burden of proving that they were ‘forced.’ How possibly can a prostitute prove that she was forced to become a victim of sexual violence if this has happened in her recruitment or is part of her ‘working conditions.’ Violence is the nature of sex industry.

It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalisation or legalisation of the whole industry will protect prostitutes. It is not possible to protect someone whose source of income exposes them to the likelihood of being raped on average once a week.”

Aug. 17, 2015


Ane Mathieson, MSW, Lead Expert on the Nordic Model Policy at the Organization for Prostitution Survivors at the time of the quote, in a 2015 article for the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, titled “Prostitution Policy: Legalization, Decriminalization and the Nordic Model,” available from, wrote:

“Legalization/decriminalization regimes normalize prostitution as ‘labor,’ thereby increasing the market potential for prostitution. Brothel owners and pimps, acting as classic employers, oblige the demands of customers to protect profit margins, regardless of the harms to the prostituted woman. As dictated by capitalism, in the never-ending drive to increase profit and to secure clients, brothel owners, pimps, and buyers coerce women into engaging in unprotected sex, violent sex, anal sex, pregnant sex, bondage, group sex, and so forth…

Legalization and blanket decriminalization laws and policies grant legitimacy to buyers, brothel owners, and pimps, but have not stopped the violence women face at the hands of these same individuals.”



Norma Ramos, JD, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) at the time of the quote, in an Apr. 19, 2012 opinion piece for the New York Times titled “Legal Prostitution Can Never Be Safe,” wrote:

“At its core, prostitution is violence against women. Safe prostitution is an oxymoron. Prostitution creates a class of human beings who are not supposed to feel when they are most supposed to feel, who are not allowed to say no to unwanted sex. It is the world’s oldest oppression.

The way to address oppression is to end it – not legalize, regulate or make it more tolerable. The most effective way to address this commercial sexual exploitation is to penalize the buyers and offer those caught up in the sex trafficking industry a way out.”

Apr. 19, 2012


Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) Australia branch, in the “Exposing Prostitution Myths” section of their website, (accessed Jan. 3, 2018), wrote:

“[I]n cases of gang rape by sportsmen in Australia in 2004, it has become clear that the use of prostituted women and strip clubs is integral to the womanhating and male bonding which led to the sexual violence. The argument also suggests that women who are not prostituted are safer because some other women are set aside to be commercially raped on their behalf. Women’s equality requires that all women should be free from sexual exploitation. Prostitution cannot eliminate rape when it is itself bought rape. The connection between rape and prostitution is that women are turned into objects for men’s sexual use; they can be either bought or stolen. A culture in which women can be bought for use is one in which rape flourishes.”

Jan. 3, 2018


Mary Sullivan, PhD, author, wrote the 2005 report “What Happens When Prostitution Becomes Work?” which stated:

“No other workplace has to cover the range of health and safety issues that ensue from this sexual and economic exchange. Together with STIs [Sexually Transmitted Infections], verbal abuse, battering, sexual harassment and violence, rape and unwanted pregnancies are recognised occupational health and safety risks within the prostitution industry. This does not change because prostitution is legalised.”



Melissa Farley, PhD, Founding Director of the Prostitution Research and Education, in the Oct. 2004 Psychiatric Times article “Prostitution Is Sexual Violence,” wrote:

“Regardless of prostitution’s status (legal, illegal or decriminalized) or its physical location (strip club, massage parlor, street, escort/home/hotel), prostitution is extremely dangerous for women. Homicide is a frequent cause of death… It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalization or legalization will protect anyone in prostitution. It is not possible to protect someone whose source of income exposes them to the likelihood of being raped on average once a week.

It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalization or legalization will protect anyone in prostitution. It is not possible to protect someone whose source of income exposes them to the likelihood of being raped on average once a week.”

Oct. 2004


Anastasia Volkonsky, JD, Founder and former Project Director of Prevention, Referral, Outreach, Mentoring, and Intervention to End Sexual Exploitation (PROMISE), in the Feb. 27, 1995 Insight on the News article “Legalization the ‘Profession’ Would Sanction the Abuse,” wrote:

“Behind the facade of a regulated industry, brothel prostitutes in Nevada are captive in conditions analogous to slavery. Women often are procured for the brothels from other areas by pimps who dump them at the house in order to collect the referral fee. Women report working in shifts commonly as long as 12 hours, even when ill, menstruating or pregnant, with no right to refuse a customer who has requested them or to refuse the sexual act for which he has paid… And, contrary to the common claim that the brothel will protect women from the dangerous, crazy clients on the streets, rapes and assaults by customers are covered up by the management.”

Feb. 27, 1995


Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) posted on its website “Frequently Asked Questions about SAGE and CSE” (accessed Mar. 9, 2007), which stated:

“[L]egalization actually makes it more difficult to prosecute rapists, perpetrators, and traffickers. Because the sex industries are more legitimized under legalization, there is no basic presumption that buying or selling someone else’s body is a crime — and therefore the burden on victims of violence to prove that they are experiencing harm or exploitation is increased. When sexual exploitation is legalized, sexual abusers can use excuses like, ‘she’s just a ho who wanted more money’ to discredit anyone in the sex industries who tries to get legal support.”

Mar. 9, 2007


Safer Society Foundation, Inc. (then known as Prison Research Education Action Project), in the 1976 Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists, wrote:

“Three cities which allowed open prostitution experienced a decline in rape after prostitution was again prohibited. Rapists include men who do not patronize prostitutes. Rapists include men who have ‘girlfriends,’ or are married, or living with women. Statistical studies of reported rapes show that the majority of rapists are well below the age of males who most frequently use prostitutes. Finally, in Vietnam, brothels for the American military were officially sanctioned and incorporated into the base-camp recreation areas and yet G.I. rape and sexual abuse of Vietnamese women and girls is one of the most atrocious chapters of violence in U.S. history.”