Legalizing prostitution could open the door to new problems
By Jessica Berget, Editor-in-Chief
In Canada, we follow what is know as the “Nordic Model” when it comes to sex work; selling sex is legal but purchasing or advertising it is illegal. Some might look to this as a sign of the county’s progressive ideas. Others, however, argue that this “end demand” system to curbing the popularity of sex work pushes workers farther into the shadows and into dangerous situations. Many people have spoken out about this and have pushed for the legalization of prostitution citing both safety and health reasons.
There are many calls for prostitution to be legalized, usually under the argument that it’s the oldest profession in the world and people are always going to want to buy sex. Although these are both valid points, I think before buying into any cause—no matter how beneficiary or progressive it may seem—it’s worth looking into both sides. Namely, what goes on in countries where sex work is legalized?
A 2013 report by World Development titled “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” researches 116 countries and the effects of legalized prostitution with human trafficking and found that countries with legal prostitution saw an influx of human trafficking, especially with higher income countries. Germany for example has had prostitution legalized since 2002 and is known to have the largest sex worker market in Europe with about 150,000 working as prostitutes. Not only that, prostitutes enjoy the same benefits as a regular job along with tax payments and retirement plans. It may sound like a dream for pro-sex work legalization advocates, but unfortunately legalized prostitution also comes with the dark presence of human sex trafficking. According to the same report, in 2004, the International Labour Office estimated the number of trafficking victims in Germany to be 32,800. Another analysis entitled “The Law and Economics of International Sex Slavery: Prostitution Laws and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation,” confirms that this is an issue that is “most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized.” Is this something we potentially want to bring to our country?
Personally, I was on the pro-legalization side—and I still do think that legalization would carry a lot of benefits. In fact, according to Reuters, research has shown that in countries where buying or selling prostitution is illegal, women are more likely to face violence, not use condoms, and contract diseases—so there’s definitely some important good in being pro-legalization. These are all essential issues that need to be addressed, and yes legalization could solve these concerns. But going over the research of countries where prostitution is legal and decriminalized has made me rethink my stance.
Legalizing prostitution may help some issues that come with the territory of the job such as safety and well-being, but it can also give rise to other problems that we can’t and shouldn’t ignore. Legalization may not be the best solution for this cause—we should look to different solutions.