This post is an updated version of “Don’t Pass this ‘Pimp Protection Act’” published by the New York Post, written by Laila Mickelwait. Laila is Exodus Cry’s Director of Abolition.
State Sens. Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, along with Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, have officially introduced a bill to “fully decriminalize” what they call “sex work” in the Empire State. Their agenda sounds progressive, but it should alarm anyone who cares about women’s rights.
What these lawmakers are really advocating is the legitimization of pimping, brothel-keeping and the buying of sex. That is what full decriminalization means.
Wherever it’s fully legalized or decriminalized, prostitution proves to be a disaster for prostituted women, most of whom are pulled into the sex trade by traffickers and pimps eager to seize the massive profits legal prostitution offers.
Permitting men to purchase sex with impunity increases demand for prostitution, which makes selling women’s bodies a lucrative enterprise. That, in turn, is a boon to sex traffickers.
Wherever it’s fully legalized or decriminalized, prostitution proves to be a disaster for prostituted women, most of whom are pulled into the sex trade by traffickers and pimps.
A 2013 study in the European Journal of Law and Economics compared data from countries that had legalized prostitution versus those that hadn’t. It found that trafficking and sexual exploitation are “most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized.” Conversely, the researchers found “a causal link from harsher prostitution laws to reduced trafficking.”
What Salazar & Co. propose is a trafficker’s dream come true.
Curious to know what legalizing the sex trade looks like? Look no further than Germany, considered “Europe’s biggest brothel,” where more than a million men purchase sex every day from an estimated 400,000 women, mostly from Eastern Europe and the undeveloped world, sold in more than 3,500 brothels.
In Germany, “sex entrepreneurs” run multimillion-dollar enterprises through online virgin auctions, drive-in sex stalls, outdoor “sex boxes,” mega-brothels and all-you-can-consume 24/7 flat-rate sex buffets.
In “Paradise,” one of Germany’s mega-brothels, around 3,000 men purchase 150 women’s bodies for sex on a daily basis. Josie, a woman working there, told a documentary filmmaker that she had slept with around 15,000 customers: “When I say that, it makes me feel so sad.”
Josie’s make-up bag includes a tube of xylocaine anesthetic gel to numb the physical pain resulting from being used by up to 20 men a day. Last year, a German court convicted the owner of Paradise, Jürgen Rudloff, of abetting human trafficking.
“Sex work” is a clever euphemism preferred by the pimp lobby to whitewash and sanitize the brutalities inherent to prostitution. It’s not a “job” but a system of gender inequality: An estimated 98 percent of the 42 million people in prostitution worldwide are women, while 99 percent of those who buy them are men.
Prostitution is also a form of violence against women. Studies show that 71 percent of prostituted women are physically assaulted on the job; 68 percent experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same levels as combat veterans and victims of torture; 89 percent wish to escape prostitution.
A 2004 mortality study of 1,969 female prostitutes, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that homicide accounted for roughly half of the deaths. The researchers noted: “No population of women studied previously had a . . . percentage of deaths due to murder even approximating those observed in our cohort.”
Studies show that… 89 percent wish to escape prostitution.
No wonder many progressives are up in arms over the proposed legislation. As Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the New York-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, told me, “For New York legislators to propose decriminalizing such abuse as long as men pay for it is an abject betrayal of women’s right to equality.”
Governments that claim to care about women’s equality, dignity and safety should never adopt laws that enable exploiters, such as pimps and sex buyers, to operate freely.
A better alternative is the abolition or Nordic model. First adopted in Sweden, then in Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France and Israel, the Nordic model protects women in prostitution by offering social services and exit opportunities, while targeting those who use and profit from their bodies: sex buyers, pimps and traffickers.
It is this model that truly dignifies and values women. Salazar & Co. should take heed.
Photo Credit: Gilbert Ortega