End the war on prostitution

Dante Harrold, Staff Writer

America’s governmental leaders have a history of declaring wars on things they consider a vice. They always lose. They declared a war on alcoholic beverages. More people got drunk and crime skyrocketed. They declared a war on drugs. The yearly profits of drug cartels have never been higher.

Often overlooked is another such failed war, something society has also labeled a vice — prostitution. Within the past couple of years sites where escorts advertise their services have been shut down due to new laws.

It’s time for the US to end its war on sex workers given how making prostitution illegal has shown to be immoral, impractical and even unconstitutional. The laws run counter to the core values of this nation, violating the rights of millions and persecuting the weak.

Defenders of the prohibition of sex work often argue prostitution must be illegal because it’s an institution that causes a lot of vulnerable women to be exploited.

Some prostitutes are abused and desperate women coerced into the profession and society should try to protect them. But making prostitution a crime does not help, in fact it hurts them. The women who are forced into prostitution or who are abused often do not report the abuse they suffer because they fear they’ll be arrested.

“You’re often talking about women who have extremely limited choices.” said Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Division, in an interview with The New York Times. “Would I like to live in a world where no one has to do sex work? Absolutely. But that’s not the case. So, I want to live in a world where women do it largely voluntarily, in a way that is safe. If a police officer or a client rapes them, they can lay a charge and know it will be investigated. Their kid won’t be expelled from school, and their landlord won’t kick them out.”

The laws against prostitution violate the rights of the women who rely on it to make a living. America’s ban on sex work runs counter to the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v Texas. The court had to determine whether state laws barring people of the same sex from expressing sexual intimacy with each other were constitutional. In a 6-3 decision, the court decided Texas’s arrests, prosecutions and criminal convictions violated the petitioner’s fundamental right to liberty and privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government,” said former Justice Anthony Kennedy. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.”

Using that same basis, it becomes clear the act of one consensual adult being able to pay another consenting adult should not be something illegal.  It’s a violation of individuals who choose to engage in sex since the action is consensual, involves only them and is not a threat to the public. The money collected could be used to fund rehab clinics, homeless shelters, even Women’s shelters.

The government could use the taxes it would get from legal prostitution to help society, in particular offer aid to the types of women who often opt into prostitution because they see no better alternative.

According to Havocscope, an online organization information and threat intelligence on the global black market an estimated $40 Million a day is spent on prostitution in the United States. Quick math will tell you this is about $14.6 Billion a year in prostitution spending.

These points show war on prostitution is pointless. Those who are legitimately concerned about women being abused need to focus on making sure society understands the rights women have to their body. Merely punishing female sex workers serves only to reinforce the mindset that it’s within society’s right to limit what women can do with their bodies.