I have just read a heart-rending description of the lives of young girls trafficked for sex. It is devastating. The purpose of this post, however, is not convince anyone of the evils of trafficking. It is rather to discuss how to deal with it.
A Maryknoll sister who has worked with women trafficked from Cambodia is convinced that both the supply side and the demand side of this problem must be tackled. The demand side, of course, is composed of those willing to pay for sex, men mostly, living in developed countries. Sister Helene and others working with trafficked women adamantly believe that until prostitution is criminalized and that the person paying for sex, rather than the person supplying it, is held accountable, that trafficking will continue.
I’m not so sure. Yes, people trafficking young girls for sex treat them no less as a commodity than drug dealers treat drugs. But criminalizing alcohol didn’t reduce alcoholism; it drove it underground and contributed to thriving criminal organizations by those supplying it. Criminalizing abortion doesn’t eliminate it: it merely drives it into the back streets and makes it more dangerous. Criminalizing drugs is not reducing its use, and there are those – including myself – who think we would be better making drugs legal so that they can be made safer.
Criminalizing prostitution – or enforcing the law against users as well as suppliers – isn’t going to stop it. It’s simply going to drive it further underground, providing even less protection for trafficked and abused sex slaves.
I’d vote for legalizing prostitution and regulating it. Many prostitutes, I know, are of this view as well. They would prefer safer houses, better health checks, more sympathy from law enforcement officials when they are abused.
I know this sounds contradictory. But I’d say let’s liberate women. Let’s legalize prostitution.