Last week the co-hosts of the ABC show “The View,” discussed San Francisco’s Proposition K which would decriminalize prostitution.
Their discussion seemed to be based on a couple of inaccurate assumptions; that prostitution is a free choice for those who engage in it, and that decriminalization/legalization will make regulation of prostitution and testing for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) easier.
Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck stated that with decriminalization the city would not “waste time spending money, criminalizing and putting cuffs on the prostitutes. They’re going to put it somewhere else. It’s all about allocation of funds.”
I would like to know where they are going to put that money. Is San Francisco just going to ignore prostitution or will the city try to regulate it in some way?
Just decriminalizing prostitution alone is a bad idea. If the buying and the selling of sex acts is decriminalized, then the police will no grounds to investigate this activity. This means that it will be next to impossible to locate and assist women and girls who have been trafficked into the trade.
The San Francisco Chronicle, editorializing against Prop. K said it might make the city a magnet for prostitution. This has certainly been the experience in the Netherlands where, since legalization, the sex industry has expanded and the buying and selling of sex acts is becoming so socially and morally acceptable that sports clubs will now routinely celebrate a victory at a spa/brothel the way they used to in a restaurant or pub.
Many people assume that with decriminalization and/or legalization of prostitution comes better regulation of the sex industry. Regulatory programs for prostitutes depend on registering the prostitutes. The problem is that most prostitutes don’t register, but continue to operate in the shadows. This is because, contrary to popular wisdom, very few women in prostitution freely choose it, most see it as the only viable solution for survival among very limited options. So they don’t register for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, stigma, they see prostitution as something they are doing temporarily, they are under age, or they are already HIV positive. Prostitutes who are registered, are tested regularly for STD. Their customers are not. This is a problem if one of the objectives of decriminalization is to reduce transmission of these diseases.
Sweden has tried a different approach. It has criminalized the purchase of sexual services. Because it has become more dangerous and less profitable, prostitution and trafficking of women and children for sex is on the decline there. Pimps and traffickers, the ones who really make money in the sex industry, are getting out. Maybe they’ll move to San Francisco.