I’ve been having this conversation with several people over the past week or so. That’s why it’s important to get this off my chest (no pun intended.) Prostitution should be legalized.
Here’s a main line from the legalization of prostitution in Sweden:
According to this Web site for the Women’s Justice Center, Sweden’s way of doing things is a big success. “In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of johns has been reduced by 80%.” Trafficking is reportedly down to 200 to 400 girls and women a year, compared with 15,000 to 17,000 in nearby Finland. Max Waltman, a doctoral candidate in Stockholm who is studying the country’s prostitution laws, says that those stats hold up. He also said the police are actually going after the johns as ordered: In 2006, more than 150 were convicted and fined. (That might not sound like many, but then Sweden has a population of only 9 million.)
Basically, criminalizing an activity only makes it go underground. Case in point: drugs. Places where prostitution is legal, such as the Netherlands, even have laws to help with health care for prostitutes. Let’s waste our time on more salient issues, like, oh, I don’t know, how horrible Israel’s Eurovision entry is.
Finally, this doesn’t have to do with pro-legalization or not, but here is the most thorough economic study of prostitution I have seen to date. The poor grad students who compiled the sample data.
Combining transaction-level data on street prostitutes with ethnographic observation and
official police force data, we analyze the economics of prostitution in Chicago.
Prostitution, because it is a market, is much more geographically concentrated than other
criminal activity. Street prostitutes earn roughly $25-$30 per hour, roughly four times
their hourly wage in other activities, but this higher wage represents relatively meager
compensation for the significant risk they bear.