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Column: Is America behind on sex work legislation? Probably.

Amnesty International, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 states, voted on Aug. 11, 2015 to adopt and develop a policy to legalize the sale of sex. The decision was made after a two-year survey of social science evidence and sex worker testimony.

Amnesty International is not alone in its new war against the criminalization of the sex trade. In fact, this action puts the organization in harmony with the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and the World Health Organization. The argument for legalizing prostitution carries legitimate weight and it might be time for the U.S. to re-examine our stance on the subject.

Much of the violence associated with sex trafficking is believed to be made worse by its illegal status because violent people are more likely to prey on sex workers, confident they won’t be reported to police. This leaves workers dependent on pimps and madams for protection which often leads to more violence.

The legalization of prostitution would take the disputes between clients and workers off the streets and into the courtroom.

Black market sex trade leaves little accountability between either parties involved, but by legitimizing the markets, new processes would be made available to alleviate this problem. Databases, client screening, worker screening and the ability to take credit card numbers would make clients and workers think twice before breaking contracts or bones.

According to a report by The Daily Beast, after both Germany and New Zealand legalized sex work and the ability to screen clients and take credit card numbers became an option, the violence against sex workers decreased, workers’ quality of life improved and occupational health and safety laws now protect sex workers.

One of the main objections expressed by opponents of the legalization of prostitution argue that criminal laws protect women from entering the sex trade. This objection highlights another question underlying this raging vitriol: What is, and what is not, the proper role of government in a free nation of individuals?

This is an inquiry that, in today’s government dominated nation, is so often overlooked as unnecessary.

“One of the crucial issues [is whether] the prohibition of prostitution [is] justified on ‘paternalistic’ grounds as a way to save women from becoming prostitutes,” said Jerry Gaus, philosophy professor at the UA. “One question is whether the criminal law should be used to rescue an adult from her own choices.”

Gaus later stated that this “seems to be an outdated view.” Millennial are looking less and less to government to make choices for them. People today would rather make decisions of what is and is not moral for ourselves. Who is government to write the moral code of what is and isn’t right?

At a practical level, legalizing prostitution in the U.S. will legitimize the industry, protecting both sex workers and clients by keeping them accountable to governmental law, instead of street law and by protecting them from predatory legal statues that target minority populations and label them as sex workers.

Americans are growing tired of a government that is so involved in the personal decisions of its citizens. The kind of government that kept same sex marriage from being legalized is a thing of the past, and maybe so is the kind of government that still classifies sex work as illegal.


Follow Wyatt Z. Conoly on Twitter.



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