Oct 28, 2008

Prostitution — Legal in a state near you?

by Elisabeth Garman

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Proposition K was placed on the ballot, which would prohibit San Francisco police from using public funds to investigate or prosecute sex workers — decriminalizing one of the world’s oldest professions, prostitution.

The only places in America in which prostitution has been legalized are parts of Las Vegas, Nevada, also known as “Sin City,” and known for the uninhibited and provocative behavior of residents and tourists. Escapism and the sex industry bring in a large profit margin for the city. San Francisco is another city in where residents are relatively liberal and freethinking, thus more welcoming of non-traditional sexual behavior.

Two years ago, an effort by San Francisco sex workers failed to be added to the ballot, according to the Los Angeles Times. Previous District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, who worked from 1995 to 2003, stated, “I support the concept that prostitution is something that should be legalized but controlled.”

One proponent for the decriminalization of prostitution is Jeffrey Klausner, director of sexually transmitted disease control and prevention for the city’s health department. Klausner is joined by the Democratic County Central Committee and the 12,000 signees of a petition in support of Proposition K.

Currently, Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris and many in the business community oppose the measure, claiming that it will derail their efforts in human trafficking and bring further crime into the city. Every year, according to the U.S. Department of State, there are about 800,000 to 1,200,000 women, children and men trafficked across international borders, of which an estimated 17,500 are trafficked into the United States. The majority (80 percent) are female and an estimated 50 percent are minors.
Most of those opposed to prostitution’s legalization are thinking of the possible dangers to society as well as the effects on local businesses. Even in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, which are known for legal prostitution, there are restrictions based on location.

Most arguments for or against prostitution’s legalization go far beyond moral considerations. Though legalizing it would be condoning sexual immorality, there is some validity to the argument that prostitution will never stop, it will just stay underground. If prostitution was regulated and taxed, then maybe the women or men involved could find a new occupation and be less likely to go through abuse.
However, it could also be argued that any type of sex work is abuse, and making it legal would make it more prevalent. Most Americans, excluding sex workers, would agree that the less-widespread prostitution is, the better our world will be.

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I was saddened to see girls my age or younger working as prostitutes, standing behind windows texting away on their cell phones. For them, sex work was natural and casual, just a normal after-school job.

Though San Francisco is a unique city and not representative of America on the whole, for young girls in San Francisco to start getting involved in such practices like the Dutch girls I witnessed would be a tragedy. We do not need the sex industry to have an impact on another city in the United States — its impact on Las Vegas is frightening enough.


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