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Post by: Sarah Stefaniak

Legal Prostitution and Its Unintended Consequences

My name is Sarah and I am a rising 3L. I interned this summer at Shared Hope International, a policy and research based non-profit for anti-human trafficking. In between research projects, involving a variety of topics related to the buyers, victims, and promoters of human trafficking, I had the chance to view many webinars. I learned information from a variety of professional backgrounds including police officers, psychologists, social workers, and survivors. I have wrapped up my internship with a host of new information about fighting against domestic human trafficking. In particular, I have an enriched perspective on the argument against legalizing prostitution

Many people who support feminist ideals of empowerment and equality argue that the United States should legalize prostitution. After all, allowing women the ability to choose if they want to sell sex as a means of living empowers women and embraces female sexuality. They argue that legalizing prostitution would allow the government to regulate and provide safety for prostitutes.

However, I would side with those who argue that legalizing prostitution is a mistake. The biggest issue with legalizing prostitution? The majority of prostitutes in America are not prostitutes; they are victims of trafficking. And often, these victims of trafficking are children. These children do not choose to sell their bodies for sex and often do not get to see the money from these exchanges. Granted, not everyone selling sex is a victim of human trafficking, but it is an overwhelming majority.

During this internship, I listened to stories of survivors who entered prostitution as a choice but due to the pressure of recruiting on the street and the need for protection from violent buyers, many women will eventually find their way to a trafficker. Soon, it becomes not a choice but an issue of force, fraud, or coercion. The arguments against legalization are much more complicated than a few paragraphs in a blog post. I cannot pretend to be an expert on the effects legal prostitution allows, but after serving a summer with Shared Hope, I find myself more passionate on the issue of maintaining criminalization.

As a proponent of this ideal, I want to clarify that these thoughts only scratch the surface of the argument against legalization. I am grateful for the information and thoughts that Shared Hope and other organizations like it have exposed me to and am thankful for the opportunity to work with them this summer.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.