Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Prostitution as Employment vs. Forced International Sex Trafficking

An Exploration of Voluntary vs. Forced Involvement

By Laura Ciccone 
Laura Ciccone, who graduated from Albany Law School this past Spring, was the Editor in Chief of 'The Issue', the Albany Law student run newspaper. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Albany. She is currently an intern at the Saratoga County Public Defenders Office.
She prepared this paper for Professor James Gathii's course in Public International Law, Spring 2011.

Prostitution is without a doubt a career choice for many women worldwide. It is a very controversial issue, raising a lot of debate among critics. In fact, many people disagree with the concept and practice of exchanging sex for money.

Furthermore, it isn’t actually the exchange of money for sex that makes people uncomfortable, but rather, the nature of the payment and the distinctions it makes in the relationships involved. This has been seen throughout history and crosses many cultural barriers, while serving as a unifying factor among critics in the debate about prostitution.

The relationship involved in the exchange of money for sex has a thin line of distinction between voluntary and compelled participation where disadvantaged individuals are “tricked” by the lack of other options.  There is little doubt that the exchange of money for sex raises many human rights issues, and questions regarding freedom and bondage.

However, if prostitution were regulated within the United States, the current issues of health and safety within the profession could be addressed.  By offering women a legalized way into the sex industry, fewer women would be tricked into and forced into selling their bodies for little to no money.

Many argue that international sex trafficking policy is merely a political tool used by various administrations to further their national political agenda, while some preach that the legislation on sex trafficking is a ploy used to control women’s rights and enforce religious ideals.

Perhaps the focus of legislation in the sex industry would best be served by marrying schools of thought together: by meshing the sex industry advocates and the anti-sex trafficking proponents, one may figure out how women would best be served and protected. If prostitution were legalized, it is possible that international sex trafficking would decrease in popularity, if not subside completely.  If people have the option of obtaining prostitutes legally, then why would they pursue the illegal option?  By offering a legal option, the illegal option would start to dwindle and hopefully make the entire system safer for all involved.

The first section of this paper will outline the different views about the international sex trade regulations. The second section will examine major case law in the United States that has helped shape the political views of the industry. The third section will examine voluntary involvement in the sex industry. Finally, the fourth section will examine why the legalization of prostitution and voluntary involvement in the sex industry would be beneficial. It will examine how the legalization of prostitution, coupled with the legislation focused on the victims of international sex trafficking, will ultimately make women stronger, and will actually increase women’s rights rather than detract from them.*
* Citations to references in this introduction are available in the paper.
To read the entire paper, open HERE.