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Legalize prostitution now

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JULY 28, 2014

Berkeley resident Vincent Rones was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison for pimping. This was an isolated conviction; the offense of pimping is one that is not always prosecuted. In many cases, prostitutes and victims of human trafficking are criminalized while those who procure and solicit their services escape prosecution. A 2012 report on the state of human trafficking in California states that this imbalance is evolving, as is the legal understanding of the difference between pimping and trafficking. The recommendation of The Daily Californian, based on the evidence, is that prostitution should be legal in this state of California.

Prostitution has always existed and will likely always exist. Despite a societal emphasis on monogamy or polygyny, and despite the criminalization of the industry, the profession persists all over the world. In the places where prostitution is legal, sex workers have more rights. They can expect the cooperation of law enforcement when they are the victims of robbery or assault. They are regulated by laws that require their regular medical testing for public safety in many countries. They can even unionize.

California, however, does not currently have a legal provision for prostitution as an industry. As a result, pimping, trafficking and sex work all operate under veils of silence and terror that benefits almost no one. Children who are exploited as sex workers are detained on charges of prostitution rather than treated as victims of a separate kind of crime. This confusion of victim with criminal, of pimp with slave-trader, is the direct result of our blanket illegality in matters of prostitution.

This sweeping condemnation stems from an American tradition of legislating morality. Though opponents of legalized prostitution may register complaints rooted in public health or their interpretation of human sexual dignity, moral arguments are never far behind. Logically, prostitution is not morally different from the production of pornography; an industry that is legal, unionized and regulated by the state of California. Through that regulation, the state ensures that no minors act in pornographic films and can even insist on condom use in scenes of intercourse.

Legalizing prostitution could remove the need for pimps. It could help law enforcement prosecute human trafficking more efficiently and remove thousands of children from terrible exploitative positions without sentencing them to detention. It could create a legal market for those who solicit sexual services but not enforce the misery of others. If we can look past our antiquated morality, we could see the wisdom of this change.


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JULY 27, 2014