To the editor,
I was interested to read last week's editorial about prostitution, not so much for its progressive bent, but for how classically liberal the viewpoint put forward is ("Tail chasing," April 6). It's easy to think that decriminalizing prostitution will have the same positive results as decriminalizing marijuana has had in countries like the Netherlands. However, prostitutes aren't a plant. The Netherlands has tried the decriminalization/regulation approach with prostitution, but results have been mixed at best. Sex trafficking increased after this was done!
One should look to Sweden for a feminist approach that attempts to look at prostitution from the prostitute's viewpoint. In 1999, Sweden decriminalized the sale of sex, but—and this is key—criminalized the purchase of sex. The rationale for this law was that prostitution, like abuse, is a form of violence against women in that many prostitutes do what they do due to circumstances beyond their control, such as poverty or addiction. Under this law, the prostitute is never charged with a crime, only the john buying the sex from her (or him).
The results are promising. Prostitution is down and sex trafficking is almost nil compared to neighbouring Finland, where no such law exists (in fact, Sweden is the only country in the world with such a law).
There are some criticisms of the law. Sex workers and those who work with them state that not all prostitutes are victims, that some choose the profession willingly and freely. While I don't personally agree with this, I cannot claim it as an informed opinion—I know no prostitutes—but I imagine that most women would choose an alternative if it meant they would be paid decently and able to live with dignity. Alas, such a law would only be one step to making this a reality. What is really needed is a world where nobody is forced to do work they hate merely to survive.
By Edson Castilho