I have chatted frequently with my dad, who is a federal prosecutor for the US DOJ, regarding the pros and cons of legalized prostitution. He filled me in on one of his most recent cases involving a man from NY (who, for legal reasons, will be referred to in this post as ‘John’) who was charged with multiple counts of solicitation of prostitution and of the prostitution of minors. John’s hearing was postponed for many months because the girls he were prostituting were hesitant to testify against him for fear that the illegality of their actions would make them accomplices, and thus they, the victims, would be put at risk for imprisonment. Eventually, John received jail time regardless of the lack of testimony from those involved. I keep pondering the ‘what ifs’ of the case. What if prostitution were legal? Would legalized prostitution make John’s punishment regarding the prostitution of minors more or less severe? How could federal institutions monitor the industry? Could federal intervention alleviate the spread of STIs and assure the safety of all parties involved? Would legalized prostitution draw more money-hungry ‘pimp’-like figures like John into the industry? What are the ethical implications of legalized prostitution?
But, looking at the larger picture, I can’t help comparing the legalization of prostitution to the legalization of marijuana. While the two are radically different and infrequently overlap, it is helpful to note that by ridding acts of prostitution as illegal, there is the gained benefit of additional federal oversight and increased resources for people who are prostituted. I read this intriguing article that points out that the legalization of prostitution will allow for aid to those affected by the industry: “Moreover, since prostitution is illegal in most places in the United States, there are few legal protections in place for prostitutes; many fear that seeking help will only lead to arrest, and many who do seek help are arrested and then have to battle the stigma of a criminal record while they try to reintegrate into society.” It’s an eye opening read that I highly recommend.