Anti-Trafficking vs Anti-Prostitution

When I joined the Coalition Against Human Trafficking I was not thinking of working to eliminate prostitution.

I think that just as selling a kidney to pay the mortgage is something no one should ever have to contemplate; renting out your body is not a benign, harmless way to make a living. Prostitution hurts people and communities. I say as a sex-positive feminist that the recognition of the right of women to equality in work is precious and hard-won. The right to be free in your sexual life is still being fought. When coercion is social and financial it may be hard to even recognize as oppression. I have much to say about the subtle, 21st century way of putting women back in their place, but that’s a long story.

Enough to say that prostitution, like addiction, is a complicated problem that will not be solved by any law, much less by ‘closing a loophole’.

Trafficking, on the other hand, should be prosecuted. All the evils of trafficking–kidnaping, assault, rape, blackmail–are already felonies. Conspiracy to commit any of these crimes is a felony. There’s no rational reason that any of these are less severe when they are committed against a prostitute.

Trafficking also includes coerced labor–in factories, restaurants, farms. The suffering of workers who labor without rights, without hope, is not to be underestimated.

Putting people outside the law makes it harder for them to come forward when they are victims of crime. Anti-trafficking laws try to address that. How much success we will have, I don’t know.

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