Should Prostitution Be Legal?
Everywhere in the world, human trafficking is illegal. Nonetheless, it happens all over the world. Not so with prostitution. It also happens everywhere but in some places it is legal while in others it is illegal. In this blog we are going to consider the question as to whether or not prostitution should be illegal. And in what way does it decrease human trafficking around the globe?
Prostitution is legal in many “western” countries. It is even sometimes seen as “any other job”. While in other places it is illegal and prostitutes are therefore criminalised. There is a third option. There are a few countries who have taken a total new approach in this regard, known as “the Nordic model”. We’ll share more about this later.
There has been an international focus on prostitution and its influence on human trafficking. One-hundred and fifty countries were studied to consider the impact of legal prostitution and how it relates to the inflow of human trafficking. The results show that on average there is an increase of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, where it is legal. There are many more reports that confirm this.
Prostitution Law in South Africa
Looking into the legal terms within different countries regarding human trafficking and prostitution can be complex. Nevertheless, it is important to have an understanding of it in order to effectively abolish human trafficking worldwide. Now we will see how this relates to South Africa as there has been an ongoing debate about this issue.
While there have been different Acts the South African government has put into place to prevent human trafficking, it is still a huge problem, even though it is illegal. In South Africa, prostitution is also currently illegal and therefore a criminal offence. But as mentioned earlier, there is a current debate about decriminalising it which is led by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC). As the report states, the debate has essentially fallen “along the lines of those who view prostitution as work and those who view it as exploitation”. The report also agrees that it hardly fits into the international definition of “decent work”. As a ministry involved in fighting against human trafficking and having a lot of personal interactions with women in prostitution, we can certainly take the side of those who see this as exploitation.
The side of the debate that votes to keep prostitution criminalised, says that the women are not the subject of criminalisation but rather the industry which degrades and damages them. But practically speaking prostitutes face high fees as well as imprisonment in countries where it is illegal. Therefore it has been criticised that the vulnerable woman who have been exploited are punished instead of being helped. In South Africa, there are three options up for debate. Firstly, decriminalisation (prostitution would be legal), secondly, criminalisation (as it is currently), or lastly partial criminalisation (prostitutes are not criminalised).
A Better Way?
In 1999, Sweden developed, what is referred to as, the “Nordic Model”. Since its implementation there has been a huge decrease in prostitution as well as human trafficking. Other countries such as Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Ireland and Israel have now also applied this approach. What exactly is this Nordic Model?
It makes it clear that buying people for sex is wrong and has sanctions that discourage people from doing it. This model believes that prostitution can never be made safe and it aims on changing the perception of prostitution and behaviour in society for the long term.
Despite several parties arguing that this model might encourage prostitution in hidden places and therefore making it even more unsafe, the statistics have proven otherwise. So far, this approach helps effectively to reduce prostitution, the demand for it and therefore sex trafficking too. To understand this approach even better you can continue to read very good articles as well as statements of women in prostitution and survivors here.
There are many ways in which one can become active in fighting human trafficking. Supporting campaigns, NGOs and politicians wanting to reform legal matters of prostitution is one way! Advocating to implement the Nordic Model is a proven way to help lower human trafficking and sexual exploitation as a whole in communities! Does the country you come from implement this model? What can you do to make your voice heard on this issue?
Have you heard about the Nordic model before? Please share this blog with your circle of influence so more people can make a difference in their voting! Write your government officials requesting that this law be put in place. The more people who do this the louder the voice will be resulting in more impact.