Sunday, November 02, 2008

Regulating the sex trade-The Economist


I found The Economist's article on how to police prostitution relevant for Cambodia. In this spirit I am summarising the magazine's arguments for and against government regulation of the sex trade. The article ends with a survey done by two British grannies who found the best system to be the one where the prostitutes owned their own brothel, i.e., a (sex) worker cooperative.

Less government regulation:
- In 2000, Netherlands made prostitution legal, thinking the sex trade would become one that is freely undertaken between individuals, and there would be an end to bullying by pimps and clients, violence etc.

-But this has not worked. "In Amsterdam—where the spectacle of half-naked women pouting behind shopfront windows is a city trademark—the link between prostitution and organised crime has proved durable. Efforts to break it have been a “complete failure”, says Lodewijk Asscher, a deputy mayor who has led the city hall’s effort to buy up and transform much of the red-light district."

More government intervention:
- In 1999, Sweden started fining, jailing and naming and shaming people who patronise prostitutes (called "johns"). Prostitutes are treated as victims. After studying the Dutch and the Swedish experience, Britain decided to follow the Swedes. It is illegal for sex workers to solicit sex on roadsides in Scotland and England and Wales plan to make it easier to prosecute pedestrians and motorists who ask for sex. Also moving in this direction: Norway and Italy.

- However, problems under this system include: sex being exchanged furtively may make sex workers more reliant on pimps in order to get work. Prostitutes may also be more susceptible to violence as transactions agreed to in haste means they do not have the time to assess clients.

The New Zealand Approach
-In 2003, New Zealand decriminalised the sex trade and sex workers can sell services at home, in brothels or on the street.

- But there is one big difference between New Zealand and other countries that legalise sex work--"In the Netherlands and Nevada, the business is confined to brothels, which are usually run by businessmen rather than the sex workers themselves."

- By allowing sex workers freedom to practise their trade anywhere they want (instead of having to do it in brothels owned by businessmen), sex workers can keep all their earnings and they can choose their johns and to practise safe sex if they wanted to. “They feel better protected by the law and much more able to stand up to clients and pushy brothel operators,” says Catherine Healy, head of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

Which is the fairest? Ask the sex workers' themselves.
- A pair of British grandmothers from the Women’s Institute did. They toured brothels in the Netherlands, America and New Zealand to find out which system worked best for the women. And the winner? "A discreet house in a suburb of Wellington—classed in New Zealand as a “small owner-operated brothel”—where two women offered their services from Mondays to Fridays. “Just like a regular job,” one of the grannies noted."

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