Nikki Garcia
Professor Ramos
September 14, 2018
I Thought Slavery Was Cancelled?
Perfectly legal prostitute or abused, exploited sex slave? There is a blurred line between human trafficking and consensual prostitution. Exactly how easily can you tell the difference between two people who share the same occupation, but are in two completely different situations? You can’t. That’s the problem. Individuals throughout the world have now begun a movement that pushes the legalization of prostitution, but by doing so, they’re also supporting the illegal sex trade. It is nearly impossible to identify whether a sex worker acting upon their own agenda, or someone else’s. If the lines weren’t already blurred enough, imagine how easily a victim can remain hidden if they’re surrounded by legal and completely willing sex workers.
Human trafficking, in short, is modern day slavery. Throughout the world, thousands are kidnapped and forced into becoming sex workers against their will. Others are coerced into the industry with promises of marriage or even a “better life”, but soon learn that those promises were too good to be true. In Human Trafficking, Human Misery: The Global Trade in Human Beings, Aronowitz shares information she collected from her research that states, “…innocent families and their children, looking for a better life, are tricked and exploited into the nether world of modern slavery”. Traffickers often strip their victims of all identification and hold them in false debt bondage, which they claim can only be paid off by working as a prostitute. Mental abuse and manipulation is only the beginning of their trauma.
Everyone’s voice has the right to be heard. Understanding the perspective of those involved in organizations that promote the rights of sex workers is crucial in obtaining full knowledge surrounding the movement entirely. In Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition, the authors depict their findings after traveling abroad to gain perspective and interview various women who are a part of the movement. They reported that most women who willingly participate in the sex industry admitted that they don’t do it for wealth, but rather for their survival and well-being. For many, sex work is their only source of income. “The movement not only seeks to make prostitution acceptable, but also celebrates it…” (V. Jenness). Negative stereotypes have always been attached to prostitution like a ball and chain, however, sex workers are now pushing to change that completely. They’re fighting to be recognized as women with viable occupations, they’re fighting for their rights, and they’re fighting for respect.
However, when one movement does more harm than good, the community should be vigilant as to where they are really contributing their support. While sex workers reserve their right to protect their freedom of choice, legalizing prostitution will not only affect them. Although prostitution is not legalized everywhere, the movement’s swelling recognition has already begun to factor into the growth rates of trafficking. A study conducted to measure human trafficking rates following the legalization of prostitution using quantitive empirical analysis for a cross section of up to one hundred and fifty countries found that, “On average, countries with legalized prostitution experience a larger degree of reported human trafficking inflows.” (Cho, Drecher, Mayer).
The more people that openly accept prostitution, the more countless women and children that must endure the horrors of modern slavery go unnoticed. They remain hidden in plain sight by their captors, disguised as ordinary prostitutes amongst a completely unsuspecting community. Nevada, for instance, has legalized prostitution in over ten of its counties. In Farely’s report, Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: making the connections, she depicts interviews that she held with both the prostitutes, as well as, the brothel owners within Nevada. Not only have they confessed the abuse inflicted upon them by their pimps and customers, but they’ve also concluded that the majority of Nevada’s brothels are discretely managed by “outside pimps”. They are not state affiliated, and work as a middleman between prostitutes and their legal employers. Several of which, manufacture counterfeit credentials and utilize these counties to illegally sex traffic young women and children. In his book “Prostitution in the Digital Age: Selling Sex from the Suite to the Street”, Ronald Flowers recounts an occasion in which four teenaged girls were compelled by Oregon pimps into prostitution. The minors had been forced to pose as legal prostitutes within the state’s allocated brothel boundaries. Unfamiliar men paid their procurers money in exchange to sexually exploit them, leaving the girls exposed and vulnerable to a great deal of possible STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases). The story of these four unfortunate victims are only one of many. There are thousands of innocent women and children suffering from modern-day slavery worldwide.
“It’s way past time for Nevada to be the last state in the United States of America to finally stand against all forms of slavery.” – Candice Trumell, director of the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking.
Importance lies within the ongoing progression of our social advancement… The movement to legalize prostitution just might not be the type of change this world needs.
Forbidding the legalization of prostitution on a global scale would be one easy answer to this problem, but it would also be impossible. The first step we must take as a society, is to spread awareness of the situation. A social media platform can be created to educate individuals on human trafficking as well as the urgency of the matter. It would provide us access to connect with voters of all ages and inform them of the consequences that arise from legalizing prostitution. Furthermore, the use of a social media outlet would allow us to reach individuals further beyond our boarders. Using modern Google technology (Google Translate) we can be able to relay our information to others from different countries throughout the world. The differences between a person exercising their freedom of choice, and a person forced to undergo the mental and physical pain of sexual abuse are incredibly subtle. There is a voice for women who want to legalize prostitution, but we must be the voice of those who had theirs stolen from them. As of today, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. With your help, we can make it the history of yesterday.

Works Cited

Aronowitz, Alexis A. Human Trafficking, Human Misery: The Global Trade in Human Beings. Praeger, 2009, p. 9. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.
Baldwin, Susie, et al. Identi cation of human traf cking victims in health care settings. 1 ed., vol. 13, 2011, p. 43.
Cho, Seo-Young, et al. Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? Vol. 31, Elsevier, 2013. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.
Farley, Melissa. Prostitution and trafficking in Nevada: making the connections. Prostitution Research & Education, 2007. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.
Flowers, Robert. Prostitution in the Digital Age: Selling Sex from the Suite to the Street. Praeger, 2011, p. 48.
Kempadoo, Kamala, and Jo Doezema, editors. Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition. Routledge, 1998, p. 5, Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.
Jenness, Valerie. Making it work : the Prostitutes’ Rights Movement in perspective. New York : Aldine de Gruyter, 1993
Photo Credit: