Full disclosure: I have never purchased the services of a sex worker and buying sex is really not a desire of mine. Despite my lack first hand knowledge, I have blogged about Prostitution in Canada, and Prostitution and the Law.
When I think of regulation of an industry, I think of the unregulated steel industry run by exploitative bosses where the average career of a steel worker was around 5 years before being killed or maimed. In 1913, there were 23 000 industrial work related deaths in the USA. In 2013 there 4405 but the workforce has increased massively in size and the majority of those are car accidents. Clearly, regulation creates a safer work environment.
Besides, consensual sex between adults should not be attacked by the state. In fact, if a prostitute is assaulted, they should be able to turn to the police for protection and justice just like every other citizen. Driving the industry underground just makes it easier for serial killers to prey on them.
Also, wouldn't it be nice to remove the stigma from the world's oldest profession and make it...more professional? In 2002, Germany liberalized their prostitution laws and now they feel more confident and empowered to pick good employers and suitable work conditions.
Sure, you may end up turning some pimps into legitimate businessmen. But then again, they would also be put in direct competition with legitimate businessmen who could offer far more while never even considering bitch-slapping them and taking 100% of their earnings (ummm...who would you work for?)
Additionally, if the trade is legal, you can do things like mandate condom use, regular testing for sexually transmitted infections, and where the transactions will take place (like inside a house where nobody else has to witness anything they don't wish to see.)
The Toronto Star chides Amnesty International for supporting the buying and selling of sex as "defeating the purpose" with a moralist view that it is inherently 'bad'. The article goes on to misrepresent the 'nordic model' of criminalizing the buying of sex as being adopted 'Europe wide' when it is used only in Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland and by population represents a clear minority. Canada is implimenting the Nordic model and the newspapers like the Globe and Mail seem to echo the moral view with the assumption that any prostition is an offencive practice. The Globe and Mail points out that the use of the Nordic Model
compared with those in Denmark, where prostitution was decriminalized in 1999. When the Danish government started measuring the number of individuals in prostitution in 2002, the head count stood at 3,886. By 2009, the number had jumped to 5,534, an increase of more than 40 per cent.
But this again assumes that any prostitution is bad and things have gotten worse. In Denmark,
however, they see the same stats as proof that there more prostitutes as there are less problems and this is an endorsement for better working conditions attracting people to the job. And lots of articles in the Canadian media point to decriminalization resulting in increased human trafficking. Some found that 30-40% of a Danish prostitutes are trafficked -- an epidemic problem until you realize that the Danes couldn't find a single case of 'human sex slavery' and the definition of 'trafficking' is 'a foreign worker.'
As Forbes magazine summarized it in their analysis:
"Imagine that rabbit butchery was illegal in one country, then it legalized it. Some domestic labour that desired to be rabbit butchers who were dissuaded from doing so given the previous illegality would now become rabbit butchers. We would also expect to see some people quite willing to be rabbit butchers currently in poorer countries immigrating, either legally or illegally, to become rabbit butchers in this country where it is newly legal. And we’d be most surprised indeed to hear that people were kidnapping foreigners to import them and force them into rabbit butchery."
Think about it. How often do you buy moonshine vs. buying legal booze? The truth is, making it illegal for people to buy sex serves to drive the trade deep underground where it cannot be seen -- and suddenly things get a lot less safe for sex workers. That is why Amnesty International is actively protesting the Prime Minister's offices in Sweden.
Finally, the current situation has the trade driven far underground so the exploitation of children is rampant -- and that shit will just stop if there are inspectors, licensees and spot checks. The point is: it currently is a very dangerous industry...and we need to do something about it. Amnesty International has it right: we must decriminalize both the selling and buying of sex to make this industry safe.