Legal Brothels in Canada
Legal Brothels in Canada document sample
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A REBUTTAL OF JANICE RAYMOND ON DECRIMINALIZING PROSTITUTION by Tracy Ryan on behalf of Arresting Prostitutes is Legal Exploitation, (APLE) In 2003 Janice Raymond of CATW, (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International), wrote “10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution”. Recently this work has been circulated to offer rationales to oppose the proposals suggested by APLE, (Arresting Prostitutes is Legal Exploitation). Like CATW, APLE is extremely concerned with the health and safety of individuals involved in prostitution. Clearly serious and significant harm has occurred and continues to occur to individuals involved in sex work. APLE understands that the harms associated with prostitution can manifest on a variety of levels from harm to the prostitutes themselves extending to harm to their families, friends, customers, community and to the larger society. APLE understands that prostitution in and of doesn’t cause harm. The root causes of harm related to prostitution are highly complex, stemming from historical, cultural, and societal norms to individual morals, values, and beliefs. CATW does not appear to hold this complex understanding of prostitution. Ms. Raymond lists ten reasons to oppose what she lumps together as the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution in her article. This response is intended to address those points. My objections to the arguments presented by Raymond are clustered into several main areas. First is her reliance on questionable statistics and studies, most of which were done by anti-prostitution advocacy groups. It is too easy for people who have an axe to grind to come up with whatever results they want in such studies. It is generally understood that unless studies are done using appropriate research methodology the statistics they present are of little or no value. A separate paper on scientific methodology and how bias of the researchers can affect results is attached. The second general problem is one of relevance. Many of the complaints, valid or not, raised by Raymond apply specifically to legalized systems of prostitution overseas. They have no connection to the changes discussed by APLE for Hawaii. The third problem is relationship. Ms. Raymond discusses problems and furnishes statistics, but does little to relate them to any solutions of her own. At no point does she attempt to demonstrate how the arresting of prostitutes or their customers will solve the problems she sees. APLE does not claim that decriminalization will solve all of the many problems Raymond is concerned with. It will however solve several other problems that Raymond never bothers to discuss. The final issue I take with the Raymond approach is its undercurrent of morality. It appears that she and her CATW believe that prostitution in all cases and in all times is universally harmful. Therefore they ignore any arguments or evidence to the contrary. This simplistic attitude taints all of the studies and conclusions they present. Hereunder are my responses to the ten points against legalizing/decriminalizing prostitution as stated by Raymond. Her numbered points are in bold text. 1. Legalizing/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry. CATW wants you to believe that any party other than the prostitute who profits from her endeavors is an evil exploiter. This stems from their moral absolutist position not from reason, logic, or investigative analysis. APLE’s suggestions do not include eliminating penalties for pimping wherein prostitutes are abused and/or controlled. What APLE doesn’t wish to see is the kind of abuse of pandering statutes that is going on in California. In California if one prostitute sets up another for a date with a john she, not her pimp, is subject to a lengthy prison term for pandering. Criminal law must be clear and suitably narrow to address the problem it is supposed to address and not to be so broad as to harm others not intended to be targeted. Ms. Raymond and CATW clearly state in this section of her article that they favor decriminalization of the women in prostitution. The change that APLE suggests for Hawaii will accomplish just that. Unlike APLE, CATW wants johns prosecuted. We disagree that most johns desire to harm prostitutes. Some do so and these individuals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. APLE believes that anti-john efforts can increase problems for prostitutes, especially those who work with pimps. A reduction in a prostitute’s earnings due to anti-john sweeps by police will be noticed by her pimp. He is not likely to react to this revenue drop in ways that are good for the prostitute. Prostitutes face increased risks of violence and the community faces an increase in prostitute related theft as they attempt to make up for the revenue drop caused by enforcement of john laws. The approach suggested by CATW reflects dismissal of the importance of looking at the effects of their ideas on practical outcomes. To stop the violence done by pimps CATW advocates arresting someone else, in this case all and any johns. APLE proposes arresting the people who actually do the violence. 2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking. Ms. Raymond supports this statement by saying that a large number of prostitutes in Holland and other legal venues are foreign and hence have been trafficked. There is no question that there are women and children held against the will and moved against their will for purposes of prostitution in many places around the world. APLE is very much opposed to this. However Raymond wishes to establish that all immigrant women working as prostitutes fit into this worst case model of slavery and abuse. Nandita Sharma, (in a paper done at York University for publication in National Women’s Studies Association Journal in the Fall 2005 issue), came to startlingly different conclusions when women who had lost their fight to prevent deportation spoke freely. Her findings suggest that women may use prostitution as part of their migration strategy to establish themselves in wealthy countries after leaving their poor countries of origin. In her interviews of Chinese women in Canada she found that their anti-trafficking statements seemed to be made only after hearing about this issue from groups like CATW and were made at a time they sought to avoid deportation. When Sharma interviewed this group after they had lost their attempts to avoid being deported they did not make the same negative comments about trafficking. They saw the traffickers as helpful people who they would hire again in future attempts to gain access to the wealthy nations of the global north. Raymond’s second error is in looking only at the increase in foreign born prostitutes in legal areas in wealthy western countries. The actual question she should have asked is if more women were leaving their country of origin and entering prostitution. If five thousand women leave India to become prostitutes and it is illegal everywhere they may be more dispersed than if there are islands of legality they can choose to emigrate to. Raymond’s point would only make sense if she could demonstrate that legalizing prostitution had increased the total number of women leaving India and becoming prostitutes not just the number that choose legal destinations. Since it appears that CATW has already decided that all foreign born women working as prostitutes have been kidnapped, or tricked into their situation and are in constant fear of violent traffickers after they arrive they have no interest in any data that indicate that many of these women are using prostitution as a migration strategy and are not coerced. Sharma found the women who had worked as prostitutes in China intended to establish themselves in Canada or the US by working as prostitutes there. This was their migration strategy not the result of kidnapping by traffickers. APLE supports strong sanctions against traffickers, pimps, or anyone else who abuses, kidnaps, enslaves, or attacks people. We don’t deny that there are women and children moved against their will and coerced into sex. However, we oppose the wholesale ignoring of the stated interests of the supposed victims that CATW seems to endorse. 3. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry. It expands it. By virtue of its illegal, socially unacceptable, and clandestine nature there is very little empirical research on the actual extent of prostitution locally, nationally, or globally. Raymond’s attempts to indicate an increase by quoting statistics are of little value. The researchers she quotes have no accurate means of calculating the total amount of sex industry work both legal and illegal in the jurisdictions they refer to. Nor have they established a baseline of illegal sex industry size for the periods prior to legalization. Their findings can never be more than educated guesses and the actual effects on the size of the sex industry cannot be predicted should APLE’s recommended changes occur in Hawaii. Finally CATW also ignores the possibility that an increase in sex industry levels in one area may mean a decrease elsewhere. In other words an increase in the size of the sex industry in legal areas of the Netherlands may indicate a decrease in Belgium where it remains illegal. 4. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution. This point is not relevant. We at APLE don’t seek to legalize prostitution along the lines maligned by Raymond in her support for this statement. We feel her continued simplification of the issue by lumping legalization and decriminalization together clouds the picture. Decriminalization as defined by APLE is not a sanctioning of prostitution or a method of controlling it. It will not require health checks or force prostitutes to work in brothels. It will allow them to work as they have for centuries as streetwalkers without government supervision. 5. Legalization of prostitutes and decriminalization of the sex industry increases child prostitution. Here again Ms. Raymond provides statistics, of what accuracy we can’t determine. Whether child prostitution is actually increasing or the knowledge of its occurrence is increasing is difficult to ascertain, as we have no good baseline data on its extent. APLE is strongly opposed to child prostitution. APLE asserts that adult men and women may engage in sex without fear of arrest. The existence of child prostitution and the possibility of increasing levels of it are enforcement issues, not ones of inadequate laws. 6. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution. Raymond quotes from a CATW study about the violence and dangers of prostitution and gives anecdotal evidence to suggest that legal brothels don’t protect prostitutes from abusive johns. APLE’s suggested changes will protect prostitutes from abuse by police and the criminal justice system, and the subsequent harms associated with having a police record, a topic completely ignored by Raymond. Raymond does not suggest how prostitutes in areas where prostitution is completely illegal are any better protected against the dangers she lists. In APLE’s approach at least prostitutes who have been beaten, kidnapped, rapped and abused know that going to the police for help will not get them charged with prostitution. 7. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially accepted settings. Raymond starts by linking legal prostitution with an increase in the “social and ethical barriers to treating women as sexual commodities.” This whole line of thought takes us away from prostitution and the harm prostitutes may suffer into some philosophical grey area about the way men look at women in general. One can choose to believe that men look at women the way they do because of biology. Or they can, as CATW does here, accept the radical feminist idea that men act this way because our culture promotes it. If one accepts the radical views of Raymond etal then stopping at the suppression of prostitution, stripping, and pornography, won’t be enough. They must also legislate against women who show too much cleavage, wear too short a skirt, or use a thong bikini. My suggestion is that the countries, such as Afghanistan under the Taliban, that did the most to achieve those goals, tend to be repressive of women’s rights. The Netherlands, on the other hand, that Raymond spends much of her time attacking in her piece, has a far better record on the treatment of its women. 8. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women’s health. Here again Raymond’s commingling of legalization with decriminalization is not useful. The points she makes here are irrelevant to APLE’s proposals. In fact proposed changes for Hawaii will not require health checks. We can agree with Raymond that to require such of the prostitute, but not the john is unfair. 9. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women’s choice. In this argument Ms. Raymond relies on more unreliable research methodology. Apparently many prostitutes when interviewed answer that they would choose to do something else if that choice were available. No kidding! If you ask young women if they would rather be a famous fashion model or a clerk in a department store it is clear how they will answer. Deducing from this that people are forced to work in department stores is no more logical than the conclusions made by Raymond here. Most rational human beings know the difference between force and choosing to work in an occupation that you may not really like. Beyond that how does it relate to decriminalization? Did CATW ask these women if they’d prefer a month in jail to not being arrested? Or if they think all of their johns should be arrested vs. only those who abuse them? It doesn’t appear so. 10. Women in systems of prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized. Here Raymond quotes highly questionable CATW statistics that claim prostitutes don’t want prostitution legalized. Local research suggests otherwise. Statistics taken in a 1983 study of Chinatown prostitutes found 90% of the twenty-one women interviewed favored legalization or decriminalization. (This paper entitled Prostitutes of Hotel Street was done by Glenn Yoshimoto in April of 1983. It can be found in the UH Library.) As with all of us, prostitutes have differing life stories and differing opinions. I count many prostitutes as personal friends and members of APLE have worked with countless prostitutes. We have yet to meet one who wants to pay fines go to prison, or carry an arrest record. Raymond’s research lacks the controls and other methodological features which would make her claims acceptable to independent peer review. It discounts the views held by organizations of prostitutes seeking decriminalization. It doesn’t even address prostitution done by men or transgendered persons who tend to have vastly differing experience than the women she likes to portray as typical. Her paper provides little logical rational to oppose the decriminalization goals of APLE.