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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.

				
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