Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business

Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business

Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business

Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business

Excerpt

In recent years, America has witnessed major trends in the normalization of some types of vice or previously stigmatized behavior. Marijuana has been decriminalized in some places; gay rights are increasingly protected by the law; casino gambling and state-sponsored lotteries have become quite popular; and pornography, strip clubs, and other sexual entertainment have proliferated. Prostitution is a glaring exception to these trends, not only in the United States but in many other countries as well. The very notion of legal prostitution is alarming to many people; they simply cannot fathom it.

Yet in some nations, prostitution has been decriminalized and is regulated by the government. People who live outside these countries know very little about legal prostitution—what is permitted, how it is regulated, and what the effects of legalization are on those involved. Likewise, many Americans are unaware that prostitution is legal and regulated by local authorities in a number of counties in Nevada and that this legal order has existed for four decades, beginning in 1971. Americans might also be surprised to learn that, until recently, Rhode Island had no prostitution law on the books. The state controlled street prostitution with a loitering law, but indoor prostitution was not an offense and was freely carried out in the state’s many massage parlors and by escorts who worked either independently or for an agency. This situation ended in 2009 when the legislature voted to criminalize those who buy and sell sex as well as landlords who allow prostitution on their premises.

The Rhode Island and Nevada cases show that decriminalized prostitution is not a totally foreign idea in modern America. But there are several other countries where prostitution has been legalized as well, and I think that we can learn much from their experiences. Legalizing Prostitution sheds light on these systems, with a special focus on three cases—Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. The book is intended to help readers think outside the box, to consider alternatives that may be superior to the criminalization approach that reigns almost everywhere in the United . . .

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