Empathy over Morals when Legislating Sex Trafficking

Zack Boyden -Sex trafficking is a universally reviled profession and yet it persists—mostly due to the fact that those involved are underground enough that it’s hard to investigate and arrest those behind the industry. There’s an inherent struggle between finding top-down solutions that will hopefully be pragmatic.

In Nevada they’ve taken aim at legal prostitution. Nevadan Republicans and Democrats have argued that due to their being a legal sex trade that an illegal one is much more likely to pass under the radar.

It’s a fair assumption, and legal prostitution is something that socially religious Nevadans don’t feel comfortable with regardless.

In principle, I am all for analyzing the laws we enact and making sure we don’t enact something that will prove to create a bigger problem than it attempts to solve.

I am skeptical of proposals for new laws against prostitution in Nevada, for two reasons: the first is that keeping prostitution legal protects sex workers involved in the trade. Sex workers are at a much greater risk of being victims of abuse or violent crime, and keeping prostitution illegal would prevent them from seeking help from legal services designed to protect the community. They call it the “oldest profession” for a reason, and simply making it illegal will not end prostitution.

The second concern is that sex trafficking exists in plenty of states where there is no legal prostitution. Clearly the problem occurs regardless of whether the law says so or not.

In this case, I feel it is far better to air on the side of pragmatism—do not use the law to try to subvert something that already operates under it. Using laws to protect people is far more important than hoping that they solve all problems. Prostitution is a touchy subject morally for many, but looking past individual morals and aiming for empathy will likely result in the best possible procedure.


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