“‘prostitutes’ are either consenting adults or they are victims of a crime. In both cases, they should not be viewed as breaking the law, and should not be arrested or prosecuted.”
A woman called the Shamokin Police Department recently to report a terrifying situation. She needed police protection, she explained, because she was “being forced to have sex with a man for money.” At this point, any of us would assume the authorities would react quickly, offering her protection, taking action to verify her claim and acting appropriately to end any criminal activity.
Instead of protecting the woman, she was arrested and charged with felonies including Prostitution and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. Far from protecting her, she is now charged as a criminal, with her full name and hometown published in the media. All this from a plea for help. A woman who says she was forced into prostitution was arrested, along with her accused persecutors.
At the center of this horrific story is a simple problem with a simple solution. In a free society sex between consenting adults should be legal. It does not matter if money is involved, a new sports jacket, or a fancy dinner. What we call ‘prostitutes’ are either consenting adults or they are victims of a crime. In both cases, they should not be viewed as breaking the law, and should not be arrested or prosecuted.
Sex trafficking of any kind is abhorrent and should be stopped and the perpetrators dealt with appropriately. But by making sex for payment (prostitution) illegal, we make it harder for victims of trafficking and forced prostitution to come forward and seek protection. Like the woman in Shamokin, they risk arrest and incarceration for the crime of being abused by others. Criminalizing prostitution makes it easier for predators to take advantage of vulnerable people.
We need to change our laws to decriminalize victimless crimes and instead focus on protecting real victims and prosecuting real criminals. We can protect both our rights and protect the innocent by doing the right thing. We need to strike consensual adult prostitution from our books now.