Decriminalize vs. Legalize

I was able to go to the Soularize Conference in the Bahamas this last October. One of the speakers was Rita Nakashima Brock. She was co-author of a great book I read for one of my courses “Casting Stones”. I contacted her after the conference to get some resources. She said to me that after working with prostitutes and doing her research overseas she strongly believes that prostitution should not be legalized but SHOULD be decriminalized.
I have to say that the more I study here at Fuller, the more I work with the After Hours Ministry and the more I research prostitution I agree with Dr. Brock. This is still something I am very much thinking through and processing…but travel with me a bit.

Legalization: to make legal; authorize

Those that legalize prostitution (and yes, there are some places that do) “do so by giving the state control over the lives and businesses of those who work as prostitutes. Legalization often includes special taxes for prostitutes, restricting prostitutes to working in brothels or in certain zones, licenses, registration of prostitutes and government records of individual prostitutes, and health checks, which often means punitive quarantine. The term legalization does not necessarily have to refer to the above sorts of regulations. In fact, in one commonly accepted definition of legalization, legal can simply mean that prostitution is not against the law.” [quoted from this website] And this is not what we want. Prostitution should still be against the law – it just should not be a criminal act.

Decriminalize: to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against (typically referring to consenting adult sexual activity)

While there are many reasons one gets into prostitution and many reasons one stays, I don’t think that putting these men and women in jail is ever really the answer. The times I have spoken with my girls after they have been in jail for a couple of weeks for getting picked up for prostitution I see no real effect the jailing had on them (other than pissing them off and making them annoyed). And to be real frank, I think it is the John’s that need to be put in jail if we are going to send anyone there. The laws that are currently in place for prostitution are reaching the “branch” problems – and we need to get to the root. Our laws are affecting the women involved while the men who are customers reap no consequences.

The criminalization of prostitution also makes it very difficult for these women to seek help or report violent actions against themselves to the police. If they report anything they can be charged or put in jail because of the actions that caused the crime against them. Several women I work with would be fearful of loosing custody of their child or losing status with the family and friends.

There is a website that makes a compelling argument “why prostitution should not ever be legalized” but you will notice that they use the two words legalization and decriminalization interchangeably. I think that is where the confusion and danger comes in. Legalization is not the same as decriminalization and until we have a clear understanding of what we mean by the word and what we are truly trying to accomplish – we’ll only get frustrated and step on each other’s toes.

And lastly, here is an article that I think is really compelling (which is for decriminalization) written by Wendy McElroy.


Anonymous said...

more coming on this i hope. a touchy subject, deep seeded and probably very misunderstood. hmmmmmmm.

wanderingellimac said...

thanks for the hmmmmm...that's all i wanted ;-)

mrwhite said...

I think I get it. So if it is just decriminalized, then there is no gopverment envolvement, and if legalized it becomes a legit, taxed and boxed industry?

Interesting to hear that people can be pro decrim, but not pro legal.

AMIT said...

A good post posted by you on comparing this two.

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