Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Targeting Sex Buyers, Not Sex Sellers: Arresting Demand for Prostitution

Targeting Sex Buyers, Not Sex Sellers: Arresting Demand for Prostitution

One of my doctoral students who studies the sex trafficking and exploitation of children says that this documentary is well done. 


Two Los Angeles police officers arrest a john
LAPD officers arrest a john
By Lisa Ko
The following article is presented in conjunction with the broadcast television premiere of A Path Appears on PBS’s Independent Lens (airs Monday, January 26, February 2 & 9; check local listings for the date and time in your area).
With the exception of some counties in Nevada, prostitution is illegal throughout the United States. But for every john or pimp arrested, multiple girls and women — some of whom were forced into the trade while still underage — are often arrested as well. Police harassment and incarceration can subject these women to further injustice, violence, and abuse.
In Massachusetts, police were found to arrest women for prostitution-related offenses far more frequently than they arrest men. The laws themselves are discriminatory: a woman can be arrested for prostitution by standing on a street corner with intention to sell, but johns can only be arrested if they’re caught discussing payments in exchange for sex.
Elsewhere, law enforcement agencies are pursuing a different approach.

The Dallas Police Department views girls in prostitution as sexual assault victims, not criminals. Instead of detention, they’re offered treatment, and seventy-five percent of those who receive it don’t go back. Officers and social workers build trust gradually with the girls, who are then more likely to testify against their pimps. As a result, the number of pimps convicted in the city has risen.
Advocates such as Carol Leigh, director of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network, say that prostitution laws that criminalize selling sex can increase exploitation — a woman may be unwilling to report abuse to the police if she’s also at risk for arrest. Criminalization, as well as the conflation of sex trafficking and voluntary sex work, thwarts women from receiving vital health services and HIV/AIDS prevention.

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