Before I begin to talk about the correlation between prostitution and human trafficking, it is important for me to clarify that this article is not a moral assessment of prostitution.
My intention is neither to promote its legalization nor advocate for its prohibition.
This article merely aims to point out one argument against the legalization of the oldest profession.
So for the sake of this argument we must (no matter how much we love or hate to do so) assume that prostitution is morally just and that women have the freedom to choose whether they want to enter this market or not.
I must also point out that we are more concerned with women than men when we talk about prostitution, simply because it is very rare for males to be coerced into prostitution, and even rarer for them to be victims of sex trafficking.
It isn’t a secret that prostitution and human trafficking are closely related.
A statement by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in 2006 stated that, “Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls. The vast majority end up being sexually exploited through prostitution.”
Because human trafficking is commonly associated with prostitution and sexual exploitation against one’s will, there have been several debates over how legalizing prostitution will affect human trafficking.
Economically speaking, if prostituition were legalized, the demand for it would increase because consumers would no longer worry about the threat of any legal trouble, and it would become more readily avaiable to those consumers that pay for it.
The supply would increase as well because more women will feel safer having their rights protected by labor laws.
The risk of being arrested would be eliminated, thus encouraging women to enter the market.
How does this affect human trafficking? Some economists believe that the increase in demand for prostitutes will be met by the increase in supply of prostitutes, therefore reducing the demand for human trafficking.
If more women were willing to enter the market, there would be no need for sex trafficking.
However, economists have also pointed out the possibility that human trafficking will increase in order to meet the high demand for prostitutes post legalization.
This opinion is mainly based on the belief that the supply will not sufficiently increase to meet the excess demand and also that the demand for minorities in the market will rise with legalization.
Studies have shown that customers have a high demand for prostitutes who belong to a “more rare” race or have an uncommon skin tone.
If prostitution were to be legalized, the aggregate demand would rise as mentioned, but along with that so would the demand for “rarer” women.
This increases the demand for trafficking because non-trafficked prostitutes are not a close substitute for trafficked prostitutes.
According to a UN Report on Trafficking in Persons (in 2006, trafficking is statistically higher for countries with higher GDP per capita, larger populations and larger stocks of migrants.
Countries like Germany, Denmark and Sweden have reported a drastic rise in human trafficking since the legalization of prostitution.
One could always argue that there may be other factors involved that cause human trafficking to have risen since the legalization of prostitution in these countries but we cannot ignore the possibility that there is a connection.
The fact that every country that legalizes prostitution reports an increase in the rate of human trafficking is evidence to a clear correlation.