Prostitution is known as the world’s oldest profession. It serves a demand in the market which is constant and growing. There are few start-up costs and customers are often quite loyal. However, this form of commerce is illegal in the United States and most places in the world. However, this may be changing, as prostitution proponents in Puerto Rico vie for legalization.
Puerto Rico’s economy is hurting. There is 15 percent unemployment, 45 percent live in poverty, and there appears to be no relief in sight. So, the island territory is looking to tourism to help boost it out of financial doldrums. Already the Dominican Republic has legalized prostitution. Radio star Rush Limbaugh was even detained due to a large cache of Viagra he brought into that country. The Dutch islands Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Maarten also have legal ladies of the evening.
Of itself, in its pure form, there is little harm in prostitution. Practitioners are prone to infection and disease, but many find this a cost of doing business. Customers accept the risk. In its illegal form, a dangerous element intrudes. Drugs and violence find willing hosts in the sex industry and both prostitutes and their customers become targets of con artists and psychopaths.
In New York, police have been able to use condoms as evidence to prove a charge of prostitution. This creates a disincentive for prostitutes to ply their trade with a degree of safety and sanity. The more negative restrictions moralistic laws impose, the greater negative consequences arise.
Former male escort Hawk Kinkaid was quoted as saying that prostitutes had a disincentive to use condoms when often they were the only evidence the NYPD could use against them. This creates a threat to public health when sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, is able to spread in the absence of proper protection. The law allowing cops to use condoms as evidence also worked against state efforts to promote condom use among sex workers and the general public alike.
In the marijuana trade, a similar negative outcome is seen. Where marijuana is illegal, it is freely available to anyone of any age who has money to buy. It is found alongside dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin. No tax is paid on any transaction because it’s all illicit money. Under an umbrella of permissiveness, the marijuana trade becomes taxable, access is restricted to adults, and dangerous drugs are further stigmatized.
In Holland, however, legal, state-sanctioned prostitution thrives. Women are able to ply their trade in a safe and protected environment. Condoms and regular check-ups are requirements and state regulators ensure that the market is fair and equitable for everyone. In that permissive and accepting legal framework, the industry is allowed to grow in a healthy manner.
Detractors point to examples such as Germany, which legalized brothels in 2001. There, the sex industry has become a prey to human traffickers and dangerous pimps who are importing women from Eastern Europe who work in a virtual slavery.
Interestingly, the problem of human trafficking and pimping has been allayed in Sweden. There, prostitutes and prostitution are not illegal. What is illegal is being a purchaser of the services. The legal burden falls to the demand side of the law rather that to the suppliers. In that setting, male desire becomes the risky element rather than the women who satisfy it. Women are safer as a result.
Already, Nevada has legalized brothels where women work in safety. There has been no explosion of depravity, violence, or any other social ill. Rather, sanity has prevailed and the human urges which drive the sex industry are allowed expression in safety.
If Puerto Rico prevails in its legalization of prostitution, proponents claim that the economy will be boosted on the rising tide of tax money. The Caribbean would have yet another destination for those with suitcases full of condoms and Viagra, and perhaps the money multiplier effect would help to bring so many out of poverty.
Opinion by Hobie Anthony