Written by Melissa Holland and Laila Mickelwait
Forty-eight years ago prostitution was legalized in Nevada and as a result, Nevada has developed into a breeding ground for sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
In fact, Nevada has the highest rate of prostitution in the country—its illegal sex trade is 63% higher than the next highest state. It also ranks in the top 10 states for trafficked and exploited youth.
None of this is surprising because research has shown that legal prostitution increases the demand for prostitution and thus increases the market for sex. As a result, there is a significant increase in instances of human trafficking.
For example, in 2012 researchers Seo-Young Cho, Axel Dreher, and Eric Neumayer published their findings in World Development establishing that “The scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking… On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows.”
In 2005, another study1 on 11 European Union countries, requested by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, found that stricter prostitution laws seem to produce fewer human trafficking victims.
Furthermore, case studies published by researchers Niklas Jakobsson and Andreas Kotsadam2 support the connection between criminalizing buying sex and reduced human trafficking. Jakobsson and Kotsadam found that sex trafficking is least prevalent in countries where prostitution is illegal and most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized.
Nevada is the only state in the US where legal prostitution exists and because of this, the entire state has a reputation for being a safe haven for pimps, traffickers, and sex buyers. As such, legalized prostitution in Nevada has created an enabling environment for sexual exploitation to flourish. In Nevada alone, there is a demand for over 20,000 innocent women and children sold online every year.
In order to abolish sex trafficking, we must eliminate the demand for prostitution. The demand elimination strategy is the only way to put pimps and traffickers out of business and protect the rights of women and children to attain a life free from exploitation.
Women in prostitution shouldn’t be arrested, they should be offered services to help them escape prostitution, heal, and live a life of dignity. Sex buyers, pimps, and traffickers should be arrested and their crimes should be felony-level offenses.
As Nevada trafficking survivor Rebekah Charleston articulates, “To put it candidly, we must stop any system that condones buying human beings for sex. It’s an injustice against our sisters, our friends, our neighbors, and our daughters.”
Legal prostitution in Nevada has brought severe harm to the women and girls who’ve been pulled into prostitution over the last 48 years.
One of the largest studies conducted on prostitution, published in the Journal of Trauma Practice, surveyed 854 prostituted women in nine countries. It concluded that 63% of women in prostitution were raped, 71% were physically assaulted, and 68% met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state-organized torture.3
It’s time to end the toxic prostitution industry in Nevada. It has to stop. Now. Until it does, Nevada is a haven for exploiters and Nevada is not safe for women.
Please support ending legalized sexual exploitation in Nevada and specifically ask the governor and attorney general of Nevada to withdraw their opposition to the lawsuit that would effectively abolish legalized prostitution in the state. Go to prostitutionharms.com to find out how you can take action today.
2. The Law and Economics of International Sex Slavery: Prostitution Laws and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation
Niklas Jakobsson and Andreas Kotsadam No 458, Working Papers in Economics from University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics
3. Farley, Melissa et al. (2003). “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 33-74; and Farley, Melissa. ed. 2003. Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress. Haworth Press, New York. ; Ramsay, R. et. al. 1993. “Psychiatric morbidity in survivors of organized state violence including torture.” British Journal of Psychiatry. 162:55-59.