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VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / OctoberFarley / HAR.MS OF PROSTITUTION 1 “Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart”: Prostitution Harms Women Even if Legalized or Decriminalized

MELISSA FARLEY

Prostitution Research & Education

With examples from a 2003 New Zealand prostitution law, this article discusses the logi- cal inconsistencies in laws sponsoring prostitution and includes evidence for the physi- cal, emotional, and social harms of prostitution. These harms are not decreased by legal- ization or decriminalization. The article addresses the confusion caused by organizations that oppose trafficking but at the same time promote prostitution as a justifiable form of labor for poor women. The failure of condom distribution/harm reduction programs to protect women in prostitution from rape, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV is discussed. The success of such programs in obtaining funding and in promoting prostitution as sex work is also discussed.

Keywords: decriminalization; New Zealand; prostitution; prostitution law

INTRODUCTION

Can the physical, social, and psychological harms of prostitu- tion be controlled or decreased by decriminalization, regulation, or other state monitoring? Is there any way to make prostitution safer? Is it possible to protect the human rights of those in prosti- tution? Does legalization or decriminalization decrease the dan- gers of prostitution?

In May 2003, prostitution was decriminalized in New Zealand (NZ) by a one-vote majority of its Parliament. Throughout this article, examples from NZ will be used to analyze arguments that decriminalizing prostitution would make prostitution safer for the women in it. Four of the five reasons proposed for the decrimi- nalization of prostitution in NZ had to do with public health. In the law’s language, these were to safeguard the human rights of

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, Vol. 10 No. 10, October 2004 DOI: 10.1177/1077801204268607 © 2004 Melissa Farley

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