VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
Legal sex businesses provide locations where sexual harass- ment, sexual exploitation, and violence against women are perpe- trated with impunity. State-sponsored prostitution endangers all women and children in that acts of sexual predation are normal- ized—acts ranging from the seemingly banal (breast massage) to the lethal (snuff prostitution that includes filming of actual mur- ders of real women and children). Areport on the sexual exploita- tion of children noted that the presence of a thriving adult sex industry in a community had the effect of increasing child prosti- tution in that same community (Estes & Weiner, 2001). Nevada, the one U.S. state where prostitution is legal in 13 counties, had significantly higher rates of sex crimes than the rest of the United States in the 1990s (Albert, 2001).6
Johns who buy women, groups promoting legalized prostitu- tion, and governments that support state-sponsored sex indus- tries comprise a tripartite partnership that endangers all women. These groups collude in denying the everyday violence and sub- sequent health dangers to those in prostitution. One john, for example, rationalized prostitution as providing health benefits to women in prostitution: Dave (2003) opined that by providing breast massage, he would thereby improve the breast health of women in prostitution. He cited numerous medical studies justi- fying his (paid-for) sexual assaults as medically beneficial.
Those who promote legalization or decriminalization defend the customer base of sex industries with far-fetched rationaliza- tions. Although duly noting the problem of “murderous clients” of prostitutes, Kinnell (2001) nonetheless suggested that legally targeting dangerous johns for arrest somehow increases the dan- ger to those in prostitution. She stated that although “many attacks are perpetrated by clients,” we should still not assume therefore that “a high proportion of clients is potentially violent.”
Pimp states across the globe7 operate with sophisticated subter- fuge in defending legalization or decriminalization of prostitu- tion. Although violence has been declared a priority area of the New Zealand Health Strategy, no part of the NZ prostitution bill offers any specific protection from the violence that is intrinsic to prostitution. Giving lip service to protecting women’s health, the NZ prostitution law claims to protect everyone from HIV and