Gay group calls for legalizing prostitution in D.C.

GLAA says ‘prohibition’ creates more problems than it solves

Jun. 27, 2008

The Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the local gay group credited with persuading the D.C. government to adopt far-reaching gay and transgender rights legislation since the 1970s, added to its 2008 election year agenda a call for legalizing prostitution in the District.

In a development likely to create a stir in local political circles, the group will include a question about legalized prostitution in its questionnaire for all candidates running this year for seats on D.C. City Council. The non-partisan GLAA uses responses it receives from questionnaires to formulate its widely publicized candidate ratings on gay issues.

“We know that we are breaking a taboo by discussing this,” the group states in a 26-page election year position paper, “Agenda: 2008,” which it posted on its web site, The paper discusses a wide range of gay and AIDS issues unrelated to prostitution.

“But avoiding the issue will not make it go away,” the GLAA document states. “We ask those who disagree with our position to address our arguments seriously. Failed policies do not deserve to be defended with reflexive dismissals.”

GLAA Vice President Rick Rosendall said the group decided to take a public stand on prostitution as part of its advocacy work on certain issues that are not specifically gay related but that have an impact on gay people and on civil liberties and personal freedoms for all people.

Rosendall points to the GLAA Agenda: 2008 paper’s assertion that people involved in prostitution — both men and women — are likely to face problems that won’t disappear upon legalization, although those problems would be mitigated if the government did not subject prostitutes to criminal prosecution.

He said communities faced with problems of street prostitution, including neighborhoods in D.C., would be better off if prostitution were legalized, regulated, zoned and taxed.

“When it’s forced underground, you can’t control where it takes place,” he said.

The GLAA Agenda: 2008 document states that negative effects of criminalizing prostitution have spilled over into the gay and transgender community.

“As advocates of the legalization of prostitution, we think it needs neither sanitizing nor glorifying,” the agenda document states. “It is not a profession filled exclusively with people who freely chose it from a host of options. No doubt there are some in that category, like the college student turning tricks for extra cash.

“But too many turn to it by necessity,” it says. “These include gay teenagers who have been thrown out of the house by their parents and transgender people whom discrimination has left with few options.”

The GLAA agenda document adds, “Harassing, arresting and prosecuting people for survival sex solves none of their problems. It only piles on more.

“Whose idea of responsible public policy is this?” the paper says. “To be justified, any public law ought to serve some identifiable common good … No matter how bad you may think something is, if your proposed response is only likely to make it worse, then you should pull back.”

The Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, which advocates for re-criminalizing prostitution in Nevada, charges that the state’s legal brothels exploit the women sex workers.

“Legalization of prostitution does not decrease the physical and emotional safety of women in prostitution,” the group argues on the anti-prostitution web site, “There is no way to make prostitution ’a little bit better.’”

George Flint, executive director of the Nevada Brothel Owners Association, disputes those claims, saying virtually all advocates for re-criminalizing prostitution in Nevada oppose it on moral grounds and almost always “tell a pack of lies” about what goes on in the state’s legal brothels.

He said strict state regulations and a strongly held policy by brothel owners, provides the mostly female sex workers with a safe and supportive work environment. He said most full-time sex workers in the legal brothels earn between $200,000 and $300,000 a year.

Although most of the male customers are older, often overweight and rarely look like Hollywood movie stars, Flint said the brothels have a tight security system and strict policies in place that never tolerate mistreatment of the sex workers.

There have been no reported cases of a prostitute in a legal brothel in the state being infected with HIV by a brothel customer since the start of the AIDS epidemic, Flint said. He said the last syphilis case reported to have occurred from a john to a prostitute in a legal Nevada brothel occurred 13 years ago, and transmission of other, non-HIV sexually transmitted diseases are extremely rare.

GLAA leaders say they don’t expect the city to legalize prostitution any time soon and they acknowledge that Congress would swoop down and overturn even the most limited law to lessen the current city laws making prostitution a crime.

“Our purpose is to get people to think about this,” Rosendall said.

The question that will appear on the GLAA candidate questionnaire on the subject states, “What are your thoughts regarding GLAA’s proposal, as explained in Agenda: 2008, to mitigate the problems associated with prostitution by legalizing, regulating, zoning and taxing it?”


Govt urged to legalise sex industry in South Africa


A GROUND-BREAKING study on sex work and human trafficking in Cape Town, authored by Chandré Gould, of Hoekwil near George, was launched last night with a critical thinking forum that aims to encourage legalisation of the industry.

The two-year study, entitled Selling Sex in Cape Town: Sex work and trafficking in a South African City, is the first of its size and kind in the country, and the first in Africa to gather quantitative data on human trafficking.

Researchers say it provides a model for much- needed similar studies in other South African cities.

Gould‘s studies found that most sex workers are young black women between the ages of 24 and 28, only five per cent are foreigners, and there is no evidence of human trafficking.

The Cape Town industry, with 1200 workers, of which 250 worked the streets, was fairly small, Gould said, and would probably remain that way if it was legalised due to the stigma attached to the industry.

“The kind of help sex workers need is protection by the law,” said Gould, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria. “It‘s too easy to see women in the industry as victims … opting for sex work is not easy but sometimes people‘s choices are limited,” she said.

“There will always be women who choose to do this, so let‘s make sure they‘re safe doing it.”

This could only be done in a regulated environment where workers, employers and clients were encouraged to report abuse, said Gould and co-author Nicolé Fick, of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat).

Last night‘s launch at The Castle in Cape Town featured a critical thinking forum hosted by the Mail &0x0026; Guardian and chaired by constitutional law expert and High Court judge Dennis Davis.

“There will never be a good time to discuss this as it will always be a contentious issue. But it‘s important to protect the rights of women who are currently vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” Gould said.

The study found evidence of employment practices in brothels that would be unacceptable in regulated industries, including taking 36% to 60% of earnings, heavy fines for late arrival or not reporting for work according to strict timetables despite being in effect freelance.

Sex workers on the streets were often harassed and threatened by police.

“Rather than reducing the number of sex workers, an aggressive policing strategy results in women working longer hours or taking more clients to make up the income lost through paying fines or spending time in jail,” the report says.

Gould‘s next study will focus on violent repeat offenders.