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Prostitution and Trafficking in Women: An Intimate Relationship

NCJ Number
Journal of Trauma Practice Volume: 2 Issue: 3/4 Dated: 2003 Pages: 167-183
Dorchen A. Leidholdt
Date Published
17 pages
This article examines the relationship between prostitution and sex trafficking, arguing that the two are fundamentally interrelated and the latter is appropriately viewed as “globalized prostitution.”
Although often not recognized as such under legal doctrine, prostitution and sex trafficking are closely related phenomena. The author supports this assertion by first exploring prostitution as an institution of gender-based domination. Prostitution involves specific forms of violence directed at women that carry seriously deleterious physical, psychological, and emotional outcomes for victims. The author analyzes the argument that legalizing prostitution would lessen its associated violence and prove financially beneficial to governments and women alike. The reasons women enter prostitution are profoundly gendered and include a history of sexual and physical abuse as well as economic deprivation. The connection between prostitution and domestic violence is rarely examined yet central to women’s sexual exploitation. Previous studies have established that many women are prostituted by abusive husbands or boyfriends or are prostituting themselves as an only option to escaping an abusive relationship. Additionally, most prostitutes have histories of abuse that began with fathers or other male relatives. Next, the author examines how prostitution and trafficking are defined on a global level. The need to distinguish trafficking from prostitution developed in the 1980’s as a strategy to confine the scope of domestic and international laws addressing the sex industry and to confine activism against such laws. Moreover, the creation of distinctions between prostitution and trafficking protect business as usual within the sex industry. Governments that have legalized prostitution are thus able to continue profiting off of the sexual exploitation of women and children at the same time that they cooperate with international efforts to curb human trafficking. The final analysis concludes that trafficking can be accurately viewed as “globalized prostitution,” while the more usual type of prostitution can be accurately thought of as domestic trafficking. As the boundaries between local prostitution and international sex trafficking become increasingly blurred, it will become crucial to examine definitions of prostitution and trafficking that underlie international legislation. References


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