Dupuy: How to end slavery in the U.S. (Spoiler: Decriminalize prostitution)
May 2, 2014
Americans have warmed up to the idea of marijuana being legal. Most polls now report more than 50 percent voters think pot should be legal if not decriminalized. And with good reason: More than half (52 percent) of drug arrests are for marijuana. This is a drug proven to be less harmful with fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco, and we're throwing silly amounts of tax dollars away trying to do away with it.
For the last few months pot has been legal in two states, Colorado and Washington, and other states like Alaska and Illinois are considering following suit. This isn't even medicinal. This isn't even under the guise of helping your back pain; this is recreational—extra curricular—just-for-kicks marijuana consumption. We used to wink at the medical benefits of whiskey during temperance and the subsequent prohibition. We've stopped having to do that and we can all just have a drink and chill out about being morally compromised. This seems to be where weed is going.
So Americans are basically saying they're OK with allowing grownups to indulge in a drug for the sake of indulging. This is a big turning point for a drug that's been consumed for 5,000 years and been vilified in this country for the last 100.
There's a coalition of people coming together on this issue. There are the libertarians who think all drugs should be legal; fiscal conservatives who see it as a big waste of resources and money; and the hippies who've been pro-marijuana since before it was cool. So this unlikely axis of legal can agree on some pragmatic policy. They've proven it.
So it's time for a serious discussion about the decriminalization of prostitution.
Stick with me.
As I mentioned, we've been cultivating pot for at least 5,000 years. But is pot dealer the world's oldest profession? Not even close.
First off prostitution is not totally illegal in the U.S. It's legal and regulated in some counties of Nevada. It's also legal to pay someone to perform sex acts if it's for entertainment purposes such as film and stage productions. So there is not an all-out ban on the selling of sex.
And yet roughly 80,000 people are arrested every year for solicitation.
Americans are coming around to the idea of letting consenting adults get stoned if they choose. We are also dead set against slavery as evidenced by the wholesale rejection of ranting rancher Cliven Bundy last week, wondering if black people were better off under slavery. Even those calling him a patriotic martyr for freedom collectively clutched their pearls as soon as he suggested slavery wasn't all that bad. Of course slavery is that bad. It's the violent dehumanization of people for the sole purpose of profit—and it's not just a relic of the 19th century.
A report last year by Australia-based Walk Free Foundation estimates there are currently 30 million slaves in the world. They report 60,000 of them are in the U.S. We have two kinds of slaves in the U.S. and both are easily fixed by legislation: illegal immigrants (another column for another time) and sex workers. Because these two groups are forced into the shadows, their existence can be very dark.
We are not going to wipe out the sex trade. We will not arrest our way out of having prostitution in our communities. It's not going away. No amount of public shaming, arresting or prosecuting will make us free of sex exchanged for money. What we can do for those who are working in the industry is make it legal. Give them back their rights and access to the courts to redress their grievances.
Decriminalize sex between consenting adults. If we really believe in freedom, then let people live their lives and let sex workers work in the light of day.
The upside is we can be on our way to eradicating slavery. Which is just the right thing to do.
Isn't that something we can all agree on (save Cliven Bundy)?
Tina Dupuy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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