Questions and Answers About Prostitution

What change in public policy would APLE like to see?
We support the decriminalization of prostitution.
What is the difference between legalization of prostitution and decriminilization?
Decriminalization means repealing the existing criminal laws and nothing else. We use the term legalization to refer to a fully legal, organized, and regulated industry.


What is the legal definition of prostitution?
According to Hawaii law a person commits the offense of prostitution if the person engages in, agrees or offers to engage in, sexual conduct with another person for a fee.
Isn't prostitution violence against women and children?
Many women and children do suffer violence related to their association with prostitution. Anti-prostitution laws do nothing to address violence against women and children. In fact anti-prostitution laws can contribute to this violence by making prostitutes the target of law enforcement efforts.


Aren't prostitutes exploited and victimized?
Prostitutes do suffer much travail. Arresting and incarcerating people described as victims does not help to alleviate these problems. In many cases incarceration is a perpetuation of this victimization. APLE believes that locking someone up or fining them is an inappropriate and counterproductive way to assist them in dealing with their problems or improving the quality of their lives.


What about prostitutes with pimps and drug addictions?

Decriminalizing, like criminalization does not eliminate pimps or cure addiction. Decriminalization will eliminate further abuse by law enforcement and hopefully make prostitutes more likely to turn to the police and to other societal forces when help is needed.


Aren't men who hire prostitutes the real problem?
The various social problems that relate to the customer, such as assaulting, raping, or robbing, a prostitute are all addressed elsewhere in the criminal code. Prostitutes would be more likely to report abuse from a customer if the current laws criminalizing prostitution are repealed. Doesn't decriminalizing prostitution mean that it's okay to devalue women and treat them as objects rather than as whole human beings?
Countries such as Germany or the Netherlands that tolerate prostitution don't have bad records on women's rights issues. On the other hand countries with the most puritanical laws governing prostitution, such as Iran, tend to keep women in low legal status.

Don't you think women and girls should learn to respect their bodies and not to treat them as commodities?
A woman's body is first and foremost her concern; not yours, and not the government's. She should not be subjected to criminal penalties merely to satisfy your definitions of appropriate female conduct.


What message should society send about prostitution?

Current societal messages perpetuate the victimization of prostitutes. Messages like: prostitutes are "victims" who need to be saved by arrest and prosecution, that they are human crime waves that destroy peaceful neighborhoods, that they are vectors of disease, and that they are low class, morally corrupt people. This kind of propaganda leads people to believe prostitutes are not worthy of the same basic respect and rights as other people.
Prostitutes are people who are entitled to the same protection against violence and exploitation everyone else is. As consenting adults neither they or their customers should be attacked by the government for engaging in agreed upon activities.


Since prostitutes are exploited won't decriminalization take away society's tools to stop that exploitation?
The problems presented to prostitutes by those who exploit, control, and victimize, them can be dealt with more effectively in a decriminalized environment, just as abuses in other industries have been dealt with in the past.
Many industries have been reformed for the purpose of protecting workers particularly children. Nineteenth century conditions in mining and industry were very harsh, but no one ever suggested closing down mines and factories. Instead reforms were initiated.
Three thousand years of history teach us that prostitution is not going away. Isn't it time we began to initiate reforms that will improve the working conditions in this occupation as we have in others.
Some have said that men need available women for sex, but most men who hire prostitutes are married. We've also heard that men who hire prostitutes have emotional issues and hostility toward women. Please address these issues.
There are various reasons men use prostitutes. There is no accepted study indicating that the customers of prostitutes differ from men as a whole in their attitudes about women. Cheating on a spouse is a moral question that our society has concluded is best left out of the criminal courts' jurisdiction. Unless customers hurt a prostitute, any emotional issues they may have are the province of voluntary therapy not the police department.


What about child prostitution?
We are against child prostitution and are not arguing for a change in the law here. Penalties for knowingly pimping under age people are and would remain severe. It would be a felony to pimp a person under age eighteen. One could also be charged for pimping adults if the relationship involves coercion.


How will prostitutes be protected from exploitation after decriminalization?

Clearly the tools we have now are not working to stop prostitution or to protect women and children from exploitation. Harm is done to prostitutes by current laws that do nothing to protect them. The existence of a criminal record created by existing laws hinder individuals from attaining employment and achieving life goals for years after leaving prostitution. As a criminal a prostitute may face losing custody of children she is trying to raise. Decriminalizing the act of prostitution as defined by law will not change laws aimed at suppressing the abusive acts of pimps. Pimps will still be subjected to prosecution. With decriminalization there will also be less need for prostitutes to rely on pimps for protection since they would be better able to turn to the police when in trouble without fear of arrest.


Agencies that provide help to people voluntarily exiting prostitution on a client centered and non-judgmental basis should be fully supported. Programs based on punitive models where court sentenced prostitutes are required to receive "rehabilitation" are not as effective as voluntary programs.

For further information contact A.P.L.E. at 808-988-3493 and ask for our spokesperson the Reverend Pam Vessels.

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