This article explores arguments about the legalization of prostitution and how they impact human trafficking. One argument holds that prostitution is a form of sexual liberation, expression, and women’s agency. The counterargument views prostitution as a form of violence against women and maintains that, where prostitution is legal, human trafficking will increase to meet the open demand for sex. These arguments, however, do not account for variations in cultural beliefs and traditions, gender inequality, or the impact of the formation of a global society. The complementary theoretical frames of gender inequality and the formation of a global society are viewed through a global criminal justice lens. Through this framework, this article discusses the prostitution and human trafficking laws of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which have varying stances on the legalization of prostitution, and how their laws create challenges for law enforcement. Without consideration for complementary theoretical frames, differing laws among jurisdictions, and challenges for law enforcement, problems such as overgeneralization, faulty assumptions, and passing ineffective or shortsighted laws will fuel the debate on the legalization of prostitution and, in turn, inhibit progress in efforts to combat human trafficking.
- © 2016 by The Regents of the University of California