Eli Savit, the county prosecutor for Washtenaw County, Michigan, is seeking to reshape the criminal justice system in conformity with progressive dogmas, regardless of the profound harm to women that will result.
Since assuming office in January, Savit has announced a whole set of changes, most notably that he will not prosecute prostitution — including against the people who sell women. Those who facilitate, solicit, and sell sex will face no consequences from the law in Washtenaw.
Washtenaw County is home to Ann Arbor, one of the most liberal cities in the Midwest.
That announcement comes as progressives, including the ACLU, increasingly call for decriminalizing prostitution in order to protect the “rights” of sex workers, whom they perceive as empowered women free to do as they wish.
The Democratic attorney for Los Angeles County, George Gascón, also has taken steps to decriminalize prostitution. But even Gascón — who announced that he will not prosecute public urination, trespassing, and resisting arrest — is not as radical as Savit on prostitution, as Gascón did not go so far as to say he would not prosecute those who solicit women for sex.
Savit posted a long Twitter thread explaining his decision.
“First, as a fundamental matter, I do not believe it is appropriate for people to be prosecuted because of what they do with their own bodies,” Savit, who clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and teaches at the University of Michigan Law School, wrote.
But the belief that the majority of prostitutes are women in control of their own bodies is a myth.
A 2003 survey of 854 people working in prostitution across nine countries, including the United States and Canada, found that 89 percent of respondents “wanted to escape prostitution, but did not have other options for survival.”
Further, multiple studies show that 70 to 90 percent of women and children in the commercial sex industry were sexually abused before they became part of the industry.
Savit also claimed that criminalizing prostitution increases sexual assault and violence.
But decades of research points clearly to another reality: everywhere prostitution is legalized, sex trafficking increases.
A 2012 study by Seo-Young Cho of the German Institute for Economic Research, Axel Dreher of Heidelberg University, and Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics and Political Science looked at cross-section data of 116 countries to determine the effect of prostitution’s legal status on sex trafficking. The study found that countries with legalized prostitution had on average a greater rate of sex tracking inflows.
Human trafficking was even greater in higher-income countries that legalized prostitution. The researchers suggested this is likely because human traffickers have enough purchasing power in higher-income countries to import foreign women and children in order to keep up with the demand created for sex in legal brothels and massage parlors.
New South Wales in Australia, for example, decriminalized prostitution in 1995. By 1999, the number of brothels had tripled to about 450; the majority of these had no license, and thus the illegal sex industry took off once prostitution was legalized.
And in the Netherlands, which legalized prostitution in 2000, the number of reported sex trafficking cases grew from 341 in 2000 to 909 cases in 2009.
The sex trafficking spurred on by the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands caused Danish politicians to take up a campaign to fight the increasing trafficking.
The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said, “We’ve realized this is no longer about small-scale entrepreneurs, but that big crime organizations are involved here in trafficking women, drugs, killings and other criminal activities.”
In fact, when prostitution is legalized, sex trafficking increases not only of adults but also of children.This all points to the fact that prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked.
When Savit protects the sex industry in Washtenaw, the demand for sex will increase, and women will be trafficked to fulfill that demand. Brothels emerging in the open will be able to elude prosecution even as women are coerced and trafficked into them. It will be more difficult to identify cases of abuse and trafficking under those legal fronts.
But those who seek to legalize prostitution are not seeing these realities. Rather, they are absorbed in their own ideological hangup that “a woman can do whatever she wants with her body.”
And the ACLU, in justifying its reasoning for legalized prositution, provides an explanation based in woke dogma that is entirely unattentive to the real harms facing women: “If sex work is decriminalized, police would have one less tool to harass and marginalize trans women of color.”
Prostitution speaks clearly: women are sexual commodities that can be bought and sold on the market. From that, sex trafficking follows.
Liberal policies that pretend to offer women greater freedom of choice, like legal prostitution, actually drive women into hopeless and destructive situations.