Common Myths about Prostitution and the Law #1: If you make prostitution illegal, it will go underground.

Myth: If you make prostitution illegal, it will go underground.

  • The argument that criminalizing the purchase of sex will drive it “underground” is not based on any evidence. On the contrary, in Sweden and Norway—where the purchase of sex has been criminalized—the number of men buying sex has declined. Therefore, prostitution on the whole has declined.1
  • “Underground” is another word for “indoor”, “out of sight”, or “below the law”. Because the very nature of prostitution requires that it be visible to the clients who are seeking women for purchase, it is not possible for it to go so far underground that it can no longer be detected. If the men who purchase women are able to find the women, then trained police can surely locate the activity and arrest the johns.
  • In 2009, after the law criminalizing sex was enacted for the whole of Norway, the number of prostitution-related advertisements fell by 28 percent. This means that “underground” or “indoor” prostitution could not have increased as advertisements would have been necessary in order for buyers to find the women.2
  • The same people who argue against criminalization because they believe it will drive prostitution indoors are the same people who argue that brothels should be legal because indoor prostitution is safer than street prostitution.

This and the following 5 posts will be dedicated to debunking myths about prostitution and the law. These are commonly held beliefs and I believe should have as much light shed on the as possible.  All credit for the writing and research that went into this piece belongs to an incredibly courageous and dedicated young woman, Laila Mickelwait, who since 2011, has served as the Manager of Policy and Public Affairs at Exodus Cry, and has been engaging members of parliament and legislators around the world on legal reform issues that deal with the injustice of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Exodus Cry is one of the most influential, culturally relevant, faith based organizations creating awareness and change not just in Kansas City, or the US, but literally all over the world. They first gained my attention when I watched a documentary they developed called Nefarious, Merchant of Souls. This year they will be releasing a second feature-length documentary, and my expectations are high. This one will be focused on the demand. Here’s what they have to say about it:

Our goal is to use this film as the foundation for a movement to end the demand for illicit sex. Through the film, we hope to inspire abolitionists who will speak out against the factors that create a toxic culture where men buy women for sex. We will also provide evidence that demonstrates the need to curb demand through legal reform.

I, for one, will stand with Exodus Cry, loudly supporting their legal efforts, prevention and film projects, their intervention and restoration of the exploited, their spiritual beliefs and their passionate abolitionists like Laila Mickelwait and Benjamin Nolot, until all are free.


  • 1. Selected extracts of the Swedish government report SOU 2010:49: “The Ban Against The Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation” 1999-2008 Swedish Institute & Ministry of Justice. Also see The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services Best Practices for Prevention of Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings Gunilla Eckberg Ministry of Industry, Employment, and Communications Violence Against Women, Vol. 10 No. 10, October 2004 1187-1218 DOI: 10.1177/1077801204268647 2004. Also see “Targeting the Sex Buyer The Swedish Example: Stopping Prostitution And Trafficking Where it All Begins.” Kajsa Claude 2010 The Swedish Institute. “New Conditions, New Opportunities” Annual Report, Pro Sentret (2009)
  • 2. “New Conditions, New Opportunities” Annual Report, Pro Sentret (2009)

About Chelan

I grew up in a sweet lil family of 4 and lived in the same home from age 2-21 when I transitioned from college life to married life. Enter: Ricky G. Russ, Jr. - this guy was a playa w/an ego from the day we met that fall of 1990. And oh, so cool, totally rebellious pastor's kid...but I like to think I knocked some sense into him (after I dated his brother). We fell in love & the world around us turned to a dull gray & brilliant burst of color all at once. I've been singing since '90 - in choirs, worship teams, a women's prison, & three coffee shop absolute blast. Been writing my own songs & playing around w/a shiny black acoustic martin my hubby bought for me for my b-day back in '06...& I'm gettin' to really appreciate jazz & blues. But will never abandon the art of surrender in worship music. In the fall of '07, work & God moved us to the lone star state near Austin & after a month of being sick emotionally & physically, I started getting used to my new home & life. We found a good Bible-preachin' church & hooked up with a few good musicians too. In '10, a love for family time and the need to represent the NW in my burden/passion to fight child sex slavery brought me back to Portland. I represented Stop Child Trafficking Now in the Rose City - the city we always loved, called home and desperately missed. And that chapter ended in December of 2012. My husband is pursuing his love for all things graphic and web - and actually gets paid to do what he loves. Our prayer is that we will be used wherever we live, to our fullest potential & to be selfless, positive influences for Christ until he brings us to our real home - heaven. ~ I also pray that this blog - this journal - will be an ongoing witness to His faithfulness, continually giving Him glory. View all posts by Chelan

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