Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution

People CRM


  1. The paper examines policy approaches to reduce human trafficking related to prostitution, including decriminalization, criminalizing prostitutes (the “traditional” model), criminalizing johns (the “Swedish” model), and licensed prostitution (the “Dutch model”)
  1. It examines policy implications relative to a theoretical model in which only voluntary prostitution exists — i.e. no coerced or trafficked prostitution.
  1. It claims that none of the existing approaches work to eliminate (or reduce? — I wasn’t sure) trafficking.
  1. It claims that an alternative, novel policy — a hybrid of the Dutch model of licensing prostitutes and the Swedish model of criminalizing johns who procure sex illegally — can restore the outcome in their theoretical model.
  1. This work has broader implications on other illicit or illegal goods, e.g. drugs

Nolan Commentary

  1. I found this work highly theoretical and focused on mathematical proofs while sidestepping many of the real life complications involved in the equation.
    1. It mentions some of these — i.e. “a policy that works in one country may backfire in another” because “the impact [of decriminalization] in a given context depends on factors such as gender wage inequality” that stem from the underlying societal norms.
    2. It also acknowledges that people may act voluntarily in self-harmful ways, that “one may question the premise that voluntary prostitution is socially desirable” (a major understatement of the emotion and political power of those holding this view) but seems to minimize these: “Incorporating such elements into the analysis are important avenues for future research.”
  1. Caveat: I don’t have the theoretical background to understand the math or economic logic used, nor the familiarity to know whether this is common practice in this field.
While I found the premise of the paper to have potentially major ramifications on an important subject, I found its emphasis on proofs and models to be so reductionist and intellectual that it raised my skepticism on both its potential real-world correctness and viability.