Prostitution is as old as human civilization itself. Throughout history, public attitudes toward prostituted women have varied greatly. But adverse consequences of the practice—usually imposed by men purchasing sexual services—have continuously been present. Prostituted women have regularly been subject to violence, discrimination, and indifference from their clients, the general public, and even law enforcement and judicial officers.

Jurisdictions can choose to adopt one of three general approaches to prostitution regulation: (1) criminalization; (2) legalization/ decriminalization; or (3) a hybrid approach known as the Nordic Model. Criminalization regimes are regularly associated with disparate treatment between prostituted women and their clients, high rates of physical and sexual violence committed against prostituted women, and a lack of meaningful exit opportunities for those engaged in prostitution. Jurisdictions that choose to implement legalization of all acts of prostitution are more likely to have larger numbers of sex trafficking and abusive pimps. In contrast, the Nordic Model, which decriminalizes the sale of sex while maintaining the criminalization of purchasing sexual acts, has been shown to decrease the rates of prostitution, provide prostituted women with greater access to social services, and reduce sex trafficking.

Pennsylvania currently employs a criminalization method of prostitution enforcement. In 2019, prostituted women in Pennsylvania were arrested and charged at three times the rate than their clients were. Prostituted women within the Commonwealth also face severe collateral consequences as a result of their line of work. Utilizing multiple case studies, this Comment examines the effectiveness and consequences of each prostitution enforcement regime in an attempt to determine what more can be done to aid women trapped in the practice of prostitution within Pennsylvania. This Comment ultimately recommends that Pennsylvania amend its prostitution laws in order to incorporate the core principles of the Nordic Model.



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