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Should Prostitution Be Decriminalized?

San Franciscans will soon vote on whether their city should decriminalize prostitution.

Supporters say that taking prostitution out of the black market will improve the safety and health of sex workers, and shave $11 million per year off the city’s law-enforcement expenses.

Opponents say the measure would encourage human trafficking, raise crime, and generally turn San Francisco into a magnet for pimps, prostitutes, and sex fiends.

The most effective solution might be to split the difference.

In 1999, Sweden legalized the sale of sex, leaving buyers subject to fines and humiliation through public exposure. While the jury is still out on how effective Sweden’s “Sex Purchase Law” has been, the approach has drawn international attention for its novelty.

Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly, at London Metropolitan University, found that the Swedish law decreased street prostitution by two-thirds between 1999 and 2003. But the law’s effect on the sex trade overall is difficult to determine — it may have simply driven sex workers indoors.

We’ve weighed in more than a few times on prostitution.

But what do you think?