Thursday, June 4, 2009

Prostitution in Rhode Island

It turns out that Rhode Island accidentally legalized certain forms of prostitution about 30 years ago. Now the Rhode Island legislature is on the path of making it illegal once again. If you poke around on the web a bit you will find various editorials that make the usual arguments that prostitution is bad because bad things happen to prostitutes when prostitution is illegal, therefore prostitution should be illegal.

Today, though, I want to make a point about the media, rather than about editorialists or about the illiberal and narrow-minded souls that dominate the Rhode Island legislature. The AP story linked to above begins:
Rhode Island could soon end a dubious distinction of being the only place outside certain counties in Nevada where indoor prostitution is legal.
This piece is offered up as a news story, not an editorial. Now, in fact, prostitution is legal in quite a few places other than certain counties in Nevada. Those places are in other countries. Perhaps AP reporter Ray Henry forgot about other countries. Some Americans do seem perplexed by the idea that other countries are allowed to exist, apparently without even having to ask our permission. One of those other countries where prostitution is legal (in more or less the same form as it presently is in Rhode Island) is the bastion of sin, degredation and politeness known as Canada. Parts of Canada are actually closer to Rhode Island than those counties in Nevada. Perhaps the AP should hand out world maps as part of its hiring package?

A broader consideration of how the legal status of prostituion varies across countries shows that at present Rhode Island has the "dubious distinction" of being in the same category as Canada, the United Kingdom, most of Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany and Norway, among others. However, once it again bans all forms of prostitution, Rhode Islanders can hold their heads high knowing that they have joined the company of such beacons of learning, tolerance and progress as Afghanistan, Albania, Cuba, Iran and Iraq.

I think the AP takes home an F on this one, for both providing a misleading context for its story and for labeling opinion as news.