It’s legal to purchase sex in 14 counties in Nevada. You may have driven that 15 miles east to Mustang Ranch and paid for a prostitute, and it was totally legal.

It makes sense, right? Prostitutes are going to do it anyway so you might as well legalize it. That way we can tax it, and the prostitutes will be protected from sexually transmitted diseases.

It seems like a win-win to legalize it, but unfortunately that’s a small piece of the reality.

We recognize that some prostitutes in Nevada are fully independent in their choice to sell their bodies. But if you’re going to pay into a business, you should know what your money is paying into.

The “They’re going to do it anyway” mentality didn’t work in Germany. When Germany legalized prostitution in 2002, buying sex increased legally and illegally. When you increase the demand you increase the supply.

When Germany criminalized prostitution the number of human trafficking victims increased, according to a study done by Andrea Di Nicola, a professor at the University of Trento in Italy.

According to Sergeant Ron Chalmer of the Reno Police Department, a pimp was exploiting many of the prostitutes Chalmer worked with. When someone is exploiting a woman, it is no longer her choice. She becomes a victim of sex trafficking.

An estimated 20.9 million humans were sold in the human trafficking industry in 2012, which includes selling human beings for labor and sex. Half of them were estimated to be children.

Approximately 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, according to It’s estimated that 100,000 American children are being exploited in the sex trafficking industry today.

Prostitution has been legal in parts of Nevada since 1902, so it’s impossible to conclude whether or not human trafficking has increased in Nevada due to the legalization of prostitution.

But we do know that when legalizing prostitution is applied to countries, human trafficking increases. Just like Germany shows, a 2012 study published in World Development found that on average, countries with legalized prostitution report a greater incidence of human trafficking inflows.

According to an article written in 2005 by Richard Poulin, a sociology professor at the University of Ottawa, police in Victoria, Australia estimate that there are 400 illegal brothels compared to 100 legal ones.

If you’re picturing the movie “Taken,” or thinking human trafficking only exists overseas in far off lands, don’t kid yourself.

Over 125 women and children in the sex trafficking industry have been helped in Reno since 2011. But according to Melissa Holland, the director of Awaken Inc., the organization that has helped these women and children, “that’s only scratching the surface of the problem.”

Most of the time sex trafficking doesn’t look like the movie, “Taken.” It’s not only American girls in foreign countries being kidnapped by handsome Europeans.

The average age at which women begin being exploited in the sex trafficking industry is 13 years old. Sometimes it’s their families that force them into it, and most of the time they come from histories of sexual abuse and neglect. Sometimes women working in strip clubs are being exploited and sometimes what appears to be a woman working in a legal brothel is a woman being forced to turn over her money to a pimp.

According to a 2007 report by the U.S. Department of State, “Prostitution and related activities-including pimping, patronizing or maintaining brothels encourage the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a facade behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate.”

Next time someone asks you whether or not legalizing prostitution is progressive or not, decide whether you’re in support of making slavery safer or abolishing it.

The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at