Prostitution and the Hijab

When new United States member of the House of Representatives Ilhan Omar came into Congress, she was afforded the opportunity to wear her religious head covering, a hijab, onto the House floor as a result of a recent change in House rules. Since 1837, a rule had been in place that prohibited the wearing of any hats in the chamber, but the House opted to make accommodations for people who wore head coverings for religious reasons.

There was a time when wearing hats indoors was considered uncouth and disrespectful of the institutions. Many places still ask people to remove their hats during the recitation of the national anthem or upon entering a church. These are customs that come from Christian Europe that do not necessarily square with everyone’s thoughts on what does and does not show proper respect.

The Hijab

Many Muslim women wear a variety of head coverings depending on religious practice and custom. Some, like Omar, wear the hijab which covers their hair. Others put on a full veil covering the entire face and body, called a burqa. In their culture, these are signs of religious modesty.

Rep. Ilhan Omar in a hijab
There are other people in the world who find the hijab and burqa problematic and a sign of the repression of women.

In France, a devoutly secular society, there is a ban on wearing anything outwardly religious in universities. The country even went so far as to ban the wearing of modest swimsuits, “burkinis,” on the beach, all in the name of “secularism.”

Denmark recently joined other European countries in banning the full face covering of the burqa for the professed reason of public safety. The rationale seemed to pass the smell test of rationality for many, even though the law specifically carved out the wearing of facial covering for the purpose of combating cold weather. I guess public safety takes a hiatus in the winter.

The smug Europeans covered themselves in a porous fig leaf which any Adam could clearly see through: the governments were passing laws to bar Muslims from openly practicing their religion in a manner they saw fit. The Europeans passed laws which did not impact their own Christian sensibilities and way of life, while curbing religious freedoms of non-Christians, as way of keeping the alt-right and alt-left from protesting the new laws.

While the Christian alt-right was happy to stem the flow of Muslims into their countries, the secular alt-left and liberals favored the bans arguing that hijabs and burqas were based on discriminatory practices against women, the same way that female genital mutilation is a religious practice fomented by men against women. As such, they rationalized their bigotry that banning the head covering is actually freeing women from oppression.

The western mind is seemingly incapable of imagining that a woman would want to choose to cover her hair and live a religious life under her own terms.

The same is true for prostitution.


The oldest profession has progressed very little.

It is perhaps not surprising that very religious and conservative countries like Sudan do not only prohibit prostitution and homosexuality, but they also sentence the offenders to a gruesome public death. However, it is remarkable that so few western countries have taken the liberating approach to legalize prostitution. Among the handful which have legalized the profession are New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Brazil and Colombia.

By legalizing prostitution (and outlawing “pimping” where a third party controls how and where one works) prostitutes are able to avail themselves of the protection of law enforcement. The benefits are multiple: human trafficking drops; protection for women (who dominate the industry) increases; and tax revenue for the state is created.

Yet there remains a bias in many western minds – including very liberal ones – that there is no way that a woman would consider having sex for money freely. The industry was born at a time when women were viewed as chattel and as second class members of society. Somehow pornography and massages pass muster, but sex-for-money passes a bright line.

For many westerners, prostitution is like a hijab: an insulting practice that denigrates women. They adamantly refuse to consider or acknowledge that many women freely CHOOSE to live in a manner which doesn’t fit into their own conception of a proper society.

Governments should be very cautious in dictating societal norms and accepted behavior, and instead focus on ensuring a world in which people have the liberty of living a life of their own choosing in safety. If a woman wants to wear a hijab – I say, go on sister. If a woman wants to be a prostitute – laws should enable it to be done safely.

Let’s not assume we know what’s best for women by outlawing liberal sex-for-money or conservative religious head-covering. Women should be afforded the freedom to pursue happiness in a manner of their choosing.

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There’s No White Privilege for Prostitutes in Minnesota

The FBI recently released its crime statistics report of 2016. It contains a breakdown of Human Trafficking by state which includes “commercial sex acts” and “involuntary servitude.” One state stood out from all of the others regarding human trafficking: Minnesota.

State Population Sex Offenses, 2016 Offenses per MM
Massachusetts 6,873,018 3          0.44
Tennessee 6,705,339 55          8.20
Indiana 6,663,280 4          0.60
Missouri 6,123,362 16          2.61
Maryland 6,068,511 17          2.80
Wisconsin 5,795,147 35          6.04
Colorado 5,658,546 34          6.01
Minnesota 5,554,532 235        42.31
South Carolina 5,030,118 22          4.37
Alabama 4,884,115 NA
Louisiana 4,714,192 123        26.09
Kentucky 4,450,042 NA

Among mid-sized states of 4.5 million to 7 million, only Louisiana and Minnesota had over 100 cases of human trafficking, and Minnesota had almost twice as many as Louisiana. Minnesota had seven times the number of incidents as its neighbor (and similarly sized) Wisconsin.

Are there more women in Minnesota than other states? Greater poverty? More lenient laws about prostitution, whether on the streets or escort services? What could account for such a disparity?

The male/ female breakdown in Minnesota and Wisconsin is identical at 49.6%/50.4%, and the number of people in poverty in Minnesota is among the lowest in the country. Large metropolitan areas like Minneapolis-St. Paul have seen dramatic improvements in poverty, bringing it to the second to lowest of any major city in the United States.

So prostitution is not correlated to the number of women or poverty (terrorism is also not related to poverty, although the United Nations and the Obama administration often argued that it was).

Maybe it has to do with state laws regarding prostitution.

Every state has laws making it illegal to pay for sex (which many believe are completely illogical, including Amnesty International). However, the penalties for prostitution vary significantly by state.

Minnesota has relatively light punishments for the first offense (up to 90 days in jail and/or $1000. Afterwards it jumps to up to 1 year in jail and $3000 per offense. The penalties in Wisconsin are much steeper: up to 9 months in jail and/or fines of $10,000. That is a significant difference and would seem to suggest that penalties – not ubiquity or economic situation – correlate to human trafficking.

However, there is no broad-based correlation. Missouri has even more lenient penalties (30 days to 6 months and/or $500) with only 1/16th the number of arrests. Similarly, South Carolina (first offense 30 days and $200; second offense 6 months and $1000; thereafter 1 year and/or $3000) had 1/10th the number of arrests as Minnesota.

So a large number of prostitution-related arrests does not correlate to laws permitting the practice or the penalties associated with breaking the law.

Then what would account for the difference? How is Minnesota different than every other state that would cause such a disproportionate number of prostitutes?

A deeper look into the FBI tables may yield some clues.

In most states, the number of people arrested were disproportionately black. In Wisconsin, 77% of those arrested were black, in a state that is 80% white. Tennessee had an equal number of whites and blacks arrested (and a few Asians) in a state that is 73% white. South Carolina did not list the race of many of those arrested, but for those that it did, 83% were black in a state where 26% of the residents are black.

But in Minnesota, 69% of the arrests were of white people (in a state that is 80% white). It was the only state which had a somewhat proportionate number of white people arrested as resided in the state. Without the prosecution of white people, the statistics for Minnesota would more closely resemble the rest of the country.

These white people were not recent arrivals to American shores. While Minnesota may have a reputation of being home to Scandinavian immigrants (hence the NFL football team being called the Vikings), the state had 8.3% of the people being foreign-born with only 29.1% of those immigrants being white. That compares to Wisconsin with 44.7% of the foreign-born population being white.

So are there simply more white prostitutes and johns in Minnesota than everywhere else in the country? As the state of Minnesota uses a greater number of undercover cops to catch the buyers and sellers of sex, could they be actively selecting white people for arrests? As the MN police departments have shifted to viewing women as victims, are they more likely to arrest only men?

Quite possibly. It would appear that “white male privilege” has hit a wall regarding prostitution in Minnesota.

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The Misogyny of Treating Women like Victims

On January 21, 2017, the streets of Washington D.C. were flooded with a Women’s March to protest the election of President Donald Trump. The group was clearly angry that the nation did not elect the first women president, their preferred candidate Democrat Hillary Clinton. Even more, they came to voice their concerns about what President Trump might do to abortion rights. The ultimate position paper of the march’s organizers spanned a wide range of issues beyond core women’s issues like abortion, to concerns like minimum wage, union rights, immigration policy and clean air.

But back to core women’s issues.

Donald Trump initially caused a stir when he said during a presidential debate in March 2016 that women who perform illegal abortions should be punished. After a loud public outcry, Trump back-peddled from his statement. In October 2016, he amended his comments that he is pro-life and would appoint judges with similar opinions, but ultimately the decisions regarding abortions would be left to each state. The outcry against his comments continued, but this time he did not reverse his position.

So who would get punished for abortion? Trump said If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.

Many women’s rights organizations were happy with this Trump statement, albeit still concerned about his other pro-life statements. They shouldn’t be. Their agreement that a woman is always the victim is arguably more misogynistic than curtailing abortion rights.

Women’s March in Washington D.C. January 2017


The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade permitted abortions up until the time that a fetus was viable outside of the womb, roughly 24 weeks at that time (the viability is closer to 20 to 22 weeks today due to advances in medicine). That means that an abortion after viability is not a legal procedure, unless there were particular circumstance like a threat to the mother’s life. In 2014, there was just a small number of such late-term procedures, 1.3% of all abortions. Most states (43) place limits on late term abortions.

What is the punishment for the 1.3% of women who get abortions after 20 weeks? There is no comprehensive information. People assume that late-term abortions must only happen when the mother’s life is at stake, but the reality is that very few abortions overall happen due to the “big three” issues that abortion-rights advocates site as additional arguments to gather support for abortion: rape; incest; and risk to the life of the mother. The vast majority of abortions happen because the mother is concerned about her work or her partner, or the financial ability to support the baby.

So consider a woman that is eight months pregnant who breaks up with her partner and therefore no longer wants to keep the baby. Should the doctor performing the abortion procedure be the sole party punished for killing a perfectly viable fetus? Should the woman escape all liability for such a decision? That would be a mockery of justice.

The Women’s March claimed that Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Indeed they are. But baby rights are human rights too.


The march’s position paper of 16 bullet points chose to not call for the legalization of prostitution, a curious call for a group that demanded “gender justice.. for the power to control our bodies and be free of gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

Are the march’s organizers so puritanical that they cannot imagine women willingly be paid to have sex?

This is not just on the march’s organizers, but on society as well. Our government has inverted policies regarding prostitution laws, where new laws in the country seek to punish the purchasers of the service (the “johns”) instead of the prostitutes themselves.  This is a clear inconsistency of punishing the purchaser of the illegal services for prostitution (typically men), but only the service provider in the case of abortion (the doctor). Logic would suggest that either the person paying for the service in each instance is punished (the woman in abortion and man for prostitution) or the service provider (the prostitute and the doctor). Instead, society has chosen to have an overriding concern to not punish women in each case.

That is wrong.

To respect women is to hold them accountable. Women cannot claim complete control of their bodies unless they assume FULL RESPONSIBILITIES for their bodies, as well. In that regard, the women’s rights movement and society should finally push for legalized prostitution and for the punishment of women who perform late-term abortions for non-medical reasons.

It is time for the women’s rights activist and society to stop being so protective of women as to treat them as passive wards of the state.

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