Millions of women and girls around the world are exploited in the commercial sex industry (i.e. the buying and selling of sex), which is often the end destination of sex trafficking. While human rights activists, government officials and the United Nations all agree that the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is a serious – and growing – problem, there is disagreement as to the best way to prevent trafficking and exploitation.

Some believe that targeting the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking while decriminalizing those exploited in prostitution is the most effective way to curb sex trafficking, while others argue that legalizing or decriminalizing the commercial sex industry is the best way to weed out and prevent exploitation and trafficking.The legalization of prostitution includes legalizing the activities involved in and surrounding prostitution, and often imposing regulations specific to the sex industry. Countries and states that have legalized prostitution include:

• Senegal (1969)

• States in Australia including Victoria (1994) and Queensland (1999)

• The Netherlands (2000)

• Germany (2002)

The decriminalization of prostitution includes repealing all laws or provisions against prostitution, and not imposing prostitution-specific regulations. Countries and states that have decriminalized prostitution include:

• The Australian state of New South Wales (1995)

• New Zealand (2003)