Nevada is the only U.S. state where some form of prostitution is legal in ten counties. Currently, the state’s law permits licensed brothels to operate in counties with a population of 700,000 or less. Advocates argue legalization promotes safer sex practices; this is not the reality. Research on Nevada’s legal brothels shows that women still experience sexual exploitation, violence, and trauma. Moreover, in 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI announced that Nevada had more human trafficking cases than any previous year.
There is a chance that Nevada’s law will be struck down. On Monday, September 13th, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and an attorney from Hutchison & Steffen, PLLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two women who were sex trafficked in Nevada. The first plaintiff was sex trafficked in Nevada through a legal escort business owned by Jamal Rashid. The second plaintiff was sex trafficked in Nevada and forced to engage in street prostitution. Moreover, while at a legal brothel called “the Chicken Ranch,” the second victim was allegedly subjected to debt bondage, which constitutes “being locked inside the brothels and not allowed to leave for weeks at a time, having to give the brothel 50% of their earnings, being required to follow the brothel’s rules or face fines, and being forced to live on the premises and pay the brothels for room and board to do so.”
Defendants to this lawsuit include state and city officials as well as people in the multi-billion dollar commercial sex industry. The lawsuit names: the Governor of Nevada; the Attorney General of Nevada; the City of Las Vegas; Clark County, Nevada; Nye County, Nevada; the Chicken Ranch, Jamal Rashid and businesses associated with him, which all profited from Mr. Rashid’s escort companies.
Overall, the action seeks to abolish Nevada’s legal prostitution statue and advances three main arguments:
- That the Nevada statute violates the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on slavery and involuntary servitude. Plaintiffs assert the law increases the demand for commercial sex, which promotes a system where persons are subject to slavery and involuntary servitude through sex trafficking.
- That the Nevada statute violates federal sex trafficking laws by perpetuating sex trafficking.
- Because state entertainment tax and tourism revenue are derived from Nevada’s reputation as legalizing commercial sex, the state and city Defendants financially benefit from what they know – or should know – is a sex trafficking venture. Moreover, the sex industry Defendants benefit financially from sex trafficking ventures through commercial revenues for commercial sex.
The CSE Institute applauds the National Center of Sexual Exploitation and Hutchison & Steffen for their work to abolish Nevada’s statute legalizing prostitution. We hope that the United States District Court for the District of Nevada will recognize the harm perpetuated by the legalization of prostitution and agree to abolish the statute. We stand with survivors and advocate for the adoption of the Equality Model in the United States, as commercial sexual exploitation is most effectively stopped by putting an end to its demand. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
The CSE Institute will provide updates to this litigation as they become available.