Wednesday, May 11, 2011

En ce bordeau, who controls the right to privacy?

So, yes, the defendant was a pimp. But the opinion in People v. Grant is worth a thought for its wrongfooted analysis of the law against living off the earnings of a prostitute.

Its analysis is contrived, viewing the essential tension as existing between a long-established statute against the "evil" of prostitution, and the right to privacy within a household. It praises, incongruously, the wisdom of isolating a prostitute by denying others the benefit of her earnings. But in the story behind the criminal prosecution, clearly the harm was in the pimp's traditional practice of making violent claims to more than his share of the take. The decision justifies a comparatively mild sanction against the man, who sounds like a vicious parasite, by legitimizing it as an indirect attack on the woman, who sounds merely like a person with a difficult job.

It doesn't seem necessary that rights to domestic privacy should be discussed in terms of the right of a petty tyrant to abuse a victim within the household, outside the protection of the laws. Equally arguably, a legal system could recognize, for the woman, a right to privacy in her profession, so that protection from a violent exploiter would be as available to her (i.e., without forcing her to risk her own arrest) as it would be to an unemployed victim of domestic violence.

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