A victimless crime refers to those acts of crime, which, although declared illegal, do not directly violate or threaten the rights of other individuals. Some of the examples of victimless crimes include prostitution, gambling, suicide, and illegitimate drug use (Schur, 1965). These acts are considered crimes under the laws of most of the countries around the world. Though homosexuality and sodomy were considered to be crimes, even a few decades back, in all the democratic countries around the world, since the late 20th and 21st centuries, however, these acts are no longer considered as crimes in many countries. The determination of an act as crime depends on the laws and regulations of each individual country. For instance, though prostitution is considered illegal in the USA, it is legalized in many countries, including Australia, Argentina, Israel, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Italy (Faris, 2008). The question that is the main form of discussion in this essay is, does victimless crimes really exist? Do the crimes regarded as ‘victimless’ are really so? Do these crimes really have no victims? This paper would argue that there is nothing called victimless crimes, because these crimes actually put the well-being of a few people at stake.
In many around the world, there are a lot of discussion and debates going on whether or not to repeal the laws that punish the perpetrators of victimless crimes. It is argued by people who support the act of repealing laws against the victimless crimes that it is unjustified to punish a person if his action harms only him and no one else, and that people have the right to engage in acts, even though harmful to them, as long as those acts do not violate the rights or threaten the lives of others (Lentz and Stitt, 1996). However, though apparently, it may look like that these so-called victimless crimes do not have any victim other than the perpetrator himself, this is not so. For instance, prostitution is legalized in many countries on the ground whether or not a woman or man decides to sell his or her body for sex is up to their own discretion, and that the government should not dictate terms for it. However, there is enough evidence how women are illegally trafficked from around the world and forced into prostitution. If prostitution is legalized, then it would equate to encouraging the pimps and the culprits involved in selling a woman forcefully into the prostitution market to commit more such acts with impunity (Lentz and Stitt, 1996). Therefore, though apparently, it may seem that prostitution is the choice of the prostitute and does not violate the rights of others, it is not apparently so. How the young girls of Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and India are forcefully trafficked for prostitution bear witness to that (Lentz and Stitt, 1996).
Furthermore, it is wrong to assume that victimless crimes only harm the perpetrator. All the so-called victimless crimes have social implications. For instance, illicit drug use not only harms the drug abuser, but also poses a threat to society. It is not uncommon for drug abusers to drive cars under the influence and cause accidents. These accidents involve a lot of innocent victims. As per the record of the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 9.9 million people aged 12 or older were reported to have driven under the influence of illicit drugs in 2013 (NIH, 2014). According to the survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) in 2009, 18% of fatally injured drivers were tested positive for the use of at least one illicit prescription, or over-the-counter drug (NIH, 2014).
Recently, the sentencing of athlete Marion Jones for lying to authorities on her use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroid caused a stir, inviting a lot of criticism and debate on the matter. Opponents of the sentencing of Marion Jones, such as Alan Gold, an internationally known human rights activist and author, argued that apart from causing public humiliation of Jones, the jail sentencing did not serve any purpose in this victimless crime (Faris, 2008). However, it is wrong to believe that there is no victim involved in this crime, because Marion Jones being a reputed basketball player had a huge group of fan-following looking up to her as a role model. Besides, the society and all the people who watched her play at the Olympic Games expected her to play ethically without taking the help of drugs to enhance her performance. With her transgression, Jones sent a wrong message to her fans and betrayed the trust of the society (Faris, 2008).
In conclusion, victimless crime, which refers to those actions that apparently cause no harm to others and the society as a whole, is actually a harmful crime, and it is a myth that these crimes do not violate the rights of other individuals and threaten the well-being of others. All the victimless crimes have some social implications and put the interests of various stakeholders at risk, and therefore, the repeal of the current laws against the victimless crimes will only benefit the perpetrators of the victimless crimes, posing a threat to the well-being of the entire society.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH). (2014). Drug Facts: Drugged Driving. Retrieved on 15th December, 2014 from <http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving>
Faris, P. (2008). Victimless crime? No such thing exists. ABC News. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-01-17/victimless-crime-no-such-thing-exists/1015482>
Schur, E. M. (1965). Crimes without Victims: Deviant Behavior and Public Policy—Abortion, Homosexuality, Drug Addiction. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Lentz, S. A. and Stitt, B.G. (1996). B G Stitt Women as Victims in "Victimless Crimes:" The Case of Prostitution. National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). 12 (2). pp. 173-186.