The purpose of this paper is to focus on the vastly contentious issue of the legalization of prostitution. Within this subject I will consider both arguments for legalizing prostitution, as well as arguments against. My paper will begin with a brief summary of the appealing nature of the industry while considering the positives of the subject; including specific facts and studies that support the legalization of prostitution as beneficial.
My paper will then continue with considering the opposing view of the subject as well, using specific studies that demonstrate the legalization of prostitution to be detrimental. Laws, concepts, solutions and pros and cons will all be reviewed and discussed in detail throughout my paper. My paper will then conclude with a short summary on the research collected, including a brief commentary on how the issue of prostitution, illegal or not, is connected to women’s studies.
To begin my review, I will firstly consider the positive aspects and the benefits of legalizing prostitution.
If prostitution were to become a legal occupation, then programs within that occupation could be put into place to provide protection, safety and security for the women. Many women enter the world of soliciting due to a perceived lack of choice. Prostitution provides somewhat of an easy- out for many women, as it can provide a fairly reasonable income with little or no education. Changes in benefit and care systems, changes around the employment of young people, the council tax, student grants, recession and high interest rates continually make solicitation more and more appealing to young women (O’Neill, 1996).
Since so many women are entering the world of prostitution, would it not seem reasonable for some of the onus to be on a responsible government to ensure the availability of specific programs to provide access to aid to all those within the industry? If the government was to legalize prostitution and treat the industry as they would any other, sex- workers would substantially benefit from the security this would provide. If sex- workers followed the laws all those in legal industries do and therefor paid taxes, then they would achieve more security through benefits such as pension plans.
In Amsterdam, Dutch prostitution laws declare that all sex- workers must pay taxes and submit an income tax declaration and in Berlin a system has recently been put in place, where prostitutes have to pay their taxes in advance, a set amount per day, to be collected and paid to tax authorities, making these workers eligible for government benefits (Spiegel International, 2006). Although various facets of prostitution appeal to some women, it is a dangerous world, as the vast amount of crime within the industry is substantial.
In 2007, CBC News reported that since the early 1980s, Winnipeg has recorded 19 unsolved murders of women and transgender people who worked in the sex trade. Several more women involved in this industry have gone missing from Winnipeg’s inner-city communities (Comack ; Seshia, 2010).
Considering such a large percentage of women living in poverty stumble into this occupation, if the government were to make it legal and intervene with safety measures, the rate of crime against soliciting women would significantly decline.
Author of Violence and Sex Work in Britain, Hilary Kinnell, argues that current law, being intolerant of prostitution, actively increases the risk of violence for those who work in the sex industry. Her argument is augmented by the following quote: “ The continued exposure of workers to preventable violence is government policy” (Kinnel, n. d. ).
In Greece, where prostitution is legal, all sex- workers must register with the city and with the police, therefor a record of them exists, which helps to keep track of them and ensure their safety (Watt, 2006).
If the act of prostitution was decriminalized, then police and authority forces would shift to work with sex workers rather than against. This alone, assumedly, would nearly eliminate crime against sex- workers, therefore ensuring their safety and forcing the rate of street- crime to decline immensely. In October of 2010, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health conducted a study to assess whether the legality of prostitution impacts the access that sex workers have to health services.
The study took place in three Australian cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth; all of which differ in their prostitution laws.
In Melbourne brothels are legal only if they are licensed; in Sydney, prostitution is largely decriminalized; and in Perth prostitution, in all forms, is illegal. Regardless of the differing laws, the study found that all cities have government- funded, health promotion programs and outreach facilities for sex workers, although Perth’s program is invite- only and Melbourne’s program discriminated against those working in unlicensed brothels.
The results of this study concluded that sexual health centers, as a source of safe sex training, are mainly expended by workers in Sydney, as 52 percent of sex workers take advantage of this resource. Sydney is followed by Perth at 35 percent and lastly Melbourne at 33 percent (Harcourt et al. , 2010).
At 88 percent, Sex workers in Melbourne’s licensed brothels were the most likely to have access to free condoms, followed by Sydney at 39 percent and Perth at 12 percent (Harcourt et al. , 2010).
These results demonstrate that the legal circumstances of solicitation directly affect the way in which health promotion programs function. Workers in illegal brothels or in cities where sex work is criminalized, tend to become isolated and alienated because of this. Another example of legal prostitution being beneficial towards the workers’ health can be seen in countries such as Greece, Mexico and Switzerland.
As per law, sex- workers in these countries must receive frequent health examinations and keep a registered health card on them at all times (McKinley, 2005).
After considering the benefits to the legalization of prostitution, I will now continue to discuss and examine the detriments. Firstly, the largest problem of prostitution in my opinion is that it is an industry that doesn’t discriminate against children and in some instances, favors those under legal age. In the United States, at least 70 percent of women involved in prostitution were introduced into the commercial sex industry before the age of 18 (Hughes, 2007). Since soliciting occurs in an environment that is without rules or laws, it’s an occupation and lifestyle that tends to unfortunately, lure in children.
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, the average age at which children enter sexual exploitation is between 11 and 14, although some are as young as five (Smith, 2008; U. S. Department of Justice, 2007). This raises the question, that even if prostitution is legalized, could the involvement of minors in the industry be prevented? Another extreme negative aspect of the prostitution industry is that it often goes hand- in- hand with substance- abuse. The work environment that sex- workers are subjected to is more often than not an environment that is highly populated with drugs and drug- users.
Since solicitation is often seen as a coordinate of organized crime, the workers are frequently in close quarters with many criminals that also belong to the society of organized crime, such as drug- dealers.
A 1982 study of 200 street prostitutes in the United States, documented a high prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse. 55 percent of the prostitutes reported being addicted before they entered the sex- trade world, 30 percent became addicted after entered the industry and 15 percent only use drugs while on the job (Silbert, Pines, ; Lynch, 1982).
It is unclear whether it is the sex industry itself that pushes these women onto drugs or whether it is their previous drug- use that led them to the sex- trade in the first place. Another explanation for the relation between drug- use and prostitution could merely be due to a negative self- concept or that drugs are used to escape the humiliation and dehumanization of the reality of the situation. Whatever the cause or relation between the two may be, it is quite evident that a definite collaboration is in fact present.
Whether prostitution is legalized or not, the problem of drug- abuse is a problem that is not likely to disappear, as in majority of cases it seems to go hand- in- hand with the sex- trade. Health concerns of sex- workers are the most obvious of the detriments of the prostitution. Even if health programs and clinics were made available to all in the industry, it doesn’t change the fact that having numerous, unknown, sex partners is a dangerous lifestyle. If condoms and other sources of protection were freely offered to all sex- workers, complications such as carelessness, lack or responsibility and mere accidents are somewhat unavoidable.
Even if prostitution was legalized and sex- workers were forced to have mandatory health- checks, that still doesn’t solve the problem as half of the equation is being left out: the client. Unless somehow clients could be tracked and also forced to have mandatory health checks, the transmission of sexual diseases cannot be avoided.
In a study done by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, several female American prostitutes reported the following: 47 percent stated that men expected sex without a condom; 73 percent reported that men offered to pay more for sex without a ondom; 45 percent of women said they were abused if they insisted on condom use (Raymond, 2003). To close my arguments against decriminalizing prostitution, I’ll discuss the concern that most directly and most prominently connects prostitution with women’s studies. The final matter I will be discussing is the detrimental effects that women prostitutes have on the view of women. This issue outweighs all others, and in my opinion wins the debate; prostitution should not be legalized.
Women offering sex for money, not only degrades our gender, but allows men to objectify us and use us as a dehumanized toy for their own pleasure. The industry of prostitution regresses the female sex in terms of rights, equality and respect; all things that our female ancestors fought so hard to gain in the first place.
The high amount of violence and abuse that sex- workers experience and the substantial amount of statistics on the very subject, clearly demonstrate the disrespect and disregard that this occupation labels them with.
To conclude my essay I’d like to review the arguments for and against the legalization of prostitution. The arguments for the legalization of the industry include the following: physical safety and protection from crime for sex- workers, health safety for sex- workers and a sense of security through government benefits. The arguments against the legalization of prostitution include the following: minor involvement in the industry, the relation between prostitution and drug- use, the health concerns of not only the sex- workers but of their clients and lastly, the adverse effects that prostitution has on the view of women.