The profession of prostitution is almost as old as human history. The assumption that prostitution should be legalized has drawn conflicting analysis from the proponents and opponents of this act. The response towards this profession varies from cultures to cultures. However, even in countries where prostitution is illegal, this practice still continues to exist despite vehement criticism particularly from clergy. In this paper, I will discuss the pros and cons of legalizing prostitution.
The term legalization usually refers to a system of governmental regulation of prostitutes wherein prostitutes are licensed and required to work in specific ways…. This is the practice in Nevada, the only state in the United States where brothels are legal. Although legalization can also imply a decriminalized, autonomous system of prostitution, the reality is that in most 'legalized' systems the police control prostitution with criminal codes. Laws regulate prostitutes' businesses… prescribing health checks and registration of health status."(Klinger 2003)
The supporters of legalized prostitution cite the effects of prohibition of alcohol consumption in United States from 1920 to 1933 to justify the need of legalized prostitution. In the wake of ban, home producers began to produce whiskey and gin and as a result its prices soared due to the heavy demand of alcohol consumers. Bootlegging became an underground industry and as such the prohibition did literally nothing to prevent alcohol from being consumed.(Nixon, 2001)
The assumption that prohibition would put an end to different social problems ironically increased them giving rise to criminal activities. Similarly, United States is spending considerable amount of resources to prevent prostitution to no avail. Firstly, Police and Justice Departments are overburdened with the responsibility of catching and prosecuting those allegedly involved in prostitution. They are made to probe into even the cases based on suspicion. Secondly, In case of conviction, the prostitutes and their customers pay the fine and resume their activities. This, in effect, does not help authorities in deterring the prostitution.
Thus, the status of prostitution business as being legal will require official authorities to bring it under the ambit of law instead of wasting its resources to deter it. Supports of legalized prostitution argue that its lawful status will automatically put a stop to rampant underground business. It will also help minimize the instances in which prostitutes are mistreated and disrespected. They will be able to carry out their activities as normally and legally as other businesses. Those who engage themselves in prostitution to earn money are usually driven by the notions of equality and freedom but are still exploited. The regulation will allow them an opportunity to live freely and rightfully. It will also minimize the chances of underage prostitution and increase awareness regarding health and safety issues.
Critics to prostitution might be stunned to learn that the Netherlands has the least number of murders and rapes. It prosecutes a considerable amount of criminals but has a low number of prisoners. It does not suffer from an HIV/AIDS epidemic, like the U.S. and the U.K., and has the second lowest suicide rate listed. This news will literally stop critics (who are open to reason) in their tracks when they are confronted with such information. (Liberator, 2005)
Opponents maintain that the regulation of prostitution will encourage and increase human trafficking. They view human (prostitutes) trafficking in Netherlands as due to the regulation of this profession. This contradicts the claim of Netherland government as being the champion of human-trafficking. In only a year since the ban on brothels was lifted in the Netherlands, the increase in victims of trafficking or, or the number of victims brought from neighboring countries has been witnessed.
Moreover, they dispute that the legalization of prostitution will expand this business instead of limiting it. It has given birth to a galore of consulting agents (pimps) who even try to lure indifferent people into it.
Legalization of prostitution in the State of Victoria, Australia, has led to massive expansion of the sex industry. Whereas there were 40 legal brothels in Victoria in 1989, in 1999 there were 94, along with 84 escort services. Other forms of sexual exploitation, such as tabletop dancing, bondage and discipline centers, peep shows, phone sex, and pornography have all developed in much more profitable ways than before (Sullivan and Jeffreys: 2001).
Legalization was meant to prevent women from attracting their potential customers on the street. These women are mostly those who are reluctant to undergo health check and ensure safe sex as is dictated by the regulation. Their wish to escape to any kind of exploitation or influence of sex businessmen takes to streets.
In the Netherlands, prostitute women grumble that legalization or decriminalization of the sex industry does not necessarily remove the stigma attached to this industry leaving them more susceptible to abuse and exploitation. Therefore, the majority of women in involved in prostitution business still prefer to work illegally and secretively. Members of parliament who initially approved of the legalization wrongly assumed that it would result in the liberation of women but this has ironically further compounded the problems for women.
The critics of legalized prostitution go on to suggest that it has given rise to the cases of child abuse in Netherlands and Australia although one reason for its legal status was that it would put a lid on child abuse. So much so, they argue that legalization has resulted in the increase of violence as pimps use it to coerce women into this business.
With the dawn of legalization in countries that have officially recognized the sex industry, scores of men who tend to buying women for sex now consider prostitution to be acceptable. With the legal and moral barriers removed, the status of women is merely reduced to as sexual commodities. More importantly, what message does it send out to teen agers who have recently reached puberty? Will they not treat women as mere sexual commodities?
A legalized system of prostitution that demands health checks and qualifications only for women excluding male clients is palpably unfair to women. It does not prevent women from fatal diseases such as HIV/AIDS or STDs, since male clients can equally transmit the diseases to the women.
Sexual relations are treated in a different way across the globe. Most countries promote various forms of monogamy while others encourage polygamy. Even there are many countries that place no restrictions on prostitution, unlike a majority of the communities within the United States.
Governments that have legalized prostitution in the name of sex work will have an economic stake in it which in turn will only render them dependent on sex industry. The governments that have abdicated such regulation will have to deal with ever-recurring issues arising out of the running of underground prostitution.
Klinger, Kimberly. The Humanist article in "Prostitution, Humanism, and a Woman's Choice”,2003 from: http://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000114
Nixon, N. Bootlegging In Illinois: bathtub gin and the whole shootin' match. Illinois Periodicals Online (NIU) 2001.
Liberator, Mark, Legalized Prostitution Regulating the Oldest Profession, 2005 taken from:
Sullivan, Mary and Jeffreys, Sheila. Legalising Prostitution is Not the Answer: the Example of Victoria, Australia. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Australia and USA, 2001
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Available at www.catwinternational.org