Should prostitution be legalized?
- Merriam-Webster defines prostitution as 'the act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations especially for money.'
- Writer Rudyard Kipling is credited with coining the phrase 'the world's oldest profession,' referring to prostitution, in 1888.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans mandated that prostitutes 'wear distinctive dress and pay severe taxes.'
- Britannica relates that the US passed laws banning prostitution nearly everywhere by 1915; however, it is currently legal in some counties in Nevada.
- Research indicates that about 40% of US prostitutes were 'former child prostitutes who were illegally forced into the profession through human trafficking or once were teenage runaways.'
First off, let’s get one thing straight: prostitution has been around since the 18th century BC, and it’s not going away any time soon. Prostitution will always happen, so the argument should be whether we let it happen in an unregulated and dangerous environment or whether we step in and make laws to safeguard sex workers.
Firstly, legalized prostitution reduces violence against female prostitutes. According to Farley and Barkan (1998), 82% of adult prostitutes had been physically assaulted in San Francisco, and 68% had been raped. These women had NO legal recourse nor right to justice because going to the police meant getting arrested. Conversely, a study in Nevada about licensed brothels revealed that due to help from local law enforcement, violence against registered prostitutes had nearly disappeared. Further, when prostitution was temporarily legalized in Rhode Island, there was a 31% decrease in reported rape offenses. Studies about legalized prostitution in Holland have also shown a 32 to 40 percent reduction in rape and sexual abuse within two years.
Aside from protecting women in the profession, legalizing prostitution would also improve their own sexual health and that of their customers. In Nevada, every registered prostitute must undergo several blood and cervical tests to prove they don’t carry any STDs. And once registered, sex workers must get tested for syphilis and HIV every month, and they are REQUIRED to use condoms.
History dictates that prostitution will always exist, and sociological research indicates that legalized prostitution is significantly safer for sex workers. Knowing this, it is about time we set aside our subjective opinions and give sex workers the right to fair compensation and protection under the law.
The legalization of prostitution is a hot-button issue worldwide, and it's time to look at the cold, hard facts about why the world's 'oldest profession' should not be made legal.
First and foremost, government-sponsored prostitution masks the violent reality of the business. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) found that legal sex houses did not protect prostitutes. Most of the sex workers endured violence from their 'johns' and their pimps. Pimps used violence to intimidate, punish and dominate the women, while prostitutes, alone in the room with buyers, were often abused.
A 150-country study found that trafficking increased in countries that legalized prostitution, attributed to the fact that traffickers go to countries where they can operate under the guise of legitimacy. Further, the US Department of State noted in 2007 that legal brothels provide fronts for traffickers. Also, when the stigma of prosecution is removed, the demand for sex workers increases. Traffickers respond by pressing more women into the business.
In countries where prostitution is legal, the question of whether taxes should be collected always arises. When the Dutch government legalized prostitution, journalist Julie Bindel noted, 'only 5 percent of the women registered for tax because no one wants to be known as a whore--however legal it may be.' Notably, when governments collect taxes from brothels, they become another kind of pimp collecting money from prostitutes. One can't overlook that the cash-based transactions of the sex trade ensure most of the money will stay in pimps' hands.
The idea that prostitution should be legalized for benevolent purposes such as increased safety and tax revenue is naive, as countries with legalized sex workers often see the opposite.