Morally questionable, the act of selling sexual favours is in most countries illegal, condemned and stigmatised to the point of being used as an insult. From brothels to street prostitution, its activity varies and its illegal status renders it unregulated and covert. By operating in the shadows, it allows for more abuse, more violence coupled with an absence of rights for the workers.
In today’s context, prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation and harassment (1), even torture in certain situations. What happens in the case of child prostitution? Is there a question of consent? What happens if there are sexual transmitted diseases propagated? Well, nothing. Nothing happens.
While rendered illegal in many countries, does it actually make prostitution disappear or reduce its activity? It does however take away any safeguards, and makes abuse easier to hide. As such, shouldn’t prostitution be legalised? This would involve protection, a juridical contract between all individuals involved in a safe and legitimate place, such as a brothel. Each of them would be accountable for their actions, limiting the violence, the abuse and the stigmatisation. Warnings throughout education could also be implemented, to avoid stigmatisation but to mention its dangers and practices to young children.
In a utopic and ideal world, prostitution would not even exist. However, in our world, it does. The argument that prostitution should not be legalized because it legitimizes the practice does not stand for one specific reason: it does. Historically speaking, let us not forget that it is considered the world’s oldest profession (2) - the earliest known work dating back to 2400 BC in ancient Babylonia. Nowadays, it is estimated that there are over 42 million prostitutes around the world (3). The question does not revolve around prostitution itself (I do agree that the activity itself is correlated with abuse, coercion, exploitation and the list goes on - should I add my point of view?) but it is about getting these women and men the protection and the rights they need.
Taking the Netherlands as the most well-known example of a country that has legalized the practice, they have been operating in a controlled system for nearly twenty years. These reforms ensure that prostitutes have legal, social and worker rights, which ultimately protects them under legal conditions. As sex workers have exactly the same status as any other workers, they are also to benefit from social security system. As a whole, this helped decriminalize workers and the business itself. Strict safety regulations were put in place (4) with access to running water, condoms and even fire escapes (5). The ministry has established a legal age of 21 for anyone wanting to perform. Additionally, local authorities supervise and make sure that prostitution does not prevent public life.
What would be the benefits of legalizing prostitution ? There would be two – on an individual and economic level (6). On the one hand, this legalization has massively managed to reduce the number of people forced into the practice through human trafficking. Plus, various studies have shown that advantages also include an improved mental and physical health (including STI prevention), safer working conditions and more accessible manners of disclosing any form of violence and abuse. On the other hand, prostitution can bring economic advantages by securing worker’s rights. Being subjected to taxed income, this practice can generate revenue for the state. Indeed, by aiming to decrease disadvantages impacted by worldwide inequalities, this would lead to an easier access to our system’s opportunities. This would ultimately lead to an increase in the individuals participating economically, which would only benefit the state in the long run.
About the author:
After having studied political science in rainy UK, I am currently pursuing my studies in sunny Madrid. I love dancing and painting (even it’s no Picasso) and aspiring to take part in positive societal change.