Prostitution is the exchange of sexual acts for payment. There are many reasons why people enter prostitution and some of them are age, early home leaving, childhood sexual abuse, drug abuse and poverty (Sullivan, 2001). Prostitution is accompanied by many problems chief among them being physical and sexual abuse, drug addiction, low self-esteem and increased vulnerability to sexual diseases (Sullivan, 2001).
Should prostitution be legal? This question has been argued for many years. Some people believe there are potential benefits of legalizing prostitution such as increased human rights protection and health precautions (Greenberg et al, 2006). They argue that prostitution always has been and always will be.
Legalization would support safe sex practices and lead to reduction of HIV and AIDS and other STIs. Moreover, it is argued that prostitutes have a right to choose they way they earn their income. Opponents to legalization of prostitution argue that most prostitutes are forced into sexual slavery and that legalization would give rise to a black market that would be frightening and abusive (Greenberg et al, 2006).
For some other opponents to legalization, prostitution is an immoral activity that would be made moral by legalization.
In recent times, legalization of prostitution is perceived as the best option to limit the spread of AIDS. Legalization is when the State regulates the industry permitting some forms of prostitution, while others, such as street prostitution, remain criminalized.
Legalization of prostitution involves regulation of some kind: licensing or registration, zoning of street prostitution, legal brothels, mandatory medical exams and special business taxes.
Thesis: Legalizing of prostitution by allowing prostitution to be practiced in a safe and controlled environment ensuring freedom of choice for the prostitutes is the best option under the light of the fact that it has always existed since ancient times and is likely to exist in the future.
Prostitution is viewed by some feminists as a right to freedom of choice and that women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies. But the problems associated with prostitution affect not only the prostitute, but also the community in which he or she works and the family members of the people using his or her services.
The community is affected by the wider prevalence of sexual diseases, traffic congestion and noise in the area and harassment of the residents. Families of those who indulge in going to prostitutes suffer financial losses, distrust, emotional suffering and breakups. Thus it is evident that something needs to be done about prostitution. There are three possible legal options: criminalization, decriminalization and legalization.
Criminalization causes a deep stigma to the offenders whereas decriminalization gives it an official status as work and promotes the growth of prostitution.
A 2004 report by the Swedish Ministry of Justice and the police found that criminalization of prostitution caused prices for sexual services to drop, decreased the number of clients who became increasingly violent, more wanted to pay for sex and not use a condom – and sex workers had less time to assess the mental state of their clients because of the fear of getting caught (Hanger and Maloney, 2006).
Hence the most suitable option is legalization of prostitution which is an intermediate path between criminalization and decriminalization.
Opponents of legalization argue that legalization may lead to the institutionalization of prostitution and arguably make it more difficult for workers to leave the business. Secondly they argue that legalization of prostitution might indirectly support the growth of prostitution.
Though the numbers of prostitutes are traditionally affected by demand, it is possible that greater supply under conditions of legality might increase demand. Third, it is argued that every form of legalization would be opposed by some group of prostitutes as an infringement on personal freedom (Weitzer, 2000).
Considering the issue that legalization of prostitution will make it difficult for prostitutes to leave the profession, that would depend on whether the workers are officially labeled as prostitutes via registration, licensing, special commercial taxes or a registry for mandatory health checks, or whether they identities would remain unknown to the authorities as might be the case if legalization took the form of zoning (Weitzer, 2000).
Secondly, regarding the argument that it would increase the number of prostitutes, if legalization of prostitution is limited to one or a few cities, it would undoubtedly invite an influx of prostitutes into that locale but if such legal locations were widespread, each local would hold less attraction to outside workers.
Resistance of prostitutes to legalization happens because they see no benefits in abiding by the new restrictions or they see it as an infringement on their freedom. These must be cleared by providing them with information regarding the benefits of legalization and take care that they are allowed freedom within their locale (Weitzer, 2000)..
Gerald Arenberg, executive director of the National Association of the Chiefs of Police, has come out in favor of legalizing prostitution (Bovard, 1998). In her book “Brothel”, Alexa Albert, a Harvard trained physician who interviewed young women working at a legal brothel, found that the women remains HIV free and felt safe working in a secure environment than alone on city streets. despite long hours and rules that gave too much profit to the owners, the women took pride in their work and they also earned between 300 and 1500 dollars per day (Siegel, 2005).
It has been found that laws against prostitution often seem to corrupt the law enforcement agencies and is unable to check the spread of this social evil. As prostitution is an evil in which two individuals engage in a mutually consenting manner, there is no registered complaint from either party.
Hence, law enforcers are forced to spy on probable places of prostitution or indulge in sting operations. Sometimes, policewomen masquerade as prostitutes until some guy speaks business with them, when police rush out from hiding and confiscate the person’s car under local asset-forfeiture laws.
This is what is happening in places such as Detroit; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and New York City (Bovard, 1998). Thus making prostitution illegal only serves to bring out the worst in the law enforcers. Moreover by putting prostitutes and their customers into prison, can lead to prison overcrowding.
Dennis Martin, president of the same association, declared that prostitution-law enforcement is “much too time-consuming, and police forces are short-staffed” (Bovard, 1998). All of these facts imply that legislation of prostitution is the best way to ensure a safe environment for the prostitutes, the customers of the prostitutes and the community at large.
Prostitution is a social act that has always been considered immoral (Weitzer, 2000). Recent studies show that prostitution facilitates the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly AIDS. Apart from that prostitution is dangerous as it exposes the prostitute to various forms of sexual abuses.
Due to its harmful effects on society at large, prostitution has been considered illegal. But illegality of prostitution has made it difficult for prostitutes to leave the trade and places on them a social stigma. Hence legalization of prostitution the best option for regulating the trade making the environment safe for all concerned without stigmatizing the sex workers.
Weitzer, John Ronald (2000). Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry. Routledge Publishers. 2000
Siegel, J. Larry (2005). Criminology. Thomson Wadsworth Publishers. 2005.
Greenberg, S. Jerrold; Bruess, E. Clint; Conklin, C. Sarah and Chisolm, M. Stephanie (2006). Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2006.
Sullivan, Mary (2001). What happens when prostitution becomes work?
Hanger, Art and Maloney, John (2006). Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. 2006.
Bovard, James (1998). The Legalization of Prostitution. September 1998.