Legalizing Prostitution

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Legalizing prostitution could help clean up the streets, lower taxes, lower the rate of rape and the rate of organized crime.

From one of the world’s oldest professions comes one of the oldest legal debates. There is no denying that the sex industry has taken international dimensions and is recognized as an economic motor for many countries. As countries around the world debate the merits of legalizing, or at least decriminalizing prostitution, the following questions should be addressed. Would legalization reduce some of the inequalities and abuse suffered by the women involved? On the other hand, by legitimizing prostitution, would society reverse decades of work to promote human rights and improve the status of women? Legalizing prostitution could help clean up the streets, lower taxes, lower the rate of rape and the rate of organized crime. On the surface, this looks like a rehashing of a timeless debate, however it is not. The question is no longer about morality – is prostitution a vice and are those involved evil or somehow lacking in judgment? Now the question should be asked: Is prostitution a form of exploitation to be abolished or an occupation to be regulated?

To get a feel for what is going on and how opinions are changing, one should look to the headlines. In the Christian Science Monitor, an ex-call girl is challenging Florida State laws on prostitution. In Amsterdam, the “First World Whore’s Congress” takes place. Prostitutes from around the world came together to make a statement of solidarity. In the Times Higher Education Supplement, John Taylor, Chief executive of Sheffield Britain’s Chamber of Trade, says, “You can’t eradicate it. All you can do is drive it underground. I am a realist. It’s better that it should be controlled.” These are all separate incidences where some kind of regulation, decriminalization, or legalization of prostitution is being debated. By decriminalizing prostitution, laws would protect prostitutes, enable prostitutes to prosecute for abuses, and finally, health concerns would be regulated.

For decades, scholars have speculated why women would go freely into prostitution. Latent lesbianism, low intelligence, a home life of abuse, and desperate poverty head the list of possible reasons. Nevertheless, no one has been able to isolate a specific set of social factors that leads to prostitution. Current books by prostitutes and new scientific studies have prompted Vern and Bonnie Burlough, from the book The First Sex, to conclude that prostitution is, largely, “simply another occupation”(Fisher 208). If in fact, prostitution is looked upon as another occupation, then why not create a win-win situation. Prostitutes would contribute monetarily to society and would in return have rights to health benefits and retirement would be ensured. According to the World Charter for Prostitutes’ Rights, prostitutes themselves believe that they should “pay regular taxes on the same basis as other independent contractors and employees, and should receive the same benefits.”

As well as being able to contribute to society, prostitutes will be safer under the umbrella of the law. One argument against prostitution is that women and children are forced into the sex trade. Although this can be true, especially in Asia and other third world countries, it should be noted, however, that most prostitutes do not consider themselves to be victims and claim to freely choose prostitution as their occupation. One prostitute, in the book Vindication of the Rights of Whores insists, “They get hysterical about us! I am tired of all these people who lie all the time. It is not right to call prostitution a threat to humanity. It is ridiculous to mix up child prostitution, and slavery, and exploitation with us: I am a free and conscious adult” (Pheterson 14). Serious crimes, such as child prostitution, are harder to monitor in the general climate of criminality. A town hall official states, from...
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