Prostitution, where the nature of business is private and about engaging in sexual relations for payment or other benefits has long been called as one of the oldest professions in the world. It is also a space for debate over many issues such as prostitution being labelled as work or exploitation, prostitution as a criminal activity, women’s rights, discrimination and more. Although it is called as one of the oldest professions, it also remains a gray area in many countries with no regulation or any semblance of it being an industry. Prostitution however should be legalized as it would mean more government control, regulations and safety for the women involved. But legalizing prostitution has not been an easy task with opponents waging a very determinant moral battle against it.
Governments all over the world have three approaches when it comes to dealing with prostitution- criminalization and decriminalization, Legalization and abolition (Deady, 2011). The topic of legalizing prostitution is rife with debates from the two opposing sides. The supporters of legalization of prostitution claim that legalizing prostitution would give it the same status as any other industry. This status would mean the safety of the customer and the prostitute, regulated income, health of the locale, regular health checks, bring about restrictions in the minimum age of the prostitute and increased revenue for the government in the form of taxes. Countries that have legalized prostitution have shown increased incomes from this industry. Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines are countries that have a statistic on the sex trade and have shown that the income from the prostitution industry makes up for 3-4% of their gross domestic product. Belgium, when it legalized prostitution in 2004 and gave prostitutes the same legal rights as other workers expected to rake in almost 55 million dollars from taxes alone (Brent et al, 2010). Legalizing prostitution say supporters would better protect sex worker from violence and abuse. Legalizing would also mean that they could form unions that would fight for their rights, decrease their vulnerable status and exploitation both from the law and the vigilantes Prostitution should be legalized as criminalization mostly affects the women more. They become more vulnerable to exploitation and lose income as a result of this. Legalizing would also help in changing the attitudes of people towards women as they are seen as the perpetrators of this moral degradation.
Those who oppose it take a moralistic stance and say that legalizing prostitution would encourage sex trafficking and also tear down the moral fiber of the society. Sex trafficking is always linked with prostitution although there are no defined studies or data that support this claim. In spite of this the US Department of state published a fact sheet in 2004 stating that over 600,000 people, mostly women and minor were smuggled across international borders and most of these women were forced into prostitution (Weitzer, 2011). It is government sanctioned reports like this that prevent legalization of prostitution in many states in the US and many countries in the world. Feminists are also divided in their opinion when it comes to prostitution. The radical feminists group which includes writers like Kathleen Barry and Andrea Dworkin suggests that prostitution is about female exploitation and male domination and that legalizing it would only perpetuate this stream of thought and action. Those who support criminalization of prostitution also view it as a morally degenerate act as opposed to liberal feminists who treat it like any other work. Opponents largely fail to see the benefits that could come out of legalization and stick to their narrow perceptions of looking at prostitution as the reason for the increase in sex trafficking.
The legalization of prostitution would only mean safety of prostitutes, a reduction in crimes against women, abolition of pimps and middle men and reliable data on the number of workers in the sex industry. Government intervention also lets that law enforcement agencies keep a better track on the number of people involved in the trade. Legalizing it as a profession would also bring a change in the overtly moral attitudes of people who see prostitution as a decadent act.
BARBARA BRENTS et al., The State of Sex Tourism: Sex, and in in the New American Heartland. New York: Routledge. 2010. Print
Weitzer, Ronald. Sex Trafficking and the Sex Industry: The Need for Evidence-Based Theory and Legislation. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 101.4 (2011): 1337-1370.
Deady. M .Gail. The Girl Next Door: A Comparative Approach to Prostitution Laws and Sex Trafficking Victim: Identification Within the Prostitution Industry. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice.17:2 (2011). 515-555.