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Debate: Prostitution

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Should prostitution be legal?

Background and context

As the world’s oldest profession, legal prohibition of prostitution has failed to eradicate the business.
There have long been clear religious and ethical objections to the practice of selling sexual services, and indeed to sex outside of the marital union.
However, prostitution has also become associated with several modern problems. The sexually transmitted virus HIV poses greater dangers to the health of prostitutes and their clients. Gangs which perpetrate organised crime force prostitutes to work on their behalf and compel them to become involved in the dealing and use of drugs. The UN has recently reported that many young women from Eastern European countries such as Kosovo and Albania are being brought into Germany and Italy as illegal immigrants and forced to work as prostitutes. Nonetheless, many feminists and advocates of individual liberty have recently expressed support for prostitution. As an alternative to ethical concepts, the realist might acknowledge that when the law has so conspicuously failed to preclude prostitution, it may be better to eliminate the problems associated with it, rather than the trade itself. Different solutions to these problems have been proposed, and these can be divided into the options of prohibition, ‘decriminalisation’ and ‘legalisation’. To decriminalise prostitution is to remove laws against it; to legalise it is, in addition, to provide regulations and licences for legally run brothels. In Britain and some German states, the receipt of money in exchange for sex is not illegal, but the action of ‘soliciting’ the business is unlawful. It is also illegal for a prostitute to work in partnership with another, or for a pimp to offer their services. These laws amount to making prostitution prohibited. In the Dutch city of Amsterdam and the state of New South Wales in Australia, the decriminalisation approach has been followed. Although prostitution is not explicitly regarded as being lawful, there are not laws that prohibit it.

Contents

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Morality: Is prostitution morally acceptable?

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Yes

  • Governments should not set moral sexual standards regarding prostitutes Prostitution is a highly subjective moral arena, with many believing that it should be legal while others believing the opposite. Should governments really be attempting to settle this debate? The problem is that it alienates those that tolerate or support legal prostitution, and creates double standards, in which the moral values of the majority are defended by the government at the expense of the moral values of the minority. What right does one set of moral standards have to gain the government's favor over another set of moral standards?
  • Common prostitution is not a biblical conflict There is no biblical basis for the anti-sexual traditions taught by tradition bound Christian Churches. The only prostitutes condemned in the Bible are those who were priests and priestesses to other gods. Israel’s neighbors practiced a fertility religion in which prostitution was part of the worship. This led naturally to describing worship of other gods as prostitution.
  • Prostitution is no more immoral than a one night stand. While sex at it's best is about love and a true connection between two people, humans regularly engage in casual sex for the sheer physical pleasure. Moreover such trysts are often influenced by alcohol or brought about by lying and manipulation, which would seem far less moral than a sober woman making a rational decision about her body.
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No

  • Prostitution is morally wrong Sex is a special act, in some senses a sacred act. It is an act of love and of the creation of human life. Prostitution devalues this "sacred" role of sex in our lives, by commoditizing the act. As such, prostitution devalues all of our moral standards, and is thus abhorrent.
  • Prostitution contributes to adultery, breaks-up families. Considering that the majority of men who visits prostitutes are married, this should be considered as morally wrong. It breaks harmony of the family and dooms the ethical aspect of the society.


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Free choice: Do prostitutes choose their profession freely?

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Yes

  • Prostitutes freely choose their profession The majority of prostitutes freely choose their profession. Like many professions, it may not be their first choice, but the best choice among the available alternatives. Should they be deprived of this choice?
  • Governments should not set moral standards on prostitution Alison J. Murray, PhD, lecturer at the University of Sydney, in the chapter "Debt-Bondage and Trafficking: Don't Believe the Hype" of the 1998 book "Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition": "Blanket statements about prostitution and the exploitation of women are propaganda from a political agenda which seeks to control the way people think and behave. The situations which the anti-traffickers rail against, insofar as they do exist, are a result of economic, political and gender inequalities which should be our central cause for concern. The vast range of sex industries and contexts requires an understanding of diversity and difference and a realization that prohibition and unitary 'moral values' are part of the problem, not the solution."
  • Question of choice, in prostitution, is different for each person. While it is true some women are coerced into prostitution, that holds no bearing on the women who did choose. The coercion itself should be illegal, but we should not take away the choice from those who would like to make it.


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No

  • Prostitutes do not have a genuine choice They are often encouraged to work in prostitution before they are old enough to make a reasoned decision. Many have their reasoning impaired by an unhappy family background or previous sexual abuse. They may be compelled to enter prostitution by circumstances beyond their control, such as substance addiction or the necessity to provide for a family. In many other cases prostitutes choose their profession solely for their own financial survival. This would be the case with an underage runaway from an abusive home with no other way to survive. So, in this sense, prostitutes may be "coerced" by their circumstances into their line of work. Most prostitutes are not educated well, and they have troubles finding a job due to their lack of intellectual ability. In addition, since they are typically female, they may suffer an additional disadvantage in finding physical work in society.
  • Prostitution driven by a non-voluntary patriarchal culture. The "choice" to be a prostitute is anchored in this culture and can never be free of it. Choosing prostitution is not grounded in the simplicity of individual choice, like the choice between a cheeseburger or a chicken burger at a fast food joint. More has to be considered, the ethics are complex. For instance, How do you imagine prostitutes in Mexico City differ from those in LA? At the other end of the scale: Are prostitutes in Mexico City free to travel to Los Angeles and become prostitutes? Who chooses to subject themselves to the sexual whims and desires of ten strangers a night by choice?
  • Prostitution's destructiveness outweighs upholding freedoms. Presently, prostitution is overwhelmingly characterized by and directly contributes to human trafficking, oppression, economic coercion and other forms of abuse rather than the affirmation of personal freedom and self-determination. The detriment of the first exceeds the latter's social priority. Because we can not be indifferent to the consequences of others' behavior, and prostitution as it now exists is, apart from its own legal status, indistinguishable from fomenting socially abominable acts, prostitution must be illegal.
  • Individuals must cede some rights for safety, including right to prostitute. In a democratic society, each individual cedes some rights to the government under the promise that the government will protect them from danger.
  • Justness of free markets and sex do not justify prostitution. Although we admit that the free market and having a sex are not illegal on their own, prostitution does equal the combination of the two. Prostitution has much more detrimental consequences than free market trade and having a sex separately.


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Abuse: Would legal prostitution experience less violence?

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Yes

  • Prostitutes are vulnerable because they lack labor protections By legalizing prostitution, a government can help bring these laborers under labor protections offered to other workers. Some claim that prostitution is inherently unsafe and so should not be sanctioned by labor laws, but many other industries are unsafe such as the mining industry, and this was precisely the reason why government labor laws and unions were created to help protect them.
  • Prostitution can relieve the tension that leads to sex crimes. Sex crimes such as rape or molestation can be seen, in part, as a product of sexual frustrations. Men, in particular, have a high sexual drive and yet many are often unable to satisfy that drive due to physical appearance, social difficulties, or other problems. After being denied sexual relations dozens of times for years on end, some of these men become so desperate that they justify to themselves the commission of a sex crime. Prostitution can help prevent the sexual frustration that leads to sex crimes, by acting as something of an exhaust valve for pent up sexual energies.
  • Legalization of prostitution would disrupt the corruption of ‘pimps’. These individuals subject prostitutes to physical abuse and threats of violence, retain a portion of their earnings, and often encourage them to become addicted to drugs. The provision of a secure environment in which to work would allow men and women to be independent of these individuals.


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No

  • Violence against prostitutes is a rampant problems. The number of violent attacks on prostitutes, including rape and murder, and the considerably greater number of such crimes which are believed to go unreported, suggests that prostitutes themselves are the victims of the most serious criminal offences. In Victoria, where prostitution is legalized, there are two rapes of prostitutes reported each week.
  • Legalization does not ensure that prostitutes won't continue to work with "pimps". The legalization of the ‘Bunny Ranch’ in Nevada did not prevent the majority of prostitutes from continuing to work outside of the licensed brothel, and remain dependent on pimps. This is because brothels are more expensive environments for prostitutes to work and clients to visit. Rent, health checks, and security, are some of the costs which make it uneconomic for some prostitutes to be employed in brothels. In Britain, where prostitution is virtually prohibited, some prostitutes use private apartments, whilst others work on the street. Legalisation of prostitution does not remove the street market, or the dangers associated with it. The dangerous street environment is generated by simple economics, not legal controls.


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Is prostitution a victimless crime?

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Yes

  • Prostitution is a victimless crime Assuming that problems of violence, abuse, and sexually transmitted disease can be resolved with sufficient government regulation (and it should be mentioned that these are not the reason why prostitution is illegal), then who is the victim in prostitution? The prostitute that enjoys here profession (some do, some don't, but room must be left in the law for those that enjoy it)? The customer that is willing to pay for sex? Society at large? Whose rights have been violated? The problem is that it is very difficult or subjective to determine a specific victim, which is an important part of determining that a crime has been committed.
  • Prostitutes/clients no more victimized than other workers/consumers. There are many dangers related to all kinds of legal professions. A person working in a factory risks dismemberment, chemical burns, and in some cases even death. A consumer of any product similarly risks injury due to defective parts or shoddy construction. In everything we do we are choosing a level of risk that is acceptable. The risk of a client catching an STD is known, and the client is willing to take that risk. To use that as a basis for victimization would be silly when you could catch e-coli from a bag of spinach.
  • Pimping, kidnapping, sex trade are not inherent to prostitution. The process of pimping and kidnapping can and should be illegal regardless of the legality of prostitution. We must remember that at one time people were kidnapped from their homes and transported across the ocean to work on farms, yet none would state that farming should be illegal. Further, these activities occur because prostitution is illegal and vilified. Were that not so, more women would likely choose the profession and activities such as kidnapping would become less profitable.
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No

  • Prostitution is not a victimless crime The victim in prostitution is more indirect than in many crimes, but exists nevertheless. The victims are prostitutes, customers, and society at large. Prostitutes are victims in the sense that they are often forced into the industry by sex trade, pimps, or by poverty. They often do not make a choice to engage in the industry, and are, implicitly, forced in various ways to sell their bodies as commodities. This can be traumatizing. The social costs are also very large, first due to the degradation of our moral standards that would attempt to uphold sex as something sacred, by the exacerbation of a "woman-hating" culture, and by the creation of an environment that increases the risks of the transmission of STDs such as HIV/AIDS, which is the cause of many social problems.
  • Women in general are the victims of prostitution. It is not difficult to decipher who the victims of prostitution are. just about everybody involved in this debate has assumed that prostitute denotes 'woman' and inform their arguments with this preconception. Is this because women choose to sell their bodies and men do not? Despite intellectual reasoning and rhetoric, we all know that it is primarily women who are exploited; we all subconsciously know through an understanding of the cultural history we've inherited -patriarchy- that it is women who do and will suffer. In general, therefore, the female gender suffers from the existence of prostitution. This inequality makes the suffering particularly egregious.


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Rape: Would the legalization of prostitution decrease instances rape?

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Yes

  • The legalization of prostitution will decrease instances of rape Numerous empirical studies find that legalization of prostitution decreases instances of rape. And, the logic of it hold together fairly well. By bringing prostitution out of the shadows, predators will feel less able to rape prostitutes with impunity. Particularly in the context of legal brothels with security cameras, guards, boundaries, and the threat of legal punishment, the potential for instances of rape is dramatically reduced.


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No

  • Legal prostitution increases rates of rape Prostitution is an industry inherently vulnerable to rape. Legalization may increase demand for prostitution, and thus expand an industry with inherent risks of rape. This is likely to increase the rate of rape.
  • Legalization won't reduce rape, as prostitution is itself a form of rape Prostitution is a form of rape. It is an environment in which women are effectively forced by a man to have sex with them merely through the fact that they are willing to pay. And, this relationship is frequently established between a "pimp" or the brother and customer instead of between the customer and the prostitute, undermining the notion of the contract being established between consenting adults. If the women is not truly consenting, prostitution takes on a form of a paying man forcing a woman to have sex with him, which can be viewed as a form of rape. This is not something the state should sanction.


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Sex trafficking: Will legalizing prostitution help solve the problem of sex trafficking?


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Yes

When the legal state of prostitution is as it is in Nevada, you have legal, independent brothels that are safe. Thus, it would mean that rules would have to be applied and the business monitored. This would bring prostitution out of the black market and reduce sex trafficking because more credentials would be needed.


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No


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Health: Would the legalization of prostitution improve public health?

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Yes

  • Legalizing prostitution will help the fight against HIV/AIDS
  • Legalization would improve the sexual health of prostitutes and their clients. The activity occurs in a clean and safe environment rather than on the street. In Nevada and Victoria prostitutes undergo regular health checks as a condition of working in the brothels. Furthermore, the use of contraception is compulsory and such devices are made freely available.


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No

  • Legalization will increase prostitution and subsequently worsen public health. When prostitution is lawful and increasingly regarded as socially acceptable, a greater number of people will use prostitutes. Medical studies show that the condom is only ninety-nine per cent effective. Moreover, during the period between each health check, a prostitute could catch and transmit a sexually transmitted disease. Consequently, the legalisation of prostitution will result in the transmission of more potentially fatal diseases.


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Business: Is prostitution a legitimate business?

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Yes

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No

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Feasibility: Is banning prostitution feasible?

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Yes

  • It is impossible to ban prostitution - Granted that prostitution has been present in societies across the world for thousands of years, governments should recognise that it cannot be eradicated. Consequently they should pass legislation that makes prostitution safer, rather than persist with futile and dangerous prohibition. Existing legal prohibition of soliciting, or of prostitution itself, does not work. Prostitutes are regularly convicted of summary offences and fined. It is then necessary for them to return to work as prostitutes in order to repay the fines. British police officers have described this method of legal prohibition of prostitution as a ‘revolving door’. The laws banning prostitution are in fact counter-productive.


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No

  • Governments must protect the moral and physical health of citizens from prostitution. Initiating the legalisation of prostitution would grant implicit approval to a dangerous and immoral practice. Prostitution should never be regarded as a legitimate career option for a young girl.
  • Merely because some individuals break a law does not mean that the law itself is at fault, or that it should be abolished. The ease with which prostitutes can return to work suggests that penal sanctions should be more severe, rather than removed altogether.


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Social function: Do prostitutes perform a valid social function?

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Yes

  • Prostitutes have performed a valid social function for thousands of years. Prostitution actually helps maintain marriages and relationships. Instead of a relationship, a purely physical transaction occurs, a commercial exchange which does not jeopardise the emotional stability of a relationship. In Italy, for example, a visit to a prostitute does not violate the law against adultery.
  • Legalizing prostitution helps clean-up "red light districts". Legalised brothels improve the quality of life for people who live and work in areas currently frequented by prostitutes. Brothels can be licensed only in specified areas distant from houses and schools.
  • Prostitution fulfills free-market political philosophies. The political climate of free market capitalism, free economy, and globalization has created an atmosphere where it is easy for people to establish business that are related to sex. And it does not do justice to the political economy to undermine other economic pursuits. It is us a people who abuse our political position in society, by saying prostitution is wrong, knowing that deep down we are always in constant demand of this services.


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No

  • Prostitution harms the fabric of society. Sexual intercourse outside of a relationship of love, or even marriage, shows disregard for the sanctity of the sexual act and for the other partner in a relationship. Emotional commitment is inextricably linked to physical commitment.
  • Prostitutes will continue to work on the street even after legalization And, they are unlikely to work nearby to the competition offered by the licensed brothels. Furthermore, it is questionable whether local councils would wish to create ‘ghettos’ of prostitution on the outskirts of towns.


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Feminists: Do feminists support legalization?

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Yes

  • Many libertarian feminists consider that prostitution reflects the independence and dominance of modern women. The majority of prostitutes are women. Once the dangers of abuse from male clients and pimps are removed, the capacity of women to control the sexual responses of men in a financially beneficial relationship is liberating. Furthermore, many campaigners for the rights of prostitutes note that the hours are relatively short, the work well-remunerated, and the services they offer are ones that other women are compelled to provide without charge.


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No

  • The overwhelming trend of feminism is against prostitution. The radical feminist school that emerged in the 1990s supports the orthodoxy that prostitution leads to the objectification of women. The use of a woman’s body solely for the purpose of sexual gratification does not treat them as a person. This lack of respect dehumanises both prostitute and client, and does not represent a victory for either sex.


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Economics: Would legalization prostitution be economically beneficial?

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Yes

  • Legalizing prostitution would increase government revenue. A tax on the fee charged by a prostitute, and the imposition of income tax on the earnings of prostitutes would generate revenue.
  • Prostitution often offers superior money-making opportunities for individuals. Prostitution often offers individuals a much better option for making money than the alternatives.


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No

  • An economic benefits from legalizing prostitution cannot take precedence over social harms. Otherwise we would encourage governments to become involved in other unlawful trades, such as the trafficking of drugs. Moreover, there is no evidence that the sex workers would declare their true earnings from what is a confidential relationship between the worker and his or her client. Hence it is likely that the amount of revenue would not be very significant.


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Sex tourism: Will legalization help reduce problems associated with sex tourism?

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Yes

  • Broader legalization of prostitution will reduce concentrated sex tourism. The problem of a high concentration of ‘sex tourists’ in a small number of destinations will disappear once a larger number of countries legalise prostitution. Supporting this motion, therefore, will reduce the problem of sex tourism.


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No

  • Countries that legalize prostitution will suffer from sex tourism. Relaxed legal controls on prostitution in Thailand, the Philippines and Amsterdam have made these countries attractive for individuals, many of whom the local population would not regard as desirable visitors to a country or city.


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Resource drain: Are resources drained in the fight to enforce ban on prostitution?

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Yes


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No

  • Moral standards should stand above economics in banning prostitution. Economic considerations, while sometimes significant, should not prevent a government from attempting to serve its primary purpose, which is to help provide a level of social and moral guidance. This is worth the costs.
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Pro/Con videos

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Yes


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No

From the European Women's Lobby


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Pro/Con resources

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Yes

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No


See also

External links

Books

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