Prostitution has been a hugely controversial topic for as long as it has existed. It is closely linked to human trafficking and illegal activity such as drug trafficking, illegal gambling and sales of illegal alcohol. Involving mostly females, prostitution puts anyone who partakes in it in danger, especially the sex workers. These can be men and women but more shockingly also girls and boys much younger than 18 or 16. Prostitution in itself is not the issue, if someone decides that they wish to sell their sexual services to someone else or to some other people than it is an economic transaction with two consenting parts. However, this could not be further from what really happens. In reality, the buying and selling of sex in any shape of form is part of multi-billion dollar industry. According to Forbes magazine its estimated value is $2.6 billion to $3.9 billion. Clearly, it means big business, for some and devastation for others.
There are three main approaches to tackling prostitution. The first is to criminalize it completely, the second to criminalize some aspects of it, the third is to legalize it completely. As a government, what considerations with respect to a country’s religion, cultural and socioeconomic situation should be made? What is ethical? Who can, who should decide?
Some countries decide to make prostitution a criminal act. In France for example, it is completely illegal to be in any way connected to the prostitution industry. The main reasoning behind it is that it is that prostitution is immoral, which in my opinion, is absolutely correct. However, the policy is completely encouraging this very immoral vicious circle. In the 21st century, I would hope that we, as a society, would be able to discuss these previously considered taboo issues a bit more openly. Of course, nobody likes to admit it to themselves that we live in a society that consents to children been molested for money by pedophiles against their will and to desperate women being taken advantage of, destroying their health. But it is happening, right now, right here and we cannot keep ignoring it. I find it impossible to believe that there is no prostitution in countries having adopted similar legislation as France. For prostitution to reduce significantly, it would be necessary to see a significant rise in incomes of the most vulnerable socio-economic groups, a massive improvement in the access to education and the achievement of wide sensitization of society towards the issue. This is certainly not achievable in the short-term and hence, it is our duty to ensure that something is being done to protect the victims of the prostitution industry beyond diplomatic correctness and honorific titles defending our mistakes instead of the rights of those that need it most.
Furthermore, others decide to constitute some aspects of prostitution criminal. One of the greatest challenges that must be addressed with regard to the prostitution question are its many and gradually less controllable forms. There is street prostitution whereby the worker finds the client on the street and the price of whose services will be bargained on the spot. This is one of the most dangerous forms, as it is near impossible to control who the buyer and the seller is in this transaction. Furthermore, there are no regulations to protect the rights of the worker, they could be taken anywhere and have anything done to them, without anyone knowing. Anyone taking part in this sort of prostitution actively puts their live on the line and we must immediately seek to stop this and solve its underlying causes. Nonetheless, I am not sure that banning it, which is to effectively hide it under the rug, goes a long way to achieving the desired aim. Moreover, there is organized prostitution in a brothel, whereby the sex workers are employed by and work in, the owner’s brothel. Already, this is easier to control and safer. (Noting that the prostitution industry is one with alarming health dangers and life-threatening possibilities, the use of words such as ‘better’ and ‘safer’ will be made in this framework. Let it be clear that there is nothing good or pleasant about prostitution as it stands and that the use of any moderately positive word makes reference to the already horrific situation, and does not seek to portray any of the many violations of human rights that are taking place as utopic, morally correct or unavoidable.) It is thus, a type of prostitution more easily accessible to control by the authorities and as such, comparatively less dangerous. Evidently, it has its drawbacks, including but not limited to: organized crime, human trafficking and violation of human rights by the employer of the sex worker. The third and most difficult to control, is online prostitution. Anyone can offer their services online and wait for an appropriate match. No one is able to track what is happening to who, where or how. Clearly, it is impossible to control all aspects of prostitution and a suppression of individual freedom can take place in the effort to protect the victims of the industry. Criminalizing some of these can certainly be understood, and it goes to show a greater understanding of the intricacy of the issue than simply criminalizing all of the industry, however it does not provide a sustainable solution.
Lastly, a few countries have made prostitution completely legal. As early as 2003, prostitution was completely legalized by New Zealand, a country noted for its forward thinking as exemplified it becoming the first country to give women the vote on September 18th 1893, in The Electoral Act of 1893. Germany has also fully legalized prostitution, and even allowed sex workers access to a welfare system legal contracts and union power. I am not trying to support any particular government or sell anyone a liberal belief system, however it important to note that history repeats itself and we continually find ourselves making the same errors. In my opinion, this is the best way to tackle the problem. But isn’t this immoral? Well, no, it’s not. What is immoral is covering our backs and saying that we don’t like prostitution, passing a law so we look good and then go the local brothel for the thrill of it in the evenings. Prostitution in real life is immoral, it victimizes people and I chose to believe that any and all, educated people consider it wrong. The reason why legalizing it is the best way to limit it is because first and foremost, it admits the problem. Legalizing prostitution does not endorse it, on the contrary, it is a public statement that this problem exists and that criminalizing it is simply insufficient. If the industry becomes legal, the state is able to control it. If it is illegal, the state cannot really be asking the underworld how they go about their business. The government can impose hygiene and age standards, regular checks and subsidize or engage in the free provision of contraception, testing of sexually transmitted diseases, psychological support and so on. Thus, we allow the type of prostitution that is closest to moral, we try to allow people to right to sell their sex if they want to and for others to buy it, whilst enforcing a strict framework on how, where and by whom this happens in order to protect human rights and make it more difficult for people to enter the industry and facilitate them to exit it. This solution is not perfect at all but it deals with the problem more holistically and fairly to all parties than any other known approach.
In conclusion, prostitution is a major problem in today’s world. It is not something that is not OK or that we can’t ignore because men’s hormones justify it or because it’s just for child molesters or for any sort of ridiculous argument of this sort. Prostitution is everywhere. In reality, everyone can be a client of prostitution and a sex worker easily. It affects millions of people and can have life-threatening consequences . It is not OK, or good or moral. It is not justifiable and it is not right. We must, as a society, take action against it, no matter what situation our country or community is in. It is a political hot potato and a very difficult issue to tackle in economically degraded or socially conservative areas, especially. However, those that have the ability to, should legalize it, putting a rigid legal framework around it so that the policy and healthcare system are aware who the participants are, where they are, who is likely to exploit and how to help or treat them. If the authorities have a clearer picture of what is happening and more data they are more able to define and locate the issues that arise. Consequently, this approach can to large extent, improve the information failure that is largely to blame for the aforementioned issues,for both parties, at once for the authorities and for people in the industry. In an ideal world, or hopefully in the very long run, attitudes would be changed and the sellers of sex would be fully consenting, fully aware, free agents that safely provide their services to non-abusive buyers. This is far from today’s reality, where many prostitutes are trafficked, constantly raped, humiliated, rendered poor, driven into powerless, despair and substance abuse. The only way to decrease the detriment that arises from this industry is to recognize the problem and begin to treat as impartially as possible through the setting of standards in line with international human rights law and hopefully, corporation on an international level to reduce the resulting human trafficking especially.