No Clear Answer Concerning the Decriminalization of Prostitution
To decriminalize or not to decriminalize? That is the question people in the United States and other nations have been asking themselves for decades. Many countries, including Costa Rica, Italy, Norway, and Singapore, do legally sanction certain forms of prostitution, and some find it odd that a nation like the United States, which prides itself so heavily on the principle of individual liberty, would forbid any type of activity between two consenting adults. Nonetheless, countless Americans find the prospect of legal prostitution offensive to their ideals concerning traditional moralism, sex, or womanhood. While morality debates may rage on, it does seem rather strange that almost all state governments in the U.S. still prohibit what seems to be a harmless, victimless activity.
The truth is, though, that prostitution is not as harmless or victimless as it seems. In fact, all too often the women involved in the trade are not even working out of their own free will. Aside from the brutal realities of forced prostitution, other problems lurk beneath the surface, as well; but could the harm associated with prostitution be alleviated through decriminalization? It is impossible to know for certain exactly what would happen were legal prostitution a reality, but in order to effectively evaluate the consequences of such a change, the potential dangers and benefits must be considered.
First of all, with legality, prostitution would become safer for both the client and the prostitute. There could very easily be a government registration system through which prostitutes could get a license, the monthly or weekly renewal of which would require health check-ups. Singapore has such a system already for its prostitutes, with mandatory health checks every two weeks. Such a system would enable those willing to pay for sex to do so without the danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. It would also improve the health of prostitutes themselves. Some worry that legalization would give prostitution a stamp of approval that would spur a dramatic and potentially dangerous sexual revolution, but judging by the way legal strip clubs and pornography are regarded by society at large today, it is unlikely that much of the stigma attached to prostitution would disappear. (Society's view is reflected in the fact that almost every city and town restricts both the type and location of both strip clubs and pornography stores that can exist there.) What would change, though, is that prostitutes would finally have the option of going to the police after being raped by their customers or managers. In a 1998 survey of 475 prostitutes led by Dr. Melissa Farley of Prostitution Research and Education, 62% had been raped since entering the profession, and 46% had been raped more than five times. Meanwhile, 82% of the American prostitutes surveyed had been physically assaulted on the job. A...