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What should the legal status of prostitution be? Show more Show less
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Sometimes called ‘the world’s oldest profession’, prostitution holds a complex cultural place. While it is underpinned by gender norms and has been linked to violence, it also represents a source of agency for some and a viable career option for many. Should it be treated like any other job by the state? And if the state wishes to curtail prostitution, is making it illegal the best option?

Prostitution should be illegal Show more Show less

Sex work is inherently harmful and should be banned.
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Long-term consequences

Prostitutes suffer from long-term negative consequences to their mental and physical health.

Context

Studies have found higher rates of eating disorders,[1] mental health issues, and sexually transmitted diseases[2] among sex workers.

The Argument

The people who have worked in prostitution unquestionably suffer from negative long-term effects, even after they have left sex work. This proves that as an industry it is not just like any other job, but on the contrary, is an institution actively harming and even killing women. Former sex workers suffer from both the mental and physical long-term effects of being involved in the industry. For example, PTSD is extremely common among ex-sex workers,[3] as are other mental health issues, drug abuse and STIs. The long-term physical effects can be devastating, particularly HIV and infertility resulting from sexually transmitted infections.[2] On the most extreme level, the mortality rate of sex workers is higher than that of the general population.[4] Those who participate in sex work are scarred for life, speaking to the trauma inherent in the profession. It is impossible, therefore, to treat it as if it were just another job. Most jobs do not have harmful and longlasting effects on its participants, and trying to paint sex work as 'a job like any other' is a disingenuous portrayal of the industry. To perpetuate the idea that sex work is not inherently harmful to those who participate is actively causing harm. Leaving those who have suffered years of abuse in sex work to suffer from the consequences for the rest of their lives is not an option. If any other industry had the rate of harm that is produced by prostitution, it would not be allowed to continue, but activists for decriminalisation are demanding that it become state-sanctioned. Any profession that is causing such profound negative effects on its participants should be illegal. Any other solution is negligent on the part of the state.

Counter arguments

Criminalising prostitution can have numerous negative long-term effects on sex workers, and is not a sensible way to decrease rates of disease or mortality among sex workers. A criminal record due to prostitution can create life-long barriers to alternative employment, benefits and accommodation.[5] Many sex workers may feel trapped in a cycle of prostitution if they already have a criminal record, as their chances of being able to get out of sex work is dramatically decreased due to the reduced availability of other options. This simply serves to worsen the long-term effects, both in terms of the risk of being arrested again and in terms of risk to health. Additionally, the illegality of prostitution is linked to higher rates of violence and sexually transmitted infections.[6] Workers have no paths of empowerment and with no safety measures may feel pressured when doing work that is illegal to accept dangerous circumstances. Having prostitution be an illegal act is not a reliable or sensible way to decrease the rates of long-term harm for workers. Instead, to decrease these issues the emphasis should be on safety and worker empowerment. For instance, ensuring that sex workers feel comfortable reporting violence to the police, turning clients away or enforcing condom use. Under illegality, sex workers do not have access to these recourse options, making it a system that is actively perpetuating negative long-term effects for sex workers.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] People who used to be sex workers suffer from long-term negative effects to both mental and physical health. [P2] Prostitution therefore needs to be illegal to discourage people entering a profession that hold potentially lifelong harms.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Outlawing prostitution has been found to worsen health outcomes for sex workers.

References

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/482625#SEC2
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2563855/
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1077801204268607
  4. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/159/8/778/91471
  5. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/decreasing-human-trafficking-through-sex-work-decriminalization/2017-01
  6. https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2018/criminalisation-and-repressive-policing-sex-work-linked-increased-risk
This page was last edited on Monday, 13 Jan 2020 at 11:23 UTC

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