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Time For Change
Should prostitution be legalised?
Member Name: Mauri
Should prostitution be legalised?
Advantages: It will make life safer for thousands of women
Disadvantages: It will not solve all their problems
The horrific events in Ipswich have been an all too tragic reminder of how our moralistic and irresponsible attitude to the reality of prostitution in the UK leads to the deaths of innocent young women who through adverse social circumstances (or sometimes choice) have to risk their lives to make a living.
The key to the problem as with drugs (and very often the two are linked) lies with the illegality. Just as the prohibition of drugs does little to help the huge drug problem in society and in fact does a huge amount to worsen it by putting money into the hands of criminals, the illegal status of prostitution encourages criminal organisations to abuse and exploit women (and some young men) and forces them to put their lives at risk. Very often the women are under pressure to sell drugs to their customers and thus they are likely to become users and eventually form a dependency, which turns out to be a further means for pimps and criminal gangs to exert control over them.
This is not a question about morality or at least it shouldn’t be. Prostitution exists and there is a demand for it, as a society we shouldn’t hide our heads in the sand to this problem or adopt as idealistic attitude believing that simply by making something illegal we can eliminate the problem, it simply doesn’t work that way.
Undoubtedly some women are forced into prostitution by circumstances or by ruthless individuals but we also have to face up to the fact that some women choose (perhaps not as a first choice) to do it. The actual circumstances that lead women in to prostitution only matter to the extent that we should have a legal structure in place that on the one hand punishes very hard those who seek to exploit and abuse women who are forced in to this trade but on the other hand creates a safe and secure environment for those women that choose to be involved in the sex trade. There is no way this can happen while prostitution is stigmatised in the way it is and while it is illegal.
We must look to a new approach to this problem where the welfare of the sex workers is the prime concern. Yes it would be nice to live in a world where the sex trade didn’t exist, where some men didn’t feel the need to seek out prostitutes and where everyone was well off, doing their ideal job and happy with life but this is a fantasy and formulating public policy with these unattainable dreams directly leads to the tragedy and misery that exists for the vast majority of sex workers.
The current situation and the law as they stands seems to me to simply allow some callous individuals and criminals to exploit vulnerable people. The way that other countries for instance Holland deals with their sex workers while not perfect is far better for everyone involved and in the long term better for society in general.
We as a society are hypocrites; we condone the use and exploitation of sex and sexual imagery in advertising. our culture is filled with sexual images and the sexual exploits of celebrities are of interest to millions. Increasingly youngsters are under pressure to be sexually active (if not necessarily sexually liberated) ever earlier and yet when it comes to the direct selling of sex we become prudish and construct an environment and a set of laws that will guarantee sexual exploitation and harm to those involved. Legalisation of the sex trades would be one way to some extent empower the sex workers and allow them to take charge of their lives and in actual fact give them a real choice from a position of strength rather than weakness.
THE WAY FORWARD
We need to make prostitution and associated aspects of the trade such as soliciting and setting up brothels legal. The aim should be to remove the need for women to walk the streets, which invariably places them in extremely risky situations. We should allow the advertising of sex services in licensed outlets, specialist magazines or even in a specific section of the telephone directory.
Certain areas in cities should become designated red light district where sex workers can operate in licensed brothels in safety and comfort. There will of course be objections by some to having brothels in their towns but these problems are not insurmountable and are preferable to having women walking the street looking fro trade. Earning from the sex trade should be taxable and allow them to accrue welfare benefits in the same way as any other employed person. As part of the licensing procedure all sex workers should be made to undergo regular health checks and have a vigorous drug rehabilitation programme to help those who have a drug dependency. Counselling and advice should be available for those that wish to leave the trade and financial help where needed should be made available for this.
We should also have heavy sanction on those people who engage in activities outside of the new laws, for instance kerb crawling should be a serious offence.
These measures alone would make the lives of sex workers easier and more importantly make their lives safer. It would allow control of the industry making it less likely for criminals to exploit the trade and it would reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Although there will always be maniacs out there, it is dreadful to think that if we had more liberal laws covering prostitution and drugs that those five murdered women in Ipswich might still be alive today and many of the thousands of assaults and rapes that are inflicted on sex workers every year could be prevented. It might not be a palatable or moral solution for many but is taking an arbitrary moral stance worth the tragedy and misery that many women have to go through due to our repressive laws?
Of course the legalisation of prostitution will not in itself own solve all the problems associated with it and attacks on women will not be a thing of the past simply because of it but it might make a difference. We must also tackle poverty in our society that might impel some people to become sex workers and also challenge peoples perceptions and attitudes toward sex more generally if we want to move towards a situation where prostitution is not required or practised but in the short term the imperative must be to protect vulnerable people in the sex trade and legalisation, control and de-stigmatising the trade is the first step towards this.
© Mauri 2006
Summary: Legalisation is needed to stop the brutality to and exploitation of sex workers