Wham Bham, Thank You Ma'am
By Aleena Khan

July 16, 2009

Drive or walk down a red light district in any city in the world and what one sees are provocatively dressed women of all ages, shapes, ethnicity and looks displaying their charms to attract potential customers. What one doesn’t see are the pimps watching their every move, the makeup concealing abuse and bruises, the illegitimate children with no future, the dirt and squalor of brothels and debilitating, sometimes fatal, sexual diseases. Hazards of the job one might argue, maybe, for those that choose this profession willingly. But many are either forced or compelled by circumstance to take up ‘the oldest profession’. Fact is prostitutes have been around since time immemorial. Question is what can be done to improve their lot? Bear in mind that it’s not only women who are selling their bodies to improve their standard of living, there are also male prostitutes and girl/boy child prostitutes. Legalising prostitution can help in resolving current health issues, generate income for families that have financial difficulties, and also result in an improvement of treatment of prostitutes. The benefits of legalising prostitution definitely outweigh the harm.

Prostitution is the act or practice of engaging in sexual activity indiscriminately. By legalising it and having rules and laws governing the type of activity allowed, the age limits, mutual consent, use of condoms, rate listings, control of pimps, equal opportunities for illegitimate children, acceptance of the social stigma attached to the women especially, would go a long way in curbing many of the menaces that threaten these people. Unfortunately, prostitutes come under the marginalised sector of society, but with legislation they can be gradually inducted into mainstream, beneficial and contributing citizens.

Governments need to take an active role in ensuring safe sex and preventing violence being inflicted on the prostitutes. Everyone has the right to lead a life of dignity and respect, with all available resources easily accessible to them. Legal ruling would help in generating income for families that have financial difficulties, and also result in an improvement of treatment of prostitutes. The benefits of legalising prostitution definitely outweigh the harm.

It is extremely common to consider AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and other such health issues to be linked with prostitution. AIDS may be one of the evils of prostitution; however, it can only truly be curtailed by legalisation and free distribution of condoms amongst several positive steps. Awareness of health issues could be created through seminars and conferences. These should be conducted in such a manner that they encourage everyone, especially sex workers to take medical tests. Through legalisation, the government can regulate and create a system by which all sex workers go through regular medical tests with free treatment also being offered. Also, one must realise that prostitution is not the only cause of the rapid spread of AIDS in some countries. Sex between men and sharing injection equipment are examples of other causes of AIDS. In India, where prostitution is not legalised, 1.75 - 3.15 million Indians are living with AIDS. This shows how making prostitution illegal forces people to make it an underground practice. This in turn, results in unprotected paid sex which only creates further health problems. Legalisation proved to be successful in the Netherlands where only 0.9 out of a 1000 people have AIDS. A public health review from the World Health Organization (WHO) states: “In Senegal, HIV prevalence among pregnant women has been below 1% for more than a decade.”

Prostitution is a major source of income for unemployed, unskilled females who need to work to support themselves or a family. It is interesting to note that many people work in the sex industry because they see it as their only means of alleviating serious financial problems. Not everyone makes it through college, nor does everyone find a job easily in the competitive world we live in today. Women who drop out of school may choose to follow the profession of prostitution. A prime example is that of sex tourism. In fact, in 1975, the World Bank built an economic plan for Thailand around the sex tourism industry, which helped turn sex tourism into the country's number one export. Legalising prostitution could also lead to the government actually earning revenue. Prostitution has been considered a business activity in Sweden since 1982, and as a result proceeds from the sale of sex are subjected to taxation just like any other form of income. This way the Swedish government is also benefitting from the legalisation of prostitution. In the UK, legalising prostitution and collecting taxes from prostitutes could raise at least £250m a year for the Treasury.

Legalising prostitution would also reduce gender violence, allowing women to escape prostitution, if they so choose, and make child prostitution impossible. It is very shocking that even though prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, most governments do not have regulations protecting prostitutes. It is time we stopped seeing prostitutes as a problem. The real problem is those who abuse and harass these vulnerable people. The BBC describes some of the places where harassment of prostitutes has been controlled due to legalisation. In the rural counties of Nevada the two biggest areas are some 80 miles from Las Vegas and some 60 miles from Reno. Brothels there are clean safe and well regulated. The girls get a safe place to work free from physical harm. By contrast in the built-up areas of Las Vegas and Reno, where prostitution is not legal, prostitutes suffer from all the abuse and harassment familiar in most cities. From this it seems like legalisation is clearly the way to go.

People argue that prostitution demeans women, degrades their position in society and encourages viewing women as objects instead of humans. However, prostitution is not forcing a person to do an act that he or she does not want to; in fact, it is a mutual agreement between two people for exchange of money for sex. It is the right of each and every one of us to use our bodies the way we want to. Legalising prostitution will help allow women to practise this right without suffering law related consequences if caught. Legalising prostitution will help eliminate the stigma attached to the word itself. Girls indulging in prostitution will be viewed as professionals and not be treated any different from women working in other sectors of the economy.

People also believe that legalisation would make society an unsafe place for women. This argument can be refuted by the fact that the level of rape would decrease in society. Men would be less inclined to sexually attack innocent women if they have a legal alternative.

Legalisation would resolve prevailing health issues related to prostitution since there would be an increased awareness. Additionally, prostitution would not only benefit the sex workers financially, but also generate revenue for the government. Finally, prostitutes would not suffer from abuse, and would be assured of job security. Hence, legalisation of prostitution is an essential step in sexual freedom.


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