When people think of sex work, it inspires images of a criminal and dangerous world. However, sex work is more nuanced than what the public imagines it to be, and the illegality actually heightens the danger of a profession that should be legalized. Prohibition creates criminality and violence where there could be civility and industry. Likewise, government regulations on human rights truly never help, it only causes more pain to those involved.
To illustrate, Abigail Hall-Blanco wrote an article for the Las Vegas Sun entitled “Legalized Prostitution is Safer” in which she points out, “While this suggestion may sound radical, consider that organizations including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International call for the same.” These human rights organizations have published statistics regarding the positive benefits of legalization, pointing out that decriminalization can ultimately stop the spread of disease, violence and save human lives. UCLA public policy professor, Sharon Hong, reported 24% fewer cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) amongst Rhode Islanders after the state briefly legalized sex work between 2003 and 2009. The same study showed a 17% drop in rapes across Rhode Island during this six-year period.
Not only does legalization mean more liberty, more freedom and less government, it also means a step in the right direction for women’s rights. Many women who become prostitutes do so willingly. In fact, sex work is not only empowering for some women, it’s liberating. For this reason, these financially self-sufficient women deserve the right to work out of a storefront, a legitimate place of business, where they can be safe. These same politicians who tell us that life is sacred are killing hundreds of women with their prohibitive laws. We have the ability to build an unassailable existence. Life is sacred, and that fact alone should bypass any moral issues some congressional legislators may have.
People who work as prostitutes are at high risk for violent attacks. Without legalization, the sex industry remains a black market in which abusive customers know that sex workers ultimately have no recourse if violence is committed upon them. While some sex workers find criminal enforcers who will punish unruly clientele, this is still showing that when sex work remains a black market enterprise, violence seems to be the only solution. Two-hundred-and-four out of 100,000 sex workers are murdered. If, for example, 0.2% of Uber drivers were murdered annually, this would be of grave concern to the general public. However, sex work is ultimately associated with women and poverty 一 two groups that have been historically marginalized through public policy and legislature in this country and around the world.
People who work in the sex industry are also far less likely to get screened for STDs. This creates an unhealthy environment for the sex workers, but also for clientele. Anti-prohibitionists improve society by reducing the spread of deadly diseases. And if the moral hangups get in the way of good policy, it is time to set those high principles aside and face reality. While alcohol, marijuana and prostitution may be deemed morally unrighteous, prohibition still creates more problems than it solves.
Sex work is legal across eight different countries. These countries include Latvia, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. The laws of how prostitution is regulated in each country varies. But prostitutes across each of these countries have made their voices loud and clear. In public interviews time and time again, sex workers have expressed that they feel safer working in a controlled environment, as opposed to working in the black market.
Prostitutes should be given the option to work out of brothels as opposed to working in the streets. This is why the main focus should be giving prostitutes the legal option to work out of brothels as opposed to working the streets. In an article for Inside Turkey, sex worker Melike Arzu Sakiroglu stated in an interview with the paper, “You either work through an escort website or the streets, or work in a bordello.” She continued, “If you work in the streets, he could be a psycho or a serial killer.” Many prostitutes like Melike who work in the industry have known friends who have died working in the streets. Even in countries where prostitution is legal, women who work out in the streets are subject to certain dangers. This is why legalization will give men and women the opportunity to work out of brothels, bordellos or places of business in which sex work can be done in a safe and controlled environment, where the sex worker is not forced to go into the home of a client.
Ultimately, prohibition is never the answer. Prostitution is similar to anything else that can be legalized. It has the potential to be utilized by criminal elements if forced to live in the shadows. And more importantly, if legalization can be passed in other countries besides places like Greece and Hungary, thousands of peoples’ lives can be saved, and violence can be avoided.