Health and Safety in the Sex Industry

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Prostitution is one of the most provocative topics around the world ” one of the definitions of Prostitution the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment (Oxford, 2018). The meaning itself can be complicated and construed in many ways by our society. Another factor that impacts how society interprets is associated with someone’s background, moral and values. For example, countries that have strong religious believes, prostitution can be considered as something malicious or a criminal act that is not tolerable by any means and the punishment for those who practice or violate this conduct can lead to death penalty sentences. Other countries, with more liberal views, can interpret in a less harmful way; which can be more beneficial when dealing with legalizing prostitution.

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In many countries of South America, including Brazil and Argentina prostitution is legalized and is recognized as any other working vocation. The sex workers still need to handle the part of being looked the wrong way by society. However, these workers can have more social assistance, since is not considered illegal, if they are sexually assaulted by someone they do not need to hide or fear for their lives, they can go to the authorities and report these crimes. Which is the opposite in countries where prostitution is illegal, the victims must face with these issues without any help from authorities. In the event, that they would need to report anything, they can be put at jeopardy of facing the charges themselves, with the likelihood of possibility of jail time, for an act, where they were the victims and not the offenders.

In many other nations including Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand which are countries that became more exposed to the discussion about legalizing prostitution or decriminalizing prostitution. They consider the pros and cons of each decision. In Europe, another aspect plays a significant with crimes related to prostitution: the growth of human trafficking.

Legalizing and decriminalizing prostitution can have some impact with decreasing the number of people that are victims of sex trafficking. The biggest target for sex trafficking are teenagers and women from developing countries. They are attracted by the criminals with promises that offer them the opportunity to change their lives forever. Most of these women, do not have any educational background and are sometimes seduced by the idea of a new life that they become an easy target for organizations that benefit from human trafficking.

When governments are trying to decide between either decriminalize or legalize prostitution, they must analyze the impact that it could have from these decisions. One can say that it would reduce sex trafficking as many women would no longer feel like prisoners and will have the freedom to work for anyone without having their lives endangered or being threatened by criminal organizations that exploit sex workers.

Some of the statistics from countries where prostitution have been legalized could be viewed as a step in the right direction to address some concerns arising from the practice of prostitution. Sweden, for example, has approached this matter and has achieved positive results from same. Such as, that other nations started following similar procedures in their countries. The Swedish Sex Purchase Act, which makes legal to sell sex but makes illegal to buy sex. Since, its innovative approach to making prostitution legal, during the 15 years since its establishment, the crimes related to sexual assaults against sex workers have been reduced to half.

In Amsterdam, by legalizing prostitution, it lowered the number of crimes related to prostitution and poverty. Other European countries also had positive results by legalizing prostitution. In New Zealand, it promoted public health and reduced child prostitution, which is another big problem worldwide. In Australia, the government formed a system where all sex workers and brothels were required to be registered and entered into a database. With this method, Australia was able to determine how many people were working on this specific industry, who are the people and where they are located, which was helpful to understand where these workers are located. With the information obtained, the Australian government was able to understand what policies would be adequate for its citizens. What benefits these works would have and what obligation the government could impose on them.

Countries like German, some of the sex workers are recognized as regular workers who are paid for their work, receive benefits and must pay taxes. As well as the owners of brothels who are required to be registered, pay the required fees imposed by the authority and comply with the regulations. By having a system like the ones mentioned above, it is critical to understand about the people that are currently working as sex workers, who are these people, what do they require, their duties as a citizen and most importantly offer them benefits; such as health benefits, retirement benefits, etc. Also, making sure their rights are protected under the law, the same way as any other citizen. As many cases of rapes are committed against sex workers; most of these cases are not reported, because the workers are afraid of reporting same. Since its illegal, they can be the ones facing chargers not their perpetrators. With a system where they can feel protected under the law and have their voices be heard; they can have the same options as any other citizen that would be in the same situation without feeling judged. Because it is not illegal, many offenders, exploit of the situation as they know they will not be facing charges for these crimes.

One interesting example arose from the state of Rhode Island, from 1980-2004 Rhode Island did not make their laws very specific to what constitutes prostitution, which created a gap in their regulations; before this time, these laws were never challenged by anyone. As per their laws, if the sexual practice was between walls, in a closed environment; not on the streets, it would not be considered prostitution. From this opening, positive results were achieved with this understanding. The number of sexual assault cases reported was reduced by 31% from 2004-2009. More in-depth and detailed research to evaluate the data reported and surveys found regarding the positive outcome should be considered before determining any conclusion, whether it was just a coincidence or by having a gap on this interpretation of what was considered prostitution in Rhode Island’s law had any bearing to this matter. However, to some degree an association should be taken into consideration, once the laws regarding prostitution were relaxed, the number of sexual assault cases was reduced.

Another example, how the laws and regulations can differ from state to state. The State of Nevada takes a different approach when it comes to law and regulations regarding prostitution. It is the only state where prostitution is permitted in the United States. There are specific laws and regulations regarding the same.

Nevada law prohibits solicitation and prostitution unless it takes place in a licensed house of prostitution. State law bans licensed brothels in counties with populations of 700,000 or more (currently Clark County, home of Las Vegas). Only ten counties in Nevada allow prostitution, and even then, only within licensed brothels. Churchill County allows prostitution, but the last brothel license was surrendered in 2004. (Martinez, 2016).

According to Nevada’s Revised Statutes:

  • Prostitutes must be at least 18 years old and must be employed by their own free will
  • Prostitutes must submit to regular HIV and STD testing
  • Prostitutes must use condoms
  • Brothels can’t be located within 400 yards of a school or a place of worship
  • Brothels can’t be located on a principal street, and
  • Brothels may not advertise in a public theatre, on a public street or highway, or in any county, city, or town where prostitution is prohibited. (Nevada Prostitution, n.d.).

The understanding between legalized or decriminalized must be taken into consideration to achieve improved results. Legalizing prostitution would mean that the laws and regulations would have to be put into place to make a safer environment. Also, what would be considered acceptable places? Would it apply to everyone that can be considered sex workers, what about tax payments and benefits? Health care programs? There are a lot of affecting parts that come into place in whether deciding to make legal or remove the criminal aspect of it.

If we decriminalize prostitution, what would be the cons and benefits for same? If we are just taking the criminal portion out of it, would it make a difference for the people that are involved in this industry? All options must be considered an examination from other countries that have been successful in this matter should be considered prior to making decisions.

As mentioned before, Nevada is the only state that currently handles the legality of prostitution, with exceptions and regulations. In the remaining states, prostitution is illegal. There are state and federal laws that handles prostitution. Because every state handles this issue differently, every state has different penalties for charges related to prostitution.

The current system used in the remainder of the states in the United States is not just or fair. Particularly, to the people that are harmed. It is more beneficial for the offender since it is illegal, most people who have encountered a situation where they require the help of the system, felt that the system punishes them instead of protecting them.

After reading various sources of information, I would say I would be in favor of legalizing prostitution. As prostitution is considered one of the world oldest profession, it is reasonable to assume that either legalized or not; it will always exist. Some people work in this industry either because they feel the only way of surviving and having a source of income, where others understand just like any other profession. However, the issue becomes when you have states that are more conservative and others that are liberal. Having different views regarding the same issue can create more obstacles than results. I would try to follow the path that Nevada has taken; not everywhere is legal, only certain counties, taking into consideration the demographics of the population. Having regulations that will set the definitions, laws and, regulations related to this issue. Also, helping and giving an option as well for those who wish to leave and start into a new direction. As some of the people involved in this industry have none or limited educational background. Making it harder to find different career options.

As for the ones that would like to be part of it, health care should be one of the main thoughts, require the people involved in the sex industry be examined regularly and sexual education to bring awareness regarding sexually transmitted diseases. I would also follow the model from Germany where sex workers are responsible for paying taxes to the government and having benefit options; such as social security and retirement plans. Just like any other work environment.

The issue with legalizing prostitution is a subject that it has so many moving parts but if we look for models where countries have had successful outcome; it would be a step in the right direction. We also need to recognize, that if we are a country where we have all this freedom, people should be free to choose what they want to do with their bodies and the government should not interfere with this option. We need to set law and regulations, just like we have done with other issues in the past.


Prostitution | Definition of prostitution in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

Nevada Prostitution and Solicitation Laws – (n.d.). Retrieved from

Martinez, M. (2016, October 19). Nevada’s legal brothels: Things to know. Retrieved December 5, 2018, from

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Health and safety in the sex industry. (2019, Jul 10). Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from

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