Should prostitution be legalized

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One article reads, In Munich, for instance, streetwalking is restricted to nine designated areas of the city. In two of these areas, streetwalkers may ply their trade at any time of day. In the other seven, prostitutes are allowed on the streets only between 8 pm and 6 am. Prostitutes who solicit and negotiate off the street may practice at any time of day in any part of Munich, except in the city center (Yondorf, 1979).

Prostitution has been legalized in many European countries including, Austria, Denmark, England, Holland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and West Germany (Yondorf, 1979). Brothels were also legalized in Nevada in 1971 and there’s an estimated 21 in existence today. Prostitution is legal in certain countries and now the US is starting to ponder the question of legalized prostitution. The question it, should it be?

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For prostitution & strengths/weaknesses

Weitzer notes that there are around 90,000 arrests made every year in the US for the violation of prostitution laws. Studies have shown that millions of dollars are spent on enforcing prostitution laws every year and the San Francisco Crime Committee determined that spending on trying to control the issue buys essentially nothing of a positive nature. While the Atlanta’s Task Force on Prostitution believed it was a waste of money. They also believed that law enforcement didn’t help much and little protection could be offered anyways. The problem could only be contained (Weitzer, 2000). Alternatives to the criminalization of prostitution was evaluated in this article.


Decriminalization would eliminate forms of criminal penalties and would leave prostitution unregulated. There is virtually no public support of decriminalization and public policy makers are virtually opposed. Taken to the most serious level, decriminalization would allow prostitutes and their customers to engage sexually without restriction, except for prohibitions on public nudity and sex, (Weitzer, 2000).


Legalization of prostitution would be the licensing or registration, confining prostitutes to red light districts, state-restricted brothels, mandatory medical exams, special business taxes, etc. The goal behind this tactic is that it would eliminate some of the above problems. However, the public seems to be divided on the issue, while policy makers seem to be silent on the issue as it would be condoning prostitution.

Legalization confines prostitution to specific areas. In Nevada, where prostitution is legal in some areas, brothels are limited to small-scale operations in rural parts of Nevada. But this model still doesn’t solve the problem of street prostitution in urban areas.

To determine whether or not this tactic would be successful depends on a prostitute’s willingness to move along with the regulations at hand. Prostitutes who have johns are sometimes not allowed to work in the zoned areas. Even with the stipulations, putting regulations who can work in the sex industry, some would still be excluded, forcing them to work illegally. Even with zoning, there’s not a hundred percent that street prostitution would actually be confined to those zoned areas. Along with decriminalization, legalization has no foreseeable future (Weitzer, 2000).

Two-track model

With decriminalization and legislation both having an unforeseeable future, a two-track model was laid out. The first was indoor prostitution. That means, all forms of indoor prostitution including call girls, escort agencies and massage parlors would be legal. Claims made say that law enforcement spends countless hours and time in undercover operations related to indoor prostitution. So, by making it legalized, costs would be cut. In 1990, federal raids culminated a total of $2.5 million on a two-year undercover investigation.

The second track proposed was restructuring street prostitution control. This model would enforce a greater awareness of streetwalkers and johns, strengthening the enforcement on the streets. This would also bring reform to the need for a more comprehensive program of meaningful job training and other needed services for those who want to leave prostitution. (Weitzer, 2000)

Weitzer notes, Getting prostitutes off the streets requires positive incentives and assistance in the form of housing, job training, counseling, and drug treatment, but the dominant approach is overwhelmingly coercive rather than rehabilitative. Past experience abundantly shows the failure of narrowly punitive intervention. Without meaningful alternatives to prostitution there is little opportunity for a career change.

Essentially, the two-track model outlined have advantages over decriminalization and legalization. It is superior for these reasons: public preferences regarding the proper focus of law enforcement, efficient use of criminal justice resources, and the harm-reduction principle. Key goals to this policy would be (1) redirecting control efforts from indoor to street prostitution, (2) gender-neutral law enforcement, and (3) providing support services and assistance for persons who want to leave prostitution, (Weitzer, 2000).

Against prostitution & strengths/weaknesses

The other side is that any form of legalized prostitution increases sex trafficking and does not protect women. The Texas International Law Journal states, that legalized prostitution increases the demand for trafficking victims. When prostitution is legal, customers want unlimited access to these women, most of whom are culturally diverse, creating demand and a reason for international trade of women (Holman, 2009).

Legalization also increases the Black Market. But, some scholars have disagreed and claimed that the legalization of prostitution reduces the black market. Katri Sieberg says, if it were legalized then the government”and not the organized criminals”would control it; and the government could gain from taxing it. However, it has not been proven accurate. In fact, black markets continue to flourish in areas where prostitution is legalized. Legalized prostitution is a trafficker’s best shield, allowing him to legitimize his trade in sex slaves and making it more difficult to identify trafficking victims.

Even in countries where women are required to obtain a working permit to prove that they work there, several NGOs have discovered that traffickers involved in the black market illegally use the work permits and will coach women to refer to themselves as independent migrant sex workers.

Some say the legalizing prostitution will help the women against abuse. They also claim that it’s a victimless crime because the woman is choosing to put herself in that position. American journalist John Stossel wrote: Don’t prostitutes own their bodies? Shouldn’t they be able to freely contract to use their bodies as they wish? Who was hurt here? This is a victimless crime.

But prostitution is not a victimless crime. Prostitutes are still experiencing a high rate of abuse even in countries where it is legal and regulated. In an international study, 186 prostitutes were interviewed who were also victims of abuse. They claimed that even though it may have been a legalized brothel that had regulations, abuse was still a present factor. By legalizing prostitution, pimps and johns are given the position to become business man sexual entrepreneurs instead of criminals.

A survey concluded that 76% of prostitutes in the US have been beaten by their pimp. Another frequent argument is that legalized prostitution will help to protect the women’s health. It’s true that health checks are required, However this only applies to the prostitutes, so it is only protecting the customer from risk of STDs.

Some argue that legalizing prostitution will protect their health as most brothels will require them to have health exams. Some countries even enforce a strict condom policy, but there’s no way to always ensure that happens. A lot of times, men will pay extra for sex without a condom. Because the women are desperate, a lot of times they will forgo their health in order to make more money. In a US survey of prostitutes, 45% stated that men had been abusive when asked to wear a condom. The women’s pimps are not usually concerned with their health and will force them to not wear a condom if a customer will pay more.

Furthermore, even if the women were protected from the violence of their pimps and customers, physical health with the use of condoms, their mental health would be ruined. A lot of times, the women will be repeatedly raped to be conditioned for a life of prostitution. Prostitutes are forced to service many men every day and often must meet quotas in order to get paid. Studies have shown that prostituted women often show the same psychological injuries as war veterans and tortured victims. Psychologist Melissa Farley also found that a study of 68% of prostitutes in nine different countries were diagnosed with PTSD (Holman, 2009).

Raymond also states that the legalization of prostitution encourages men to purchase women and use them for their own sexual purposes. Many men who previously would not have risked buying women for sex now see prostitution as acceptable. When legal barriers disappear, so too do the social and ethical barriers to treating women as sexual merchandise. Legalization of prostitution sends the message to new generations of men and boys that women are sexual commodities and that prostitution is harmless fun. (Raymond, 2003).

Legalization of prostitution does not enhance a woman’s choice. Most women did not choose prostitution from a range of other options. It was their only option. And they were desperate to feed themselves and their children – survival strategies. In his studies, Raymond said that these women didn’t choose prostitution out of a plethora of other options. Rather than consenting to prostitution, a prostituted woman more accurately complies with the extremely limited options available to her. Her compliance is required by the fact of having to adapt to conditions of inequality that are set by the customer who pays her to do what he wants her to do.


Another article states that criminalization of prostitution violates the right of self-sovereignty in depriving individuals of important forms of control over their own minds and bodies, but non-legalization does not violate this right. Therefore, it suggested that as a matter of principle, to advocate decriminalization but to oppose legalization. (Marneffe, 2012)

Likewise, I will say that prostitution is criminalized when there are criminal penalties for the sale of sexual services. Prostitution is decriminalized when there are no criminal penalties for the sale of sexual services. Prostitution is legalized when there are no criminal penalties for operating a sex business, such as a brothel or escort service, and no criminal penalties for acting as a paid agent for sexual services, and no penalties for purchasing these services from anyone above the age of sexual consent and legal employment.

Marneffe claims that by criminalizing prostitution, you are taking away a person’s ability to have control over their own mind and body, which is taking away their right to self-sovereignty. But by non-legalizing prostitution, you are not prohibiting those rights. Laws that prohibit someone from selling their body for a service and doing what they want with it is taking away a moral right. But laws that obstruct someone’s ability to own a brothel does not take away a moral right because the person still has control over their mind and body.

He believes self-sovereignty means, We have the right to decide what to reflect on, what to daydream about, what to imagine, what experiences to have in our minds using our own bodies, and what moods to try to be in. We have a right to decide what to put into our bodies, how to take care of our bodies, how to use our bodies for our own benefit, work or pleasure.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that right has no parameters. Marneffe gave this example: A man does not have the right throw his body off the top of a skyscraper no matter who might be below. So, because of this, there needs of be a theory of self-sovereignty in place to make clear the conditions to which the government can interfere when it comes to limiting an individual’s control over their mind and body. One possible theory he proposed was in Mill’s One Liberty: the government may limit an adult’s liberty against his will in ways that can be justified as protecting others from harm, (Marneffe, 2012).

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