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Referred to as a sin in the Bible and deemed unethical by most, prostitution has a lengthy and turbulent history. Seen as early as the time of the Babylonian civilization, prostitution has always been a widely debated topic but, not one with much support as seen by the illegality of it in 166 countries out of 195 countries. However, making it illegal has done little to slow it down. Prostitutes or sex workers have become smarter and more discreet as to where, when, and how they go about conducting business. These locations, however, do not always provide a safe space for them because they run the risk of being physically or sexually assaulted and without a safe haven for adult prostitutes the number of children forced into prostitution skyrockets. There is also an increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases when prostitution is illegal, most seen in women and children. Prostitution should be decriminalized because it has been around for thousands of years and getting rid of it would be nearly impossible, it would be a safer environment for the sex workers if legalized and child prostitution rates would decrease, and legal prostitution results in lower STDs for women and men.
Prostitution as mentioned above has been around since the time of the Babylonian civilization and more than likely before even then. Once considered a sacred form of worship in temples, prostitution is now seen as unethical and those who practice it are judged harshly; therefore, there have been many instances in different countries where people have tried to eradicate prostitution but, have only been successful for small periods of time. In times of Ancient Rome, although oppressed by their limited participation in the law and constricted by a lack of responsibilities and privileges like those of full Roman citizens, sex workers soared. Even with the restrictions placed on them, sex workers continued to flourish and their work remained. During the Middle Ages, despite the belief and warnings of the Catholic Church, prostitution thrived even more so. As seen in the sixteenth century, punishment in the form of removal of ears or the nose, branding, imprisonment, and shaving of the head had little effect on sex workers. Fast forward to the twentieth century, there was an increase in the number of power women held. Many people, many women, again began to question why other women would become prostitutes. In that time there was again a decrease in the number of brothels and sex workers; many of the moral reformers took credit for this outcome but, in actuality, this decrease was due to the birth of telephones. Some sex workers came off the street but began offering their services through the phone and the term, “call girl” was born. Now, in the United States alone there are about one million prostitutes, as for the rest of the world, there are about forty million and this number is constantly growing. Nearly four thousand years later, and prostitution has continued and criminalizing it has just made it go under but, decriminalizing it would prove to be more effective and is a lot more likely than prostitution being completely eradicated.
One of the greatest risks associated with prostitution is not having a safe haven for men and women to work. Prostitution is said to be a victimless crime and in a sense it is but, there is also risk associated. Many sex workers do not report rape or violence due to fear of being punished. However, if prostitution was decriminalized it would be much safer for the workers who are simply doing their job. Since a woman does not necessarily choose her clients she is at a higher risk of violence. If prostitutes had a safe place and if prostitution was decriminalized they would not have to worry about facing this kind of violence, for they would not fear to report such crimes to the authorities. These women and men need a voice, and legalization of prostitution would give them that. In Spain, where prostitution is not criminalized women work in businesses that allow sex workers to flourish. The prostitution industry in Spain has blossomed to the tune of twenty-six billion dollars, almost twice as much that of the sex clubs in the United States. This decriminalization allows sex workers to work in a safe space free from verbal, physical, or psychological torment; they are in a place that shuts out people who demonstrate that kind of behavior. Meanwhile, the criminalization of prostitution forces prostitutes underground and into association with criminal activity, particularly the use and exchange of illegal drugs for sex (Weiner 98). Having a secure space to work, women and men could continue to work in a place free of drugs and free of violence. There is also the matter of children in prostitution, which has been known to increase when prostitution is illegal, and those children to suffer violent retaliation, in the form of physical assault or even rape. Of them, women who were in human trafficking 70% found themselves there before the age of eighteen. Children and teens are at the highest risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Traffickers often hunt for children and teens, identifying vulnerable victims and using acts of kindness to groom them into submission. Many of these children and teens are then transported to other countries where a different language is spoken and where they do not know their rights; they stay for fear of a worse punishment. In countries where prostitution has been decriminalized, there is a decrease in the number of children and women in sex trafficking. In the United States alone, the sexual exploitation of children accounts for about 100,000. In places where prostitution has been decriminalized, there is a significant drop in the number of victims of sex trafficking.
One of the biggest risks that are associated with prostitution is sexually transmitted diseases. Women and children are thirteen and a half times more likely to contract sexual diseases, due to the environment and how vulnerable they are. It was not until an increase in the amount of HIV positive prostitutes and their clients that more research was done to determine the potential risks. In many instances, clients refused to pay for a service if they had to wear a condom, citing discomfort, putting the sex worker at a greater risk to contract a sexually transmitted disease. However, if prostitution were decriminalized incidents like these could be reported without the fear of being tried as a criminal. Scholars have found that male clients’ economic power over female sex workers inhibits female sex workers’ ability to engage in health-seeking practices such as wearing a condom. Scholars have also argued that men need to be involved in HIV prevention programs and take responsibility for their sexual health in order to impact female sex worker’s health-seeking practices. Placing blame on just the female prostitutes completely negates the problem at hand. Both males and females need to use protection and the legalization of prostitution has proved to lower the rate of the sexually transmitted disease tremendously. In the state of Nevada, where prostitution is legal, ever since testing for HIV began in 1986, no brothel prostitute has tested positive as the state requires all customers to use a condom for all sexual activity. Decriminalization in Nevada has proved very effective and if the rest of the world followed suit, sex workers, both men, and women would not have to worry of running unnecessary risks when it came to their health.
The argument that legal prostitution results in lower STDs for women and men in something that is not likely. In countries like India, where prostitution has been decriminalized there is a high and increasing number of men with sexually transmitted diseases. Also, the argument that the number of women and children decreases as prostitution is decriminalized is not something that is able to be measured considering the fact that there are on average, six-hundred thousand to eight-hundred thousand victims of sex trafficking a year. Sexually transmitted diseases are not limited to penetrative sex but also oral sex. During oral sex, prostitutes can transmit diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, HPV, and herpes. As far as human trafficking goes, children have long been victims. They are taken to different countries, more than likely where the language is not spoken and forced into prostitution and they comply for fear of being punished or worse killed never to see their families again.
Although some points were tried to be proven, there are studies to prove the effectiveness of how decriminalizing prostitution has actually lessened the amount of sexually transmitted diseases. In India, that is correct there is a higher amount of people with sexually transmitted diseases but, that is largely due to the fact that the male clientele refuses to wear condoms. They use their financial status to force women to have sex without proper protection thus further spreading the sexually transmitted disease they themselves already have or have contracted due to refusing to wear a condom. As far as sex trafficking goes when prostitution is legalized there is an uptake in the number of clients visiting brothels, like those in Nevada, instead of participating in trafficking.
Although it is highly unlikely that prostitution around the world becomes decriminalized, there is always hope that it will. Prostitution has been around for thousands of years and although some might find it amoral, it does not seem to be ceasing any time soon. Despite all the hurdles placed before them, sex workers have thrived and deserve to have prostitution decriminalized. Doing so would also create a much more safe haven for them to be able to work without the fear of rape or violence and then not even being able to report it because doing so would lead to a criminal charge.
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