They say that prostitution is perhaps the oldest profession in the world. Ancient books, including the Bible, provide account of different activities pertaining to prostitutes.
Whether in the setting of religious practices or in social contexts, prostitution appears to be a part of the lives of men and women in all places and in different times throughout history. In developing countries as well as in developed countries, there are red light districts.
Although the laws of most countries prohibit prostitution, probably because of the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is an open secret that these red light districts continue their operations. Some countries, however, such as the Netherlands and Thailand, have implemented a rather unconventional approach to the issue and that is to legalize prostitution.
A number of interesting issues arise out of this. From a policy standpoint, is it better to legalize prostitution since its existence in the society cannot be denied by people? If so, what are the implications on this on the values of the society?
Does it matter if the issue is brought out into the open? On a cursory glance at the issue, with legalization, the government can help ensure that women working as prostitutes are free from sexually transmitted disease, thereby protecting both men and women from these illnesses.
Likewise, the government can help regulate the number of prostitution centers operating in any given city and there will be a better reckoning of the number of prostitutes serving in the country.
On the other hand, there might be important implications of this policy on several institutions of the society, not the least on marriage and the family. Likewise, there are religions who feel strongly against prostitution—legal or otherwise. Given these concerns, which course of action should governments take?
This paper looks at the issue in broader terms by looking at the pros and cons of the legalization of prostitution and a red light district. The experiences of the countries that legalized prostitution will also be looked at such as Thailand, the Netherlands, and Germany. Through this, there will be a grounded view on the matter. It will also explore the matter of legalizing prostitution in Canada while taking into account the legal, social, and cultural impacts of this kind of policy.
Legalized Prostitution: the Pros
Prostitution, in itself, is already a very contentious issue. The issue of legalizing it and decriminalizing it is also a contentious one, especially for organizations, even religious denominations, and individuals advocating for women’s rights. The issue itself is complex and requires careful analysis if any given society were to make a stand regarding legalizing prostitution.
Several countries have already legalized prostitution. The examples of these countries are the Netherlands, some states in Australia, New Zealand, Nevada, and Switzerland. In the United Kingdom, prostitution in itself is not illegal but there are several activities associated with it that are considered illegal. In these countries, prostitution is regulated and the governments constantly monitor people whose professions are in this area.
There are also countries where prostitution is technically illegal but is allowed to flourish perhaps because of economic considerations and the poverty of people who are living in these countries (Farley, 2003).
The most prominent reasons used as basis in legalizing prostitution is that it is impossible to eliminate and will only continue underground if left unchecked. Instead of letting people deal with prostitution underground, they decided to bring it out to the open so that the governments can regulate it better and prevent the occurrence or sexually transmitted diseases.
Moreover, legalizing prostitution also limits sexual slavery and wresting the control away from criminal organizations promoting prostitution. This way, the government is able to generate additional revenue from it as well. In some instances, legalizing prostitution may also lead to greater sensitivity to the health of sex workers and their working condition, which are usually not the best of conditions.
With this approach, the governments seek to take away the bond connecting prostitution and crime (Armentano, 1993).
Paul Armentano (1993) presents several interesting arguments regarding the legalization of prostitution all over the world. In his article posted at the Freedom Daily, he says that prostitution can be seen in terms of ownership of people’s bodies who have the right to do what they want with it, including its sale for the purposes of sex.
He also argues that thousands of American women make their living by engaging in sex work. These women have a steady flow of customers. The trouble, however, is that having sex with a prostitute is a sure way of contracting HIV and AIDS.
Armentano (1993) also makes a case for better use of government funds. Instead of using public funds for the crusade against prostitution, the government can redirect these funds for other more worthy spending. This money, instead, can be used to protect the public against criminals and help build infrastructures for people to enjoy. Besides, whatever war is being waged against prostitution is unlikely to win because prostitution is an enduring profession.