We live in a society where the words ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ are still the most powerful insults that can be leveled against a woman. The power behind these words derive from the belief that to consent to selling your body through prostitution, is to undermine your status as an individual human being; your essential humanity is degraded too as it is tantamount to a form of sexual slavery. In the same society though “sex sells” and Hollywood has proven it. It’s a story as old as time – everyone’s heard it, at one point everyone’s talked about it, but to this day the topic is still on the top then things to discuss in hopes that, someday, someone will figure out the perfect answer and put “prostitution” into the box of World Problems Solved (it’s quite empty at the moment).
It’s never easy though, not for these moral and ethic ridden discussions anyways. So here goes…
At the core of the this debate is the problematic term “legalisation.” On the surface of course it means justifying something as a part of normal civilian life by a judiciary body. However, there is no such thing as a global legal system, nor is every judiciary body the same.If prostitution was to be legalised globally how would it occur? How would the law be made to align the different systems in the world? How will it cater to a liberal place such as Holland where there are parks for sexual activities or in more conservative countries where it happens underground?
Aside from the logistical issues though, there’s a global mind-set that believes that by legalizing something it becomes better for society or makes it safer. The pro-legalisation argument would be: “wouldn’t it be at least a little bit better if it were legalised? Wouldn’t there be less stigma, and wouldn’t it allow prostitutes to be protected?” The problem, however, is legalizing something does not resolve any of the problems the activity creates. Women will still subjugate themselves to the violence of this activity for lack of better options. Women will still undergo the health risks prostitution subjects them too. Women in this job will still be abhorred by the morally uptight members of the society. Ultimately dignifying prostitution as “legal work” does not dignify the women, it simply dignifies the sex industry.
The women. Legalising prostitution does not help the women – the women who have entered this market not by choice but as a step towards survival. The women who have no other alternatives to support their families and themselves. The women who are constantly at health risks for partaking in this industry. Majority of the prostitution industry is carried by the those who have been trafficked into the country – after the fall of the Berlin wall, brothel owners reported that 9 out of every 10 women in the legalised German sex industry, were from eastern Europe and other former Soviet countries. In Amsterdam, previously legalised brothels were shut down as they increased organised crime in the form of trafficking. Where is the betterment the law was meant to bring?
The subject of prostitution raises both legal and moral questions – the answer then cannot disregard one or the other but must include both. The question then to be asked is does legalising something morally and intrinsically wrong remove the damage that it does to a society? For those who say “yes”, I ask what message will we be sending future male generations by legalising prostitution? What about the scores of daughters of families who have no other alternatives? We’re not making a better world for the future by legalising prostitution, but (for those who say “no”) what is the solution. Why are we not using the law to create a system where that decriminalises women in prostitution and provides them with exit services. with safer alternatives. Why aren’t we using the legal system to create a law that criminalises men who buy sex and traffickers?
Prostitution won’t go away, but it can be managed, not by legalising it but by using the law to help the women.