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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Argument: Prostitution Should Be Legalized

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” (Jefferson) The criminalization of prostitution infringes on these basic rights. Prostitution, often referred to as the oldest profession, is the act of one consenting adult offering sexual services to another consenting person in return for money. The Supreme Court has changed the laws concerning what citizens choose to do with their bodies such as in Lawrence v. Texas which dealt with sodomy and Roe v. Wade and the issue of abortion. It is even legal for a woman to receive money to use her body as an incubator to give another person a child. Therefore, it is time for the United States Federal Government to legalize prostitution and allow people to choose how they use their bodies.

In the early twentieth century the fear of sexually transmitted diseases, STDs, spearheaded regulations on prostitution. STDs have continued to be synonymous when prostitution is discussed. (Carrasquillo) Customers who have used the service of a prostitute still risk contracting STDs and in turn passing them along to their significant other. Criminalizing prostitution has not brought about the initial desired effect. In 1980, due to a legal loophole, Rhode Island unintentionally legalized prostitution. Once the confusion was brought to the state’s attention, it took 6 years to make prostitution a crime. Studies that were later conducted discovered that infection of gonorrhea amongst women in Rhode Island had decreased by 39% during those 6 years. (Haltiwanger) The World Health Organization, one of the many prominent groups that are in support of the decriminalization of sex work, has stated “Violence against sex workers is associated with inconsistent condom use or lack of condom use, and with increased risk of STI and HIV infection.  Violence also prevents sex workers from accessing HIV information and services.” (Reisenwitz) With the national legalization, clearly stated regulation and standards would be put into place. One regulations would be that woman wanting to enter the field of “prostitution would need to be licensed in order to sell sex. Requiring a license would make both the sale and the purchase of sex much safer.” (Carrasquillo 716) Women would need to be tested for STDs on a regular basis to maintain their license. Nevada, the only state prostitution is legal in, has very strict screening requirement for sex workers. They must get HIV screenings monthly which has proved to be a successful approach to keeping sex workers healthy. Brothel workers in Nevada have been not tested HIV positive since 1986. (Carrasquillo)

Making prostitution a legitimate profession throughout the country would also save individual states money and add to their coffers. In the state of New York, it costs taxpayers $460 a day to house inmates in a city jail. “According to Legal Aid attorney Kate Mogulescu, the NYPD makes an average of 2700 arrests each year from prostitution” (Carrasquillo 708) A first time offense in New York could have a prostitute in jail for up to 45 days. (ProCon 7) One prostitute on a 1st time offense would cost the state of New York $20,700. Multiplying that by the 2699 other arrests made in a year, that has the potential of costing the state $55,890,000 and that is not including the cost of the NYPD’s manpower, the cost of the courts or the lawyer’s fees. (Carrasquillo) That is just in one state. There is not any consistency of penalty from state to state. It varies from Arizona’s 15 days for a first-time offense to Iowa’s 2 years. (ProCon)

The next group to benefit from the legalization of prostitution would be the streetwalker. (Bass) Streetwalkers make up 10-20% of the sex workers in the United States, but when discussing arrests, they make up 90%. 40% of streetwalkers are women of color and 55% of prostitutes arrested are minorities. (Carrasquillo) Once a sex worker is convicted it makes it difficult for her to leave the trade and this forces them to remain in this line of work whether they want to or not. There are options have been limited. Prosecuting and clogging the already overloaded justice system with more court cases related to a consensual act is a waste of money and resources. If prostitution is legalized these resources would be better directed towards reducing crimes where there is a victim or a loss.

The lucrativeness of prostitution has been exploited by disreputable people. “The assumption underlying much of the bad press Germany has received is that decriminalization is a boon to the underworld. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Prostitution is like any other industry. Make it illegal, and you give criminals a monopoly. Legalize it, and you give law- abiding enterprises a chance to compete…Moreover, regulated brothels now are operated as legitimate businesses, and so attract professional managers — as opposed to underworld thugs.” (Turley-Ewart) A study conducted in Britain considered legalizing and taxing prostitution found that the country’s gross domestic product, GDP, would be increased by as much as $8.9 billion. (Bass) “In 2007 alone, Atlanta’s sex trade was worth a staggering $290 million.” (Haltiwanger) “There is no downside to legalizing prostitution. The government would benefit by collecting taxes on the industry. And regulation would clean up a lot of crime and help to protect women.” (Fleiss) Germany, having decriminalized prostitution, made it possible for the sex workers in that country to be represented by a union and are afforded the same benefits that other legal businesses provide for their employees. (Reisenwitz)

While prostitution remains a crime, sex workers remain vulnerable to violence and abuse. “45 to 75 percent of workers will experience workplace violence. Yet, as long as prostitution remains illegal, sex workers who are assaulted will be extremely unlikely to report anything to the police for fear of legal ramifications.” (Haltiwanger 6) San Francisco studies revealed that “70% of the prostitutes in the study were raped an average of thirty-one times by their customers.” (Carrasquillo 709) In Rhode Island, during the 6 years mentioned above, that prostitution was legal, the state reported a decline in rapes by 31%. (Reisenwitz) Legalization would free up law enforcement to focus on sex-trafficking and the exploitation of underage youth.

Evidence has been presented to argue that the criminalization of sex work leads to social disenfranchisement and an increased risk of human rights abuses against prostitutes. Furthermore, legalization would be the best means to protect the rights of the sex workers and ensure that these individuals receive adequate medical care, legal assistance and police protection. It is time for the Federal Government to honor the words of Thomas Jefferson and allow its citizens the freedom to use their body in the consensual act of prostitution.

Works Cited

Bass, Alison. “https://www.salon.com/2015/10/04/a_double_standard_in_enforcing_prostitution_laws_its_ economically_advantageous_to_have_high_ed_sex_work_going_on/.” Salon 4 10 2015.

Carrasquillo, Tesla. “Understanding Prostitution and the Need for Reform.” Touro Law Review (2014): 697-721. Ebsco.

Fleiss, Heidi. “Should The Government Collect Taxes From Prostitution?” September-October 2003. https://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000126. online. 7 October 2017.

Haltiwanger, John. “Why Legalizing Prostitution Would Make America Healthier, Wealthier and Safer.” Elite Daily. Bustle Digital Group, 19 November 2014. 14 October 2017.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Declaration of Independence.” 4 July 1776. http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/. Document. 7 October 2017.

ProCon. “US Federal and State Prostitution Laws and Related Punishments.” 4 November 2009. https://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000119. online. 7 October 2017.

Reisenwitz, Cathy. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-its-time-to-legalize-prostitution. 15 August 2014. online. 6 October 2017.

Turley-Ewart, John. “Is Legal Prostitution a Legitimate Business?” https://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000126. 15 February 2008. 29 September 2017.

Keywords: Federalism, Laws, Human Rights

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