Already prostitution, or some part of prostitution, has been legalized in various countries including Germany, Netherlands, Greece, New Zealand, Japan (fellatio only), Australia (New South Wales only), United Kingdom (although restricted) and Turkey (only street walking). Legalization is thought to help reduce violence, criminilization and stigma of sex workers. Many powerful organizations, such as the UN, UNAIDS, and WHO, support the legalization of sex work assuming it is only legalized for adults and is regulated. De-criminilization will allow the police to help protect prostitutes from dangerous and illegal situations, while at the same time not creating a criminal record that would keep them from attaining other work. Moreover, it would help the healthcare system reach sex workers, get STIs treated more quickly, and give them more autonomy in the choice to use a condom. Mandatory HIV testing is encouraged to be part of the legalization laws.
The liberatory approach to legalization sees prostitution, or sex work, as liberating for women and a legal contract between two consenting individuals. This stance says that prostitution is a choice, and like other venues of work, should be legalized and without stigma. Delores French, a well-known pro-prostitution advocate explains:
A woman has the right to sell sexual services just as much as she has the right to sell her brains to a law firm when she works as a lawyer, or to sell her creative work to a museum when she works as an artist, or to sell her image to a photographer when she works as a model, or to sell her body when she works as a ballerina. Since most people can have sex without going to jail, there is no reason except old fashioned prudery to make sex for money illegal. (as cited in Carroll, 2005).
The human rights framework also sometimes seeks to legalize prostitution; however, it clearly states that women or children forced into prostitution are victims. This framework ventures that there is a legitimate difference between those who want to be part of the sex trade and those who are trafficked or forced into it. Moreover, this framework, calls for improved conditions for those women who have chosen to work in the industry. Often people who want to legalize prostitution are misunderstood on their stance of child prostitution; few people think that children should or can have the choice to be prostitutes.
The argument to legalize prostitution has gained credibility with the spread of HIV/AIDS. Many people who do see prostitution as violence against women are now arguing for legalization so that there can be controls and medical checks in place. Minh and friends’ (2004) study showed that 22.5% of the sex workers in Vietnam were infected with HIV and that prostitution was quickly becoming a popular route of infection. My personal experience living in Cambodia and working with children who were trafficked into the sex trade makes me think that rates may be even higher for younger people in the sex trade as their is a myth that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS. Although many sex workers, both in western and non-western countries, understand the modes of transmission of HIV, many do not have control over the use of condoms. One U.S. study showed that prostitutes only use condoms with clients 51% of the time. Those who favor legalization think that it could reduce harm by slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs through consistent testing and treatment of sex workers.
Additional citations from:
El-Bassel, N., Witte, S.S., Wada, T., Gilbert, L., and Wallace, J. (2001). Correlates of partner violence among female street-based sex workers: Substance abuse, history of childhood abuse, and HIV risk. AIDS patient care and STDs, 15(1), 41-51.
Farley, M. (2003). Prostitution, trafficking, and traumatic stress. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press.
Rekart, M.L. (2005). Sex-work harm reduction. The Lancet, 366, 2123-2134.