Arguments for the legalisation of prostitution

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Arguments against the legalisation of prostitution on the feminist grounds that 'violation is a synonym for intercourse' (Dworkin) not only deny men's involvement in male prostitution, but as Jo Bindman and Jo Doezema argue in Redefining Prostitution as Sex Work on the International Agenda, "The designation of prostitution as a special human rights issue, a violation in itself, emphasises the distinction between prostitution and other forms of female or low-status labour... however exploitative they are. It thus reinforces the marginal, and therefore vulnerable, position of the women and men involved in prostitution. By dismissing the entire sex industry as abusive, it also obscures the particular problems and violations of international norms within the industry which are of concern to sex workers." 

Thus anything but legal status for sex workers leads to marginalisation and abuses: "even in the many countries where prostitution itself is not illegal, sex workers cannot secure the minimum basic standards which other workers have acquired as far as conditions of work or their personal safety are concerned. It also means that the police frequently fail to take action to help the significant minority among prostitutes who really are victims of slavery."

Police action is one of the many reasons that the International Prostitutes Collective cites for campaigning for the legalisation of sex work, though they call for recognition of prostitution as work to allow "human, legal, economic and civil rights, including the right to police protection, employment and health benefits, pensions, to form co-operatives and trade unions".  In response to the allegations from Hughes on the previous page that , 'in prostitution women are tortured through repeated rape and in all the more conventionally recognized ways' pro-legalisation campaigners would argue that it is a woman's right to choose this form of employment and not to be dependent on a single man.  

Moving away from the theoretical, the practical implications of the profession being legal would bring nothing but benefits for sex workers and society as a whole.  The public order aspect could be addressed, as it should be, on an individual rather than a blanket basis;  Prostitutes would not be forced to work in 'hidden' locations, and would have access to the safety and decency of equipped indoor places of work;  Sex workers would be guaranteed access to health facilities often denied them as a consequence of their occupation; 

Bindman & Doezema suggest a definition of sex work as labour: 


"Negotiation and performance of sexual services for remuneration

  • with or without intervention by a third party

  • where those services are advertised or generally recognised as available from a specific location

  • where the price of services reflects the pressures of supply and demand.

In this definition, 'negotiation' implies the rejection of specific clients or acts on an individual basis. Indiscriminate acceptance by the worker of all proposed transactions is not presumed -- such acceptance would indicate the presence of coercion"

A further argument for the legalisation of the sex industry is that organisation would no longer be hindered by legal penalties and stigma, serving not only to provide a platform for prostitutes' rights, but also to fight the social stigma attached to sex work.  In many European countries prostitutes' organisations are permitted, the UK is a recent addition to the list.

Beyond the social and health advantages of legalising sex work, it may be one answer to the problem of trafficking


The Internet provides much information for sex workers, and a forum for debate, but in what ways does technology influence the sex industry, and how is technology influenced by the sex industry?


New Technologies and the Sex Industry




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