Prostitution (In Depth) The RINJ FoundationAround the world, sex work is done in the dangerous shadows of an underworld that breeds diseases that threaten public health.
Forcing prostituion into the shadows has morbid risk. Sex work (prostitution) is here to stay. It needs to be decriminalized, come out of the shadows, and be a legitimate part of the public health and safety regulatory regimes. Photo Credit: Melissa Hemingway, Feminine-Perspective Magazine
There is significant evidence to suggest that decriminalizing prostitution substantially reduces rape and other sex crime and enhances the safety of workers and clients while reducing the spread of infectious disease.
Regulating prostitution's sex workers would require regulations similar to those used by health care workers. Infection barriers should be mandatory and consistent with a public information campaign to promote the use of condoms. Meanwhile, sex workers can be licensed by self-governing associations or colleges and a regular STI test series set as a pre-condition to licensing. Regulations would seek a strong adherence to all public health requirements that arise as responses to new microbial threats.
The Experience of Government in The Netherlands is Instructive
Mandatory licencingBusinesses in the sex industry, for instance sex clubs, brothels and escort agencies will only be allowed to operate with a licence from the municipal authorities. The conditions for obtaining a licence will include a guarantee of sex workers' health and safety. A commercial sex operation will only be given a licence if it has a fixed address and a telephone landline. To ensure that the rules are equally strict all over the country, the same conditions will essentially apply in every municipality.
Screening the owners of businesses in the sex industryThe owners of commercial sex operations will be screened more thoroughly. Municipalities will do background checks on them. If an owner has previously been involved in human trafficking or if there are indications that they will probably not comply with the licencing conditions, their application for a licence will be denied.
Raising the minimum age for prostitutesThe minimum age for prostitutes in The Netherlands has been raised to 21. Clients will be liable to punishment if they engage the services of a prostitute under the age of 21. Business owners will be punishable if they employ a prostitute under the age of 21. Underage prostitutes themselves will not be punished.
Prostitution and Exploitation Risks
|If you are working as a prostitute, regardless if sex work is legal or not in your country, it may be that you are being forced to do so, or that you are being exploited. If any of the following situations applies to you, it is possible that you are being exploited:
DiscussionMen run most governments. Men of these patriarchs have for eons devoted a large percentage of their time to legislating what women can and cannot do with their bodies.
This must stop.
For example, legislating against female sex workers is just another folly. It doesn't work. Prosecuting the clients or the sex workers has had no positive impact. Prostitution still exists but may be more in the shadows than you realize. Hiding prostitution in the darkness of the underworld promotes exploitation of women, violence toward women, human trafficking, and the delivery of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) & Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among a large sector of the client population without any means for tracking the infected parties.
Consequently it can be accurately stated that public health is endangered by pushing sex work deeper into the shadows with foolish legislation that outlaws the worker and or client.
Legislating what women can do with their bodies is the folly of a patriarchal governance that has run amok in misogyny.
Some feminists suggest that many prostitutes don't have a significant range of career choices because of poverty and lack of education and training for other options. Well, don't remove that choice too. Sex workers who adhere to safe practices serve a useful function. We will talk more about that in a moment.
Some opponents of sex work suggest that many women are forced into prostitution by men who are pimps, who then take their money and coerce them to continue earning. In that case the crime is not being committed by the woman, and the crime is not prostitution. To suggest that prostitution should be criminalized because men will exploit prostitutes is the ultimate in misogyny if not just plain dumb logic. Prosecute the men who imprison, extort, or assault women.
Not all so-called "pimps" are doing crime. Some are defacto "bodyguards" and collect a fee for their work. That's not such a bad thing but pushing sex work into the shadows has also pushed the support workers into the dark.
Decriminalizing prostitution opens the door to allowing sex workers to hire professional, licenced security persons. It also helps legitimize a realm of employment that otherwise was living in the shadows under no scrutiny.
Do you really know what a sex worker does?Howard's wife died a few years ago and since that time he has lived alone. Gina, a sex worker who sees Howard once a week in his flat, charges him the equivalent of $100.00 USD. Gina has strict rules for herself as well as clients about hygene, medical support, and protection for both. Howard is compliant but according to Gina, they seldom have sexual contact, mostly Howard likes to talk. Because of this, Gina sought out some training and took a day course in social work. She is a sex worker but she says that Howard was once suicidal and she believes she has saved Howard's life. They continue to see each other. Whatever of Howard's needs are being fullfilled, he may some day be able to transfer from a surrogate to a real partner. He said he never would do that out of respect for his deceased wife but maybe he will give himself permission to do that. In the meantime, is Howard committing a crime? Where is the mens rea (criminal intent)? Is he doing something immoral?
Gina says she has many clients exactly like Howard. She also says that she has many experiences over the years with "bad dates", violent men who cause trouble.
Gina pools her financial resources with two other women to hire a driver/bodyguard who takes her to her appointments and remains on call in the event of trouble. She says she also has police acquaintances she can call. It's a quid pro quo wherein the police officer gains information about violent sex offenders or predators in his jurisdiction and Gina has a 'goto person' when trouble strikes.
Sex Work Should Not Be Done in the ShadowsIn some countries, lawmakers have decided to not prosecute the women sex workers but instead charge men who use the services of the prostitute. That has led to harassment of the women sex workers by police and driven the tradecraft further underground. Moreover, the male clients are the least likely criminals.
"Many are just homely guys who didn't meet a girl, yet.
"For some men it takes longer than for other men to find the right partner. They still have needs," says our source, Gina.
Decriminalizing prostitution; taxing the industry; imposing strict public health rules; and policing against exploitation is the only way ahead.
Not Just Women Are ProstitutesMany members of the straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit (S+LBGT2) communities choose to become sex workers. When will men learn that legislating adults to compell who has sex with who is just not practical law making? Already there are sex worker unions and associations all over the world. These groups have a good understanding of the health and safety issues of both workers and clients. Where they don't there are many Civil Society organizations willing to share their knowlege base and know-how. Perhaps these groups could form an alliance with government for the purpose of standards implementation and licensing.
A patriarchal approach legislating what women do with their bodies will fail. Alternatively, women and men working together to bring sex work into a safe, healthy, legitimate service sector will triumph over the spread of disease and reduce rape and other sex crime significantly.