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Ana Sibrian

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Should prostitution be illegal?


This article published today about France's new abolitionist stance on prostitution has made me question: is illegal prostitution better or worse for women's rights? On the one hand, if prostitution is legal, it promotes the ideology that women can be comodified, owned as property (or in this case, rented). Yet there are several successful, happy prostitutes living in countries where prostitution is legal and regulated such as Australia and Holland. So by making prostitution illegal we are technically stepping on these women's rights to use their own body to make money.

The purpose of criminalizing prostitution is to minimize violence on women, at least as stated by the above mentioned article. Another side effect, although not outlined by this article, is that it would ideally deter men from using women as objects. Yet as we have seen with the criminalization of other wide spread taboo practices such as drug use, criminalization has led to a booming underground industry of criminals and violence.

Does criminalization protect women or expose them to the risks of having to resort to clandestine, illegal resources that could ultimately be even more detrimental to their welfare?


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    Dec 13 2011: Ana I just read your whole text. Having lived in Amsterdam, my wife and I (both therapists) have had sex workers as clients. I would have to say that from observation "happy prostitute" qualifies as an oxymoron. It is true that any well adjusted, joyful professional would be unlikely to seek out therapy of any kind and therefore I can not absolutely assert that there are none, I just have no evidence to believe it. What I would say is that the Netherlands sex worker on average has a somewhat kinder form of hell, certainly no paradise. Most still have "pimps" or landlords who take the lions share of their earnings, many abuse drugs. Yes supposedly they all use prophylactics and it was claimed years ago that none had AIDS. No more. The fact that very few Dutch women are involved these days should tell you something. Most of the Pros are eastern Europeans or of African ancestry and many have been duped into coming into Holland by promises of legitimate work. Xaviera Hollander the original "happy hooker" is now monogamous and has been retired for years. Near exceptions to the rule like XH are like those who can abuse drugs and still seem to function. They do not prove that a behavior is safe or that they are "happy" only that it doesn't immediately destroy everyone. Just that a few people are much tougher and more resilient than the average.
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      Dec 13 2011: Thank you for sharing the first hand experience! I have heard before that legalizing prostitution actually increases a lot of the problems that criminalization addresses.

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