Prostitution being one of the major social ills existing in Indian society, undeniably is a matter of critical concern. It occurs in different forms and its legal status differs from country to country ranging from being an enforced or unenforced crime, to regulated or an unregulated profession. Reflecting differing opinions, the position of prostitution varies widely worldwide. Some believe that paid sex is so entrenched in our society that our focus must be in keeping it upright and unassailable rather than prosecuting it. While some simply perceive the idea of prostitution as a legitimate occupation, others as an institution are the supporters of ‘Nordic Model’ which makes the purchase of sex illegal but decriminalizes the act of selling it. This approach has also been adopted by various countries like Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and France.
The juridical position of prostitution has been a subject of grave debate during recent years. And like every debate has, sex work likewise has two ends to it which must be analysed before arriving at a deemed conclusion. The question is, should we legalise it or keep it criminal? Here is a brief to both ends of the debate.
Keeping it criminal
Even after legalizing prostitution with best intentions of retrenching human trafficking and criminal enterprises, some countries still suffer from illegal counterparts. For example, illegal bordellos still exist in the Netherlands, a country which legalized prostitution in 1988 and prostitutes continue to suffer abuses at the hands of the procurer.
Another major argument is, prostitution promotes degrading attitudes toward women and obliquely invites violence against them. The fact that 80% of sex workers are female can not be overlooked and they are more likely to be raped or murdered than any other population because of the malicious behaviour people have towards them. And so by the necessity to protect and save themselves, either from physical harm or destitution, an enormous female contingent of female sex workers fall out of option and throw themselves at the mercy of the men they serve. Cruelly, society often blames women for the violence against them, theorizing how she must have brought the trouble on herself.
The only way to combat such attitudes and realities is to increase legal measures against who perpetuate the prostitution industry.
Criminalization of prostitution leaves sex workers on the fringes of society, making them vulnerable to violence, poverty and health issues whereas legalization bypasses the most dangerous aspects of prostitution.
Decriminalization also allows sex workers to get help from police in incidences of violence. Also, it provides them access to social security and public health care. It has been noted that sexually transmitted infections are statistically lower in areas where prostitution is decriminalized.
Legalization also helps to concede that consensual prostitution has a victimless nature. The internet bristle with the testimonials of sex workers evincing their consent on having a career in sex. Along with manifesting their assent, these personalities have also stated the disparity between themselves and those who are browbeaten or compelled into this social evil. Even if the ethical framework of prostitution is not clear, society should avoid binding sex-trade which as a reaction does not harm individuals or the society itself.
The ultimate line
In either way, prostitution remains to not be an ascendant practice as there are so many prospects and the presence of both willing and unwilling individuals dealing through discrete circumstances, finding their way out somehow.