Ten Reasons for NOT Legalizing Prostitution

Janice G. Raymond February 11, 2003 United States Download Attachment


Since the mid-1980s, the debate about how to address prostitution legally has become a subject of legislative action Some countries in Europe, most notably the Netherlands and Germany among others, have legalized and/or decriminalized systems of prostitution, which includes decriminalizing pimps, brothels and buyers, also known as "customers or johns". Other governments, such as Thailand, legally prohibits prostitution activities and enterprises but in reality tolerate brothels and the buying of women for commercial sexual exploitation, especially in its sex tourism industry. Sweden, has taken a different legal approach --penalizing the buyers while at the same time decriminalizing the women in prostitution.

This article offers ten arguments for not legalizing prostitution. These arguments apply to all state-sponsored forms of prostitution, including but not limited to full-scale legalization of brothels and pimping, decriminalization of the sex industry, regulating prostitution by laws such as registering or mandating health checks for women in  prostitution, or any system in which prostituion is recognized as "sex work" or advocated as an employment choice. This essay reviews the ways in which legitimating prostitution as work makes the harm of prostitution to women invisible, expands the sex industry, and does not empower the women in prostitution. 

What happens when prostitution is treated as sexual exploitation and violence against women? What happens when a country such as Sweden rejects legalization and addresses the demand for prostitution?