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Causes And Issues Faced By Prostitution Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3320 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Prostitution is generally defined as the practice of providing sexual services for money, but because it requires a buyer and a seller it can more appropriately be defined as the practice of exchanging money for sexual services (The Canadian Encyclopedia 2009). Although most commonly conducted by females for males, it may be performed by females or males for either females or males.


Prostitution has been described as the world’s oldest profession (Keegan, Anne 1974). In ancient times and in some primitive societies, prostitution often had religious connotations-sexual intercourse with temple maidens was an act of worship to the temple deity. In Greece the hetaerae which means companion were often women of high social status, but in Rome the hetaerae were on a low social level and were forced to wear wigs and special garments signifying their trade. In the Middle Ages prostitution flourished and licensed brothels were a source of revenue to municipalities (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2009). By the end of 15th century, an outbreak of syphilis in Naples swept across Europe and the prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases causes the harden against prostitution (Wikipedia 2009). In 19th century, legalized prostitution became a public controversy as France and then the United Kingdom passed the Contagious Diseases Acts, legislation mandating pelvic examinations for suspected prostitutes. Prostitution was made illegal in almost all states between 1910 and 1915 largely due to the influence of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union which was influential in the banning of drug use. Sex tourism has emerged in the late 20th century as a controversial aspect of Western tourism and globalization. Sex tourism is typically undertaken internationally by tourists from wealthier countries (Wikipedia 2009).

Type of prostitution


The prostitute solicits customers while waiting at street corners and park and walking alongside a street. It is serviced in side streets, vehicles, or short stay premises (Kambiz Akhavan 2005).


Clients contact sex worker directly by phone or via hotel staff. It is relatively expensive because of low client turnover. Services are provided at client’s home or hotel room (Kambiz Akhavan 2005).

Sex tourism

Sex tourism is trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination (World Tourism Organization n.d.). Author Nils Ringdal (2004) stated that three out of four men which are between the ages of 20 and 50 who have visited Asia or Africa have paid for sex.

Other types of prostitution

Prostitution can be demand through various media including noticeboard, magazines, newspaper advertisements, ‘sex worker catalogues’ with mobile phone numbers and the internet via virtual brothels. Services are delivered mostly in brothels and other indoor venues such as apartments (Kambiz Akhavan 2005).

Causes of prostitution

Poverty and unemployment

Poverty and unemployment are seems to be the main reason where woman will choose to enter the industry of prostitution. Hagan and McCarthy (1997) measured the relationship of prostitution to a number of background factors, including age, gender, unemployment, hunger, shelter, number of times left home, length of time on street and street friends arrested. They found that unemployment and lack of shelter were the more influential predictors of entering into street prostitution. Foreign illegal sex workers earn more than 10 times their usual wage in a period of a month (Adrian Koh n.d.). This provided them sufficient income to support their families and to obtain their basic needs. Due to lack of working experience, youth has less job opportunities in the market. This situation has leaded them to a poor financial situation where they are forced to choose to enter prostitution as this job can provide them with wealthy income (John Howard 2001). In The Star (14 November 2008), it is stated that two single mothers became part-time prostitutes to make ends meet after their ex-husbands failed to pay maintenance.

Woman has been tricked into prostitution

Most of the women who are lived in rural society earn lower income compared to women in urban areas. They are often tricked into prostitution with guarantees of decent job opportunities in the city or abroad. Therefore, they are attracted to the job in the city offered by the middleman. There is also a possibility where they are kidnapped and are then forced to work as prostitutes (Harvard style 2008).

Family expectation and problem

Women in particular are pressured to pay for their sibling’s education or support a sick family member. Other aspects such as dysfunctional families or constant sexual abuse from parents have lead adolescents to leave their home. Running away is often a survival or defence mechanism that follows sexual abuse, and sexual abuse is a factor commonly present among prostitutes. Nadon, Koverola and Schudermann (1998) found that 68% of female prostitutes in their sample experienced childhood sexual abuse (p. 214). Foti (1994) compared children who had and had not been sexually abused, and determined that the participants who were sexually abused as children were twice as likely to become prostitutes.

Careless parental care

In order to provide a better education for children, parents often send their children to other countries and let them rent cheap rooms. As a result, they are exposed to male predators. Idleness after school and the absence of parents guiding them through their homework causes the youth to spend their time outside the house. In the process, there is a possibility where they will discuss things including making easy money, sex and women (Joseph Mulopi, Redemptor Atieno, Godfrey Rugumayo, Mary Nakirya & Ednah Karamagi 2009)

Advantage of legalization of prostitution

Prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)

Health problems associated with prostitution, such as STD’s and HIV/AIDS, are commonly assumed to be ‘risks of the trade’. In the first instance, this has led many people to assume that prostitutes bear the primary responsibility for the propagation of STDs in the general population. However, legalization of prostitution can definitely help to decrease the chances of spreading HIV/AIDS and STD’s. In Nevada, where prostitution is legal, not one (as of 1989) of the state-licensed prostitutes has ever tested positive for AIDS. A legalized system that shared the responsibility for safe sexual practices with male clients and management as well as sex workers could facilitate the role of health education. Furthermore, a regular monthly check-up and the use of condoms will be enforced to increase the public awareness so as to prevent the spread of the diseases. Besides, brothel owners can be held accountable if a customer contracts HIV and the prostitute tests positive for it (Matthew 2007). Medical reports are required for prostitutes to certify the condition of their health. As a result, the bordellos will compete with each other, and the suppliers have strong incentives to ensure that the ‘service’ that their customers receive is safe. Clearly, the spread of AIDS would be reduced by the legalization of prostitution services.

Economic advantage

The ILO report called for prostitution and sex industries to be officially recognized as a legitimate economic sector because they are already integrated into the economic, social and political life of countries and contribute in no small measure to employment, national income, and economic growth. A recent study highlighted the fact that the international sex industry’s turnover can be conservatively estimated to be worth at least US$20billion a year. By multiplying the average number of transactions each prostitute has per day times the available workdays per year times the average bill the ability of generating foreign exchange cannot be underestimated (Thomas & Bob 2003). Legalization of prostitution can promote tourism industry. This is because sex tourism is in high demand where sex tourist may travel to a country specifically for sex. Thomas and Bob (2003) also stated that it cannot be denied that the sex industry can and has contributed to the attractiveness of certain tourist destinations. When sex tourist arrived at their destination, they are also attracted to the local tourism places apart from sex affair. Furthermore, this will increase the flow of foreign currencies into the country as sex tourist will spend for sex services, food and accommodation. As prostitution is legalized, it is considered a job. Therefore, government can earn large amount of revenue by taxing on the prostitutes’ income. Donna (2005) found that “In Stuttgart, where 2,700 prostitutes are registered, brothels now pay €15 or €25 per day, per prostitute, to financial authorities. The city of Cologne receives roughly €700,000 per month from the brothels.” As a result, government can use this lump sum of money to provide welfare to the public in order to increase the standard of living of the country. Shame will not stop the prostitution profession. So, if it is unable to be stopped, the best solution is to legalized prostitution. For example, in Nevada and Netherlands, government collects tax just like other business. By collecting taxes, government has enough money to pay for programs to help woman find a path out of it (Kambiz Akhavan 2005).

Ensure prostitutes’ workers’ rights

Sex workers should enjoy the same labor rights as other workers and the same human rights as other people. Sex workers can only gain the same rights as other workers when the debate is moved from a moral framework and placed in the framework of labor rights (Kamboz Akhavan 2005). As prostitution is legalized, prostitutes will pay regular taxes on the same basis as other independent contractors and employees, and should receive the same benefits. A prostitute should have a consistent working hours, retirement pension and regular holidays, equal protection under the law and improved working condition. The World Charter for Prostitutes’ Rights(1985) stated that prostitutes should be guaranteed “all human rights and civil liberties,” including the freedom of speech, travel, immigration, work, marriage, and motherhood, and the right to unemployment insurance, health insurance and housing (Wikipedia 2009).

Reducing crime rate

Legalization of prostitution would be a better way to protect people in sex industry from rape and violence (Kamboz Akhavan 2007). If prostitution is illegal, prostitutes are unable to report such crimes of abuse committed against them out of fear of being prosecuted themselves for the crime of prostitution. Clients and pimps are aware that prostitutes are defenseless under the law, so they are free abuse the prostitutes as they please. If prostitution were legalized, these women could be protected under the law from such violence (Matthew 2007). It is estimated that if prostitution were legalized in the United States, the rape rate would decrease by roughly 25% for a decrease of approximately 25,000 rapes per year. There is strong indication from the interview, document analysis, and ethnographic data presented that legal brothels generally offer a safer working environment than their illegal counterparts. Regulated brothels offer particular ways of dealing with pragmatic safety issues and minimizing actual violence. Nevada brothels also offer specific mechanisms to protect workers via the ways transactions are organized, the ways technology is ordered, the visibility of customers, the bureaucratic relationships among customers, managers, and workers, and the cooperation with police based on the mere fact of their legality. All of these mechanisms work to eliminate systematic violence and to discourage an atmosphere of danger and risk (Kamboz Akhavan 2008).

Classify prostitution as a legal career

The stigma that is largely attached to women in prostitution only mirrors the low status and opinion society confers on all women in general. Sex workers will receive some of the most extreme forms of degradation, abuse and violence that all women are vulnerable to. Much of women’s work in the domestic and reproductive spheres has been invisible and devalued. As such, there is an urgent need to recognize the reproductive labor of women as work in various sites. The acceptance and recognition of prostitution as work is to recognize and validate the reality of women who are working in prostitution. Therefore, legalization of prostitution can classify prostitution as a legal career where prostitutes can be treated equally as other workers (Rich 1997).

Overcome underground prostitutes

Disadvantage of legalization of prostitution

Encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)

When prostitution is legalized, regular check-ups are needed. Even if a prostitute is being tested every week for HIV, she will test negative for at least the first 4-6 weeks and possibly the first 12 weeks after being infected. If we assume that he or she takes only 4 weeks to become positive, because there is an additional lag time of 1-2 weeks to get the results back, there will be at best a window period of 6 weeks for a prostitute. The average prostitute services between 10-15 clients per day. This means that while the test is becoming positive and the results are becoming known, that prostitute may expose up to 630 clients to HIV. The legalization of prostitution also protects women through enforceable condom policies. But the fact is that, prostitutes claimed that men will try not to use condom. In one of CATW’s studies, U.S. women in prostitution interviewed reported the following: 47% stated that men expected sex without a condom; 73% reported that men offered to pay more for sex without a condom; 45% of women said they were abused if they insisted that men use condoms. Prostitutes have increased risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS and yet these diseases will be spread to another partner. What happens to the family of a man who engages a prostitute (legally or illegally) if and when he contracts an STD? What happens to the family if he contracts AIDS and spreads it to his wife? What happens to the children when they find out and ultimately lose their parents to a preventable disease? These consequences should be taken in account if prostitution is legalized.

Brings physical and emotional harm to prostitutes

The health consequences to women from prostitution are the same injuries suffered by women who are subjected to other forms of violence against women. The physical health consequences include injury such as bruises, broken bones, black eyes, concussions (Janice 1999). A report in the British Medical Journal about client violence towards women in prostitution stated that of the 125 women in indoor prostitution contacted, 48% had experienced client violence. The types of violence experienced included: slapped, punched, kicked, robbery, attempted robbery, beaten, threatened with weapon, held against will, attempted rape, strangulation, kidnapped, attempted kidnap, forced to give client oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape (Women’s support project 2008). Violence will also bring emotional health effects to prostitutes. Sheila (1997) stated that these effect included feelings of humiliation, degradation, defilement and dirtiness. The prostituted women experienced similar difficulties in establishing intimate relationships with men. They suffer negative effects on their sexuality, flashbacks and nightmares, as well as lingering fears and deep emotional pain that often resembled grieving. An international survey establishes that 67% of prostitutes show symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome (Therese 2002). Although the women are agreeing to sexual activity, this is unwanted sexual activity. In order to be able to do it, the women need to learn to dissociate. Dissociation can cause lasting psychological harm. Women who are not able to dissociate will use drugs and alcohol to achieve the same effect (Women support project 2008). Therese (2002) stated that certain studies demonstrate the link between drug addiction and prostitution. Indeed, 75% of the street prostitutes in San Francisco are drug dependent, while 27% are alcohol dependent. In the Atlantic Provinces, the rate of male and female prostitutes who reported suffering from drug abuse is 50%, while in the Prairies, the rate is 42%.

Economics issues

If prostitution is legalized, business will lose customers who refuse to shop in area due to prostitution. The presence of prostitutes negatively affects the area economy, reducing property values and limiting property use. It will also bring financial burden to businesses that have to clean up after prostitutes and their clients have gone there, purchase surveillance equipment, or pay for extra security (Wynfred 2007). Woman support project (2008) stated that tax evasion may also occur due to legalization of prostitution. Pimps are simply not going to hand over the massive profits that are a part of the industry. Prostitutes do not wish to register as a prostitute and pay tax on money earned through unwanted sex. In addition, legalization has resulted in expensive legal challenges because no one wants prostitution zoned into their neighborhood or near their children’s school, as has happened in New Zealand in the past few years.

Causes human trafficking problem

Owners of brothels and escort agencies want to earn money. They do not care if someone is illegal or trafficked. Prostitution is a market based on demand and if there is a demand for illegal activity, then prostitution will be provided. In New South Wales, brothels were legalized in 1995. In 1999, the number of brothels had increased exponentially to 400-500.The vast majority had no license to operate (Women support project 2008). Where prostitution is tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery. Although there was a belief that legalization would make possible control of the sex industry, the illegal industry is now out of control. Police in Victoria estimated that there are 400 illegal brothels as against 100 legal ones. Trafficking in women and children from other countries has increased significantly. The legalization of prostitution in some parts of Australia has thus resulted in a net growth of the industry. One of the results has been the trafficking in women and children to supply legal and illegal brothels. The sex entrepreneurs have difficulty recruiting women locally to supply an expanding industry, and women from trafficking are more vulnerable and more profitable. This is the reason why legalization of prostitution will cause human trafficking problem (Kamboz Akhavan 2008).

Against human rights

All human are equal and free. Regardless of the status and the wealth of the people, everyone’s body is still as important as the others. Human body is priceless and precious. One should not disgrace prostitutes’ body. They should not satisfy their own sex desire without considering other’s feelings.


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