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What should the legal status of prostitution be? Show more Show less

Sometimes called ‘the world’s oldest profession’, prostitution holds a complex cultural place. While it is underpinned by gender norms and has been linked to violence, it also represents a source of agency for some and a viable career option for many. Should it be treated like any other job by the state? And if the state wishes to curtail prostitution, is making it illegal the best option?
Sex work is inherently harmful and should be banned.
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Prostitution and marginalisation

The least advantaged people in society are the ones most likely to enter prostitution.

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Sex workers as a demographic have a high proportion of marginalised people.[1] In particular, prostitution is heavily raced and classed.

The Argument

Those in society who are the most vulnerable are the ones who are most likely to enter prostitution. The prostitution industry perpetuates race- and class-based inequalities. The involvement in so many disadvantaged people in prostitution obscures the exploitation and lack of choice involved in many marginalised people’s involvement in prostitution.[2] With regards to race, people of colour who enter into prostitution are often heavily fetishised and stereotyped, separating them further from any sense of personhood.[3] By allowing a system in which white men are able to buy and abuse women of colour, we are perpetuating a paradigm of racism.

Counter arguments

While those who are marginalised are most likely to enter prostitution, they should be offered support rather than marginalised further by the law. Their work should be decriminalised so that they can safely advocate for their own rights.[1] The answer to a lack of choice for marginalised women is not taking a certain choice away or making it more dangerous, rather the emphasis should be on opening other choices for these women.


[P1] The most marginalised people in society are often the ones who enter prostitution. [P2] In particular for women of colour, prostitution can also serve to reinforce harmful racial dynamics. [P3] The state should not decriminalise and therefore condone the perpetuation of these dynamics

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] By making prostitution illegal, the state is simply increasing the vulnerability of people in prostitution rather than helping those who are marginalised.




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This page was last edited on Sunday, 24 Nov 2019 at 22:49 UTC