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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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Long-term consequences

Prostitutes suffer from long-term negative consequences to their mental and physical health.

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Studies have found higher rates of eating disorders,[1] mental health issues, and sexually transmitted diseases[2] among sex workers.

The Argument

The people who have worked in prostitution unquestionably suffer from negative long-term effects, even after they have left sex work. People suffer both mental and physical effects. PTSD is extremely common among ex-sex workers,[3]. Leaving those who have suffered years of abuse in sex work to suffer from the consequences for the rest of their lives is not an option. The long-term physical effects can be devastating, particularly HIV and infertility resulting from sexually transmitted infections.[2] Any profession that is causing such profound negative effects on its participants should be illegal. Any other solution is negligent on the part of the state.

Counter arguments

Criminalising prostitution can have numerous negative long-term effects on sex workers. A criminal record due to prostitution can create life-long barriers to alternative employment, benefits and accommodation.[4] Additionally, the illegality of prostitution is linked to higher rates of violence and sexually transmitted infections.[5]


[P1] People who used to be sex workers suffer from long-term negative effects to both mental and physical health. [P2] Prostitution therefore needs to be illegal to discourage people entering a profession that hold potentially lifelong harms.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Outlawing prostitution has been found to worsen health outcomes for sex workers.




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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:05 UTC