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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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Economic coercion into prostitution

Sex workers do not want to enter prostitution, but are forced to due to circumstance.

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Many people who enter into prostitution come from poverty.[1] This is especially true of women who may have to support families and see an opportunity to make more money from prostitution than from jobs paying minimum wage.

The Argument

The overwhelming proportion of people in sex work that come from poverty demonstrates that it is not something that workers freely desire. Instead, it is done as a last resort for survival. Women are especially vulnerable, as female head-of-households who are in poverty make up a large proportion of those who work in illegal sectors.[2] People entering into sex work do not have the economic freedom to be able to ‘choose’ prostitution; rather, they are coerced by their circumstances.

Counter arguments

Blanket statements that everyone entering into sex work has been coerced is not supported by statistics. There are many women who choose sex work. And their choices must be respected. Rather than criminalising prostitution, there needs to be more structural change in order to help women vulnerable to coercion. There should be more support offered to those who are economically vulnerable. For instance, the introduction and mandate of a living wage and childcare assistance for parents would leave far fewer people vulnerable to coercion, addressing the root cause of the problem.


[P1] A large amount of people in prostitution come from poverty. [P2] People entering sex work due to poverty cannot be said to be choosing it of their own volition and are vulnerable to being coerced into it. [P3] Prostitution should be illegal as it traps people vulnerable through coercion.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Making prostitution illegal will not help vulnerable people.




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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:02 UTC