After stumbling across the above article, It reminded me about the essay I wrote for my Law & Society exam in May, around the issue of prostitution and what should be done about it. Here it is…
Prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual activity with another in return for payment, it is also known as the world’s “oldest profession”. Since we can all remember, we have been aware of prostitution and of its goings on, many of us, would look upon it as being degrading and harmful to women. Prostitution has been occurring throughout history and for as far back as most can remember, the infamous Jack the Ripper was a serial killer during the Victorian Era, within the Whitechapel area of London. Whitechapel at the time, was overpopulated, poverished and underdeveloped area, driving many women to a life of Prostitution. Jack the Ripper’s victims of choice, were these prostitutes.
But when exactly did Prostitution begin? Evidence suggests that prostitution dates back through the Middle Ages, where it was tolerated as it was seen to prevent greater evils of “rape, sodomy and masturbation”. Augustine of Hippo held that, “If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts”. Although, it was tolerated, many prostitutes were encouraged to reform. There is also evidence to suggest that prostitution occurred in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, dating back to 6th Century BC when Solon instituted the first of Athens’ Brothels. It is fair to say, that Prostitution has been around through the ages, is the “oldest profession” and doesn’t appear to have died out as people’s morals and attitudes have changed over the eras. Can there be an end to prostitution? Should it be legalised? Or possibly de-criminalised?
I suppose the question isn’t really whether prostitution can be ended, as it will never completely be eradicated. It is already underground and should legislation become stricter, it could only force these activities further underground making them more inaccessible and less likely to be governed. But it is more, what can be done to prevent further harm to women and to prevent it from reaching the point where it is completely out of hand? James Coleman, Deputy Leader of Glasgow City Council believed that cutting of the demand for prostitution will help to combat the same, “tackling demand is key to the issue”. In 2009, The “End Prostitution Now” Scottish campaign was pushing for changes in existing legislation in a way to “clamp down” on prostitution. The idea behind the changes was to put Scotland on a par with Sweden and Norway, where it was the people paying for the services who became the criminals and not the women who were selling themselves. Prostitution is already illegal under both UK and Scottish Laws, Kerb Crawling; the act where a person drives round known areas for prostitution or “red-light districts” looking for a prostitute, they would drive slowly next to the kerb hence the term, was made illegal in October 2009, but this did not provide for the illegalisation of payment for sexual services occurring within brothels and massage parlours. Should the “End Prostitution Now” Campaign be successful and changes to legislation made, offences would be provided for. The overall objective is to protect the women, and to help them get out of prostitution, as many have been forced into the position through no fault of their own, for others it is a lifestyle choice.
Most women who become involved in prostitution have come from a background of abuse or social care, 45% of women having been subjected to child sexual abuse, 70% having been within the care system, and the average age at which a girl becomes a prostitute being as young as 12 years old. The average age in which a girl becomes a prostitute is 12 years old – not even legally old enough to have sex. This means, that not only are men who engage in prostitution are not only demoralising and degrading that woman further, but are also engaging in illicit activities with children and underage girls – whether they are aware of this fact at the time is an entirely different matter.
45% of women have been subjected to sexual abuse as a child, they do not know any better. The psychological harm that occurs to a young girl subjected to abuse of that sort is phenomenal, but yet it is rectifiable. If being sexually abused is all that woman knows, they are then in the mind-set that this is all they worth, this is all they are good for, and so every male who would show them attention, even if it is of a platonic sense, they would be thinking that sex was all that man was after. If they are also within the 70% who have come out of the care system, they would be on the run, living on the streets and in poverty. Many would join the world of prostitution as a means to survival, not learning that it is wrong and that they are being further demoralised and used by men. Counselling and therapies could help to change this persons way of thinking, RASA is an independent charity organisation based in Merseyside which specialises in helping women who have been subjected to Rape and Sexual Assault. This sort of treatment could help to change a person’s thinking and maybe stop them from entering the world of prostitution. If in care, they could be encouraged and educated on how to make a life for themselves, in ways where they don’t need to demoralise themselves. It’s similar to that of providing aid to third world countries, rather than providing them with aid, wouldn’t we be better in teaching them how to provide for themselves, how to provide clean water and build better homes and have a better education for them, so they are able to stabilise their own economy and country rather than indebting themselves further to the western world. Education and a pro-active rather than a re-active approach appears to be key. Indeed, this only covers a percentage of women who enter prostitution and these methods may not work for everyone but in theory, this could put an end to prostitution before it started.
In 2008, statistics were published following 10 years of implemented legislation, similar to that which the End Prostitution Now campaign was pushing. Sweden, essentially decriminalised prostitution – they stopped punishing the prostitutes and began punishing the people who paid for the services. At the implementation of the legislation, there were approximately 2500 women who worked the streets of Stockholm, in 2008, this had rapidly diminished to approximately 100 women working the streets. They found there had been an 80% decrease in punters and that out of 30 nationalities; Swedish men were less likely to use a prostitute as they found it unacceptable. Not only had the amount of men using prostitutes diminished but the law being implemented had even helped to change people’s attitudes and morals towards prostitution. Not only had there been a drop in the use of prostitutes and number of women prostituting, there had been a drop in the amount of women being trafficked to approximately 200 women, Finland would see approximately 15,000 women being trafficked across their borders, and other neighbouring countries seeing an increase in prostitution. These statistics alone, show that the decriminalisation of prostitution can help shape and change attitudes in men with regards to the use of prostitutes. Not only in men, but also in women, as there was a decrease in the number of women who were working the streets.
Decriminalising prostitution is not the same as legalizing it.
Prostitution is and will remain a criminal offence, de-criminalising it provides that the women involved in prostitution would not be punished but the punters paying for the services would be. By decriminalising prostitution it could provide a greater protection for women, which currently around 50% of prostitutes suffering from rape and sexual abuse and 75% being subjected to physical abuse. If it was governed, and regulated, in the same way which has been carried out successfully in Sweden, we would see a decrease in the number of prostitutes, meaning that policing areas in which prostitution occurs would be easier, the women would have a greater protection as there would be less women on the streets, thus hopefully then reducing the number of women being subjected to abuse. Hopefully attitudes would change towards prostitutes and men would then see the effect they have on women when they indulge in their services, how it is anti-social and demoralising, and they will suffer consequences for indulging in such activities. There would be less incentive for men to use prostitutes as they would be the ones being criminalised and punished. It would not be as easy as it is for them now, to hire an escort for the evening before returning home to their family/normal life. Another regulation, which could help our economy, as a lot of women enter prostitution because it is “easy money”, there is little overheads and flexible working hours. If it was decriminalised in a way where money earned from this output could be taxed, this may stop women from engaging in prostitution as it would not be a way to make some quick cash. Although, prostitution cannot be completely eradicated as it has been with us since time can tell, taking steps to decriminalise, regulate and govern prostitution and by also helping women at early stages before they become too involved would be a step forward to reducing prostitution.