Social commentary and think pieces

30 July 2019

The safety of prostitutes is crucial; but is outlawing their job the best way forwards?

In the April of this year, Spain's PSOE party (Spanish Socialist Workers party) announced that they were considering outlawing prostitution in an effort to appeal to female voters ahead of their general election. The part said "Prostitution, which we aim to abolish, is one of the cruelest aspects of the feminisation of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women."
Later that month, The Netherlands, with possibly the most prominent red light district of any country, admitted that they too were considering outlawing prostitution after a petition against sex work in the country gained over 40,000 signatures.
Whilst its clear to see that the intentions of both Spain and The Netherlands are only good - to protect the women operating in the industry - what would the outlaw of sex work mean for prostitutes in these countries?

The fact that prostitution is an issue in Spain isn't surprising. Over the last couple of years the country has faced economic hardships, which has caused many problems in the country, including the loss of jobs. When you consider this, its not at all shocking that women are turning to prostitution to make themselves some money, which just goes to show that more often than not a woman's choice to do sex work is purely circumstantial. Its something they go into out of desperation and something they only intend to be temporary. Its a means of survival.

In countries where prostitution is illegal, the women working in the trade are only a symbol of their own desperation. Working illegally on the fringes of society and mixing with people on the wrong side of the law is unlikely something they'd do out of choice, had it not been one of few feasible ways to support themselves or their family.
If prostitution is outlawed, then these women - who only do what they do out of desperation - automatically become jobless or, if they continue working, criminals.

I think its also entirely crucial to remember that outlawing something doesn't stop it happening. Murder and theft are illegal, yet people are still killed and robbed. The same applies to prostitution because even if you outlaw it, no matter how greatly you enforce that law, you still aren't able to abolish a woman's desperation or need to support herself or her family, which is likely the reason she is working in prostitution.

I want to point out that when I refer to women working in prostitution, I am not referring to those who have been forced into the trade; sex slaves. That is an entirely different issue and something that is rightly illegal. Rather, I am referring to the women who have gone into the trade by their own decision, though likely due to their circumstances.

When it comes to prostitution, rather than outlawing it we need to think more deeply about how we can improve the societal factors - poverty, the housing crisis, prejudice - that very often lead women to turn to prostitution as a last resort.
The safety of these women is clearly at the heart of the intentions of both Spain and The Netherlands, and rightly so. Theres no denying that prostitution can be astronomically dangerous for the women involved and I would certainly agree that providing them with safety and support is crucial.
But, unless the societal factors that lead women into that role are improved, banning prostitution can, and will likely, leave many women far more vulnerable than they were to begin with.

1 comment

  1. This is such an important topics at the moment Hun and thank you for writing such a detailed and thoughtful piece on it!! x

    Grace Louise ||


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