Although midwifery is probably an older profession, everyone knows what is being referred to when mentioning the “world’s oldest profession“, and that’s prostitution. So how is prostitution faring these days? It really depends on where you look.
In most parts of the world prostitution is illegal. Penalties range from fines to life imprisonment. Again, depending where you are, the penalties will apply either to the seller, the purchaser, or both. However, the illegality of prostitution in these counties has had little, if any, effect in stopping the practice. The most noticeable effect is that prostitution is controlled by the criminal world.
Some other countries have taken another approach and while not criminalising prostitution itself, criminalise activities around prostitution, such as soliciting, running a brothel and living of the earnings of a prostitute. In these countries too, organised crime are big players in the sex industry.
A few, a very few, have decriminalised prostitution. New Zealand has probably the most liberal prostitution laws of any country. These were liberalised in 2003 and although some religious groups were predicting our streets would become awash with sex, debauchery and organised crime, little has changed except sex workers are protected by our employment laws.
There has not be a rise in the number of sex workers. In fact there may have been a small decline as it is now much easier to leave the industry. And because prostitution is not criminalized, there is little room for the criminal underworld to manoeuvre.
The Prostitutes Collective have a web page summarising the current law, and there is an interesting, 2007 Report on The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers (213 page PDF document) carried out by the University of Otago in 2007, if you’d like dig a little deeper.
While I’m not condoning prostitution in any way, from the evidence I have seen, I believe decriminalisation is the least harmful method of dealing with it. What’s your view?