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Prostitution is known as the oldest profession in the world, however, many states in the U.S. outlaw it. The textbook definition of prostitution is the "act or practice of engaging in sexual acts for money" ("Prostitution," Macmillan 805). Nevada is the first in the United States to legalize prostitution. Although the long term effects of legalized prostitution is uncertain, the short term effects have been economically beneficial. Prostitution should be legalized because not only could it financially benefit the country, but it could also reduce crime.
There are many reasons why prostitution is illegal in 49 U.S. states today. First, and foremost, many people feel that prostitution should stay illegal in order to preserve morality. Parents do not want their children to grow up thinking that prostitution is acceptable. Worse yet, parents do not want to hear their children say, "When I grow up, I want to be a prostitute." Christianity also looks down upon prostitution because according to their beliefs, the act of sex is only to be done when a man and a women are in love and married. Monogamy is to be practiced in the marriage, and any violation of this is considered a sin. Another reason why the preservation of morality is so important is that people's morals shape the future of a nation. Many people feel that if prostitution is legalized, then its long term effects would be detrimental to the United States. The divorce rate in the United States peaked at an all time high in 1980 ("Marriage" 56). By the legalization of prostitution, this would allow room for husbands and wives to commit adultery. Thus, leading the marriage to a divorce. "The divorce rate has really increased over the centuries. In the U.S. today, the divorce rate is fifty percent of the U.S." (Holland 86).
Second, prostitution is a great health risk to the U.S. because of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A major concern about STDs is the spread of AIDS, which is currently a deadly STD because a cure has not been found for the disease. The transmission of STDs is already on the rise due to many uneducated teenagers having unprotected sex. In addition, most of theses teens are not going to a physician to be screened for STDs. Because of this, many curable STDs are going untreated and being spread throughout a community.
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With prostitution being illegal, many violent crimes against prostitutes go unreported every year. Prostitutes are often too frightened to report the crime to police. Most of the time, the crime's perpetuator is a pimp or a client. Several of the crimes committed against prostitutes include robbery, kidnaping, rape, battery, and/or homicide. Prostitutes, however, are not the only victims. Sometimes the client is also the victim. "A street prostitute is already a lawbreaker, which may encourage other crimes, such as ?rolling' clients (drugging them and stealing their money)" ("Street Cleaning" 25). As a result, crimes associated with illegal prostitution often go unreported and without punishment.
Although enforcement of illegal prostitution exhausts a great amount of time, some citizens feel that the time is well spent. Many residents complain that street prostitution brings noise, declining property values, a bad environment for children, and a health threat. Residents feel that street prostitution detracts from the innocence of their children's childhood; and no price is too high to prevent this from happening. One tactic that is being implemented by a few urban police departments is the seizure of the vehicle belonging to the prostitute's client. "The driver must then appear at an impoundment garage to pay a fine and processing costs, typically around $300. All parties whose names appear on the vehicle registration-wives and employers included-must then sign if the car is to be returned" ("Prostitution," CQ 32). Prostitution involves many different kinds of crimes. With this in mind, some citizens feel that if prostitution is eliminated, then many of the crimes associated with prostitution will also be eliminated or decreased. Thus, saving taxpayers money that would ordinarily be used in court fees and enforcement fees.
On the other hand, a survey taken in 1993 showed that 40 percent of Americans think that prostitution should be legalized and regulated ("Database" 16). From the technical aspect, prostitution should not be illegal because the act itself does not infringe upon anyone's constitutional right. Furthermore, no where in the constitution does it state that accepting or offering money for sexual acts is illegal. Many people, however, argue that our forefathers did not envision a nation where sex was a profession and taxable. Conversely, prostitution has been around for so long that it is almost apart of our history. No one actually knows when prostitution began or how it originated; yet, our forefathers had to know about prostitution, because Europe (especially France and Russia) is infamous for the prostitutes who work there. Still, "the world's oldest trade has always outwitted attempts to suppress it" ("Street Cleaning" 24).
Another reason why some citizens are calling for the decriminalization of prostitution is that it would greatly reduce the transmission of STDs. Legalized prostitution has shown that prostitutes who work in brothels practice safe sex and are less likely to contract and transmit STDs. As indicated in the article entitled, "Prostitution":
George Flint, director of the Nevada Brothel Association, point with pride to the 20,000 monthly AIDS tests that have been performed on legal prostitutes since tests were required in 1986-with HIV showing up only among job applicants.
Similarly, not a single case of AIDS turned up in a 1991 survey of 7,000
tests on 246 legal prostitutes in Nevada from 1982 to 989. By contrast, of 700
illegal prostitutes arrested in 1990 for soliciting in Nevada, 10 percent tested
positive for HIV (36).
Many brothels in Nevada also require its customers to go through an exam before business is able to proceed. This practice of screening customers adds to the record of safe sex in legal prostitution. With this in mind, brothels are able to control (to an extent) the statistics of STDs in legal prostitution. In summary, legal prostitution is a safer alternative to street prostitution because customers and job applicants are screened for STDs.
Another benefit of legal prostitution is the reduction of violent crimes. Almost all brothels located in Nevada provide security for their workers. This creates a safe working environment for the prostitutes. Crimes against prostitutes such as robbery, kidnaping, rape, battery, and/or homicide are greatly reduced. Security is not only for the prostitutes, but it is also for the customers. This decreases the chances of prostitutes "rolling" their clients. Most brothels also enforce a drug-free policy, which also adds to the reduction in violent crimes.
A major advantage to legal prostitution is government regulation. Undoubtedly, the
government will earn revenue from brothels and be able to monitor part of the sex industry. A significant benefit to government involvement in prostitution are the regulations and standards that will be set forth for all brothels to meet. This will allow for a clean and safe environment for both patrons and workers. Government regulation would also mean the elimination of pimps. Street prostitutes are normally controlled by a pimp who usually keeps the prostitute dependent on drugs so that he/she can control the money that the prostitute makes.
While many critics may maintain that prostitution is immoral and unethical, the issue cannot be denied. Prostitution happens all over the world and in most cities. A great deal of money and time is spent attempting to stop illegal prostitution. When a prostitute is picked up by the police, she/he usually spends a night in jail, goes to court, pays a fine, serves a short time in jail and/or completes community service. Then, the prostitute is released and is back on the streets in no time. Dennis Martin, president of the National Association of Police Chiefs, once observed that "prostitution enforcement is erratic and depends completely on how much the public complains and on pressure from politicians. It's much too time-consuming, and police forces are short-staffed" (qtd. in "Prostitutes," CQ 32). Many citizens feel that police efforts should be directed towards more serious crimes, such as drug trafficking. With the cost of court fees, enforcement, and jail housing for the convicted prostitutes, some citizens are beginning to wonder if the government is approaching the problem correctly. "In 1985 it was calculated that each of America's biggest cities spent $12m a year fighting prostitution . . . Mr. Richwald [a doctor from the University of Los Angeles] guesses that prostitution costs Los Angeles at least $100m a year" ("Street Cleaning" 25). For many people, money is the bottom-line. For some citizens, however, money takes a backseat to ethics, morals, and values. Legalized prostitutionis really a question of value and judgement. Nevertheless, morals and values cannot be imposed by the government. Furthermore, it is not the duty of the government to teach values to children. Instead, it is the job of parents to teach their children from right and wrong. If the government was allowed regulate morals and values to a nation, then would that same government be a democracy or a dictatorship? Prostitution today, should be legalized because it would create revenue for the government and greatly reduce crime in most cities.
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Holland, Barbara. "The Long Good-Bye." Smithsonian Magazine Mar. 1998: 86.
Legalized Prostitution. The Liberator. 11 Nov. 1999.
"Marriage and Divorce, 1996." Monthly Vital Statistics Report. 45.12 (1997): 44.
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"Prostitution." Macmillan Dictionary for Students. 11th ed., 1993.
Prostitution and Law Enforcement: Practices and Abuses. The San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution. 10 Nov. 1999.
Prostitution Law Reforms: Defining Terms. The San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution. 10 Nov. 1999.
"Street Cleaning." CQ Researcher Sept. 1991: 24-25.