Should prostitution be legalized?
This is a loaded question that has been debated in countries across the globe – France the most recent culprit.
Parliamentarian Chantal Brunel, head of the country’s sexual equality watchdog, is campaigning to legalize prostitution in the country, and it seems that many agree.
A recent survey found that six out of 10 French people want brothels to be legalized in the country again as they are in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. More than two-thirds of men surveyed and almost half of women replied that they were in favor of this proposal.
Brunel argues that women should be allowed to sell sex on “special licensed premises.” She believes that doing so would “free thousands of women from the exploitation they suffer at the hands of pimps and criminal gangs and offer them much more security than they currently have on the streets.”
Legalization, however, does not mean freedom. Many sex workers have been with their pimps since they were very young and are conditioned over the years to believe that they need their pimps for survival – no matter how much they abuse them or steal their money. Legalizing prostitution would do nothing to change these relationships or the tight grasp pimps have over the women who work for them. Legalization also doesn’t mean the extinction of pimps. On the contrary, it could create a new network of pimps for the growing legal profession.
Brunel also says that she thinks legalizing prostitution would give sex workers “a legal taxable income and they would not be handing over large sums of their earning to a pimp.”
I have to disagree with this point as well. If prostitution were legalized sex workers would have as Brunel points out “a legal taxable income” but this does not mean financial independence nor does it mean that these women would be able to keep the money they earn for themselves. Demands from pimps for their share of the earnings will continue with no avail and if women object I fear they will pay in abuse.
Sex workers are subject to many dangers – abuse, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, HIV / AIDS. Whether prostitution is legal or not, these dangers still exist. Perhaps, instead of fueling resources into legalizing or criminalizing prostitution, we should be investing time and energy into finding solutions for eradicating the practice altogether and giving women other options to make an income.
I have to believe that a world in which women live freely and safely is possible, but until then sex workers need their governments to protect them from abuse and harassment – whether what they do is legal or not.
What do you think? Should France move to legalize prostitution?
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Picture by Ricardo Martins used under a Creative Commons license