Decriminalizing prostitution brings safety

Bella Tollestrup-Wimbish

Many sex workers who experience abuse feel unsafe reporting crimes to police due to stigma


In our world, we are told  that sex sells, in both media and material goods.

But when it comes to the actual selling of sex, people become uncomfortable and don’t think that it is a topic that should be talked about.

But when there are people who are being criminalized for being a prostitute in the United States, it becomes something that needs to be discussed.

Decriminalizing prostitution can raise public awareness about what is going on in the community, assist with the health concerns of prostitutes, and also help people recognize that prostitutes are not criminals but human beings.

Sex workers are treated as criminals without any regard for their circumstances. Many of these people are forced into these circumstances against their will, or are put into financial circumstances where they feel that they have no other option.

My friend’s mom once said to me that when a prostitute is working, they do not see sex when they think of clients, they see the bills they have to pay, the food their kids need and the life they are fighting for to live.

No one wants anyone to be forced into these circumstances, and they should not be criminalized for circumstances they cannot control.

When regulations are set in place, this allows law enforcement to monitor the sex industry better, since it is more visible.

Regulation that is focused on decriminalization allows the law to be working for the safety of sex workers and not against it. Pimps and brothel owners can be prosecuted if they are forcing sex workers to work without pay or if they are abusive, but this is difficult to do if sex workers do not feel that they can go to law enforcement for protection.

Decriminalization allows sex workers to feel free to come to the police and the justice system for help without fearing that they will get in trouble with the law, thereby allowing the truly abusive criminals to be punished.

Nevada is the only state with legalized prostitution in the country. State legalization, on the other hand, is a less strict regime wherein the state doesn’t prosecute prostitution but takes a heavy-handed approach to its regulation.

In Nevada, there are legalized brothels, but there are also regulations for the worker to enforce safe working environments. Additionally, there are also laws that combat against sex trafficking, forced prostitution and the selling of minors.

These types of legal systems allow other crimes involving the sex trade to be prevented and minimized.

In the state of Rhode Island, a researcher found a loophole in the prostitution law and conducted a study, where from 2003-2009 they allowed indoor prostitution. As a result, the rape and gonorrhea rates dropped drastically.

“Decriminalization could have potentially large social benefits for the population at large — not just sex market participants,” wrote economists Manisha Shah and Scott Cunningham in a working paper about their research.

Most people agree that the selling of the body for financial gain is both a moral and ethical issue. As a nation, we have to ask where the line needs to be drawn and how can we help protect the people who find themselves in these situations.

However, criminalizing prostitution can enact violence against prostitutes and create a negative stigma towards them. Sex work still happens even when it is illegal. But criminalizing someone for sex work only limits their rights to protection from law enforcement as they no longer have access to the systems that ought to be there for their protection.

If people are going to be sex workers, they deserve to work in safe environments where they know they are not going to be taken advantage of. In the cases where people are taken advantage of, they should not feel afraid to speak up.

So while prostitution does not necessarily need to be completely legalized, the issues that go on within the community needs to be stopped.

Those who are forced into prostitution should not be punished for it. The people who need to be punished are the people who are selling other human beings for their gains and profiting off of it.