Should prostitution be legal in the U.S.?


Fact Box

  • 2400 BCE are the earliest recorded mention of prostitution as an occupation [1].
  • In the United States, prostitution was at best sporadically controlled until the passage of the federal Mann Act (1910), which prohibited interstate transportation of women for “immoral purposes.” By 1915 nearly all states had passed laws that banned brothels or regulated the profits of prostitution [2].
  • An estimated 1 million prostitutes live in the U.S., even though it's legal only in Nevada [3].

Rida (Yes)

First off, let’s get one thing straight: prostitution has been around since the 18th century BC [1], and it’s not going away any time soon. Prostitution will always happen, so the argument is not whether it should happen, the argument is whether we let it happen in an unregulated and dangerous environment, or do we step in and make laws to safeguard sex workers?

Legalized prostitution reduces violence against women in the profession and improves sexual health.

Reduced violence:

According to Farley and Barkan (1998) [2], in San Francisco, 82% of adult prostitutes had been physically assaulted, and 68% of them had been raped. These women had NO legal recourse and right of justice because going to the police meant getting arrested. Conversely, a study [3] in Nevada about licensed brothels revealed that due to help from local law enforcement, violence against registered prostitutes had nearly disappeared. According to Cunningham and Shah [4], when prostitution was temporarily legalized in Rhode Island, there was a 31% decrease in reported rape offenses. Studies about legalized prostitution in Holland [5] have also shown a 32 to 40 percent reduction in rape and sexual abuse within two years.

Improved sexual health:

In Nevada, every registered prostitute must undergo several blood tests and cervical tests to prove they don’t carry any STIs [6]. Once registered, sex workers have to get tested for syphilis and HIV every month, and they are REQUIRED to use condoms. Legalizing prostitution would effectively allow us to ensure sexual safety for prostitutes and their customers. In the accidental legalization case in Rhode Island, a 39% decrease was experienced in Gonorrhea as well.

History dictates that prostitution will always exist and sociological research indicates that legalized prostitution is significantly more safe for sex workers. Knowing this, it is about time we set aside our subjective opinions and give sex workers the right to fair compensation and protection under the law.


Gioya (No)

The legalization of prostitution is debated across the country. Both sides have valid points. Neither strategy ensures success or failure.


Government-sponsored prostitution masks the violent reality of the business. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) found legal sex houses did not protect prostitutes. Most of the sex workers endured violence from their johns and their pimps. Pimps used violence to intimidate, punish and dominate the women. Prostitutes, alone in the room with buyers, were often abused.


A 150-country study found that trafficking increased in countries that legalized prostitution. Traffickers go to countries where they can operate under the guise of legitimacy. The US Department of State noted that legal brothels provide fronts for traffickers ('Trafficking in Humans Report,' June 2007).

Also, when the stigma of prosecution is removed, the demand for sex workers increases. Traffickers respond by pressing more women into prostitution.

Tax Revenue:

Will pimps and prostitutes file taxes? Journalist Julie Bindel wrote an article when the Dutch government legalized prostitution. She noted, “only 5 percent of the women registered for tax because no one wants to be known as a whore - however legal it may be.”

When governments collect taxes from brothels, they become another pimp collecting from prostitutes. The cash-based transactions of the sex trade ensure most of the money will stay in pimps’ hands.

The idea that prostitution should be legalized is a myth. Countries with legalized sex workers often see increased trafficking and little tax revenue. There is no change in the abuse of the prostitutes. [Sources: 1 (pp.76), 2 (pp.27), 3]

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