In the United Kigdom it is legal for adults (those aged 18 years and older) to engage in prostitution. Many of the activities associated with prostitution are, however illegal. For example one man or woman may work as a prostitute from premises, however where two or more individuals operate together (even if one of those persons is only taking bookings, answering the door etc rather than working as a sex worker) then the premises is classified as a brothel and those working there are breaking the law. In 2008 Sweden took the radical step of criminalising the purchasers of sexual services while leaving sex workers free to ply their profession without fear of arrest. In contrast to sex workers, their clients are (if convicted of paying for sex) subject to a fine and/or six months in prison. In 2009 Norway introduced similar legislation to that in Sweden.
The philosophy underpinning the legislation is that women are the weaker party and, as such they should be protected from men. According to this perspective men have no right to “buy women”. Women do not voluntarily choose to sell their bodies, consequently those who avail themselves of the services provided by sex workers are guilty of “exploiting” prostituted women. The Swedish law has been held up by British politicians such as the Labour MP Hariet Harman as a model which should be followed in the United Kingdom (it is not currently illegal to purchase sex in the UK provided that the person offering sexual services is 18 or older and he/she has not been forced into prostitution). Let us leave aside for a moment the issue of whether men (and women) should be criminalised for purchasing sexual services. Instead let us turn first to whether the law has the effect claimed for it by it’s proponents, namely making the lives of prostitutes safer by detering men from purchasing sex. According to a recent article in “The Local” the legislation enacted in norway has made the lives of sex workers more dangerous than was the case prior to the legislation coming into force
“The 2009 prostitution law prohibits the purchase but not the sale of sexual services, with legislators seeking to stymie the trade by targeting demand.

But the Pro Sentret report indicates that the law has in fact made prostitutes much more susceptible to violence at the hands of their clients as the sex
trade moves further underground.

What’s more, prostitutes have become less inclined to seek help since the law came into force, with many now perceiving that they too are viewed as criminals,
the report says.

Many of the women also said the new law had scared off many of their more reliable customers, while troublesome and violent clients were relatively undeterred.

According to the study, titled Farlige Forbindelser (Dangerous Liaisons), 59 percent of prostitutes in Oslo have fallen victim to some form of violence
in the last three years.

”Violence against women in prostitution is brutal and frequent,” said Ulla Bjørndahl at Pro Sentret.

”Often the violence is extreme. Eleven people have faced death threats, many have been threatened with weapons, or have been exposed to robbery, rape, or
were threatened into participating in non-consensual sex,” Bjørndahl told newspaper Dagbladet.” (see http://www.thelocal.no/page/view/rip-up-prostitution-law-says-top-oslo-politician).
The research for the report was carried out between January-March of 2012 and entailed interviews with 123 women engaged in prostitution. Those interviewed included street prostitutes, ladies working in flats and women selling sex in massage parlours. Consequently the researchers interviewed a representative sample of those engaged in prostitution and their findings should be treated seriously.
Turning to the issue of whether prostitution necessarily entails exploitation, the reaction of French intellectuals to the French government’s proposal to prohibit the purchasing of sexual services is instructive
“Responding, the intellectuals said any move to liberate women from sexual slavery or the clutches of organised crime would be welcome.

But they argued that talk of “abolishing” prostitution was based on “two debatable assumptions: that charging for sex is an affront to women’s dignity
and that all prostitutes are all victims of their bastard clients.”

They added: “A women who prostitutes herself, whether she does so occasionally or full-time, is not necessarily a victim of male oppression.

“And the clients are not all horrible predators or sexual obsessives who treat the woman as disposable objects.” (see http://www.thelocal.fr/page/view/french-intellectuals-slam-prostitution-ban-plan).
Precisely so, I couldn’t have put it better myself. The idea that all prostitutes are victims and all clients are “bastards” is rissible. Having used the services of escorts over a number of years I know that the ladies do in the overwhelming majority of cases freely choos to enter the world of escorting. No big bad pimp is threatening them with violence, they see easy money and they take it.
None of the above is intended to deny that prostitution can (and often does) have harmful effects on those who engage in it. Dig behind the smile and one often finds deeply damaged individuals. However there exist other equally damaged persons who choose not to engage in sex work. Again by no means all who engage in prostitution suffered abuse as children. Despite what some would have us believe prostitution is (in most cases) a freely entered into choice. It may not be (and in most instances it certainly isn’t) the first choice of the majority of those who engage in it. It is, however still a choice.

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