Should prostitution be legal? Let's try listening to the real experts

Survivors of prostitution reveal harsh realities of commercial sex industry and why legislation needs to criminalise the purchase of sex


As far as legislation towards decriminalising the sale of sex is concerned, I hold the same views today that I held all through the 1990s when I was a working prostitute myself, and that view is no, I do not support that, because to support decriminalising the sale of sex would be to support prostitution itself.

What I have always wholeheartedly endorsed is the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. To say what’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander is a very balanced line to take, but when a situation is not grounded in equality, it is not balanced in the first place. This makes it difficult to justify taking an equal all-across-the-board legislative approach to it. You cannot, with any sense of fairness, criminalise someone because they have been exploited.

I believe if a prostitute or former prostitute wants to see prostitution legalised, it is because she is inured both to the wrong of it and to her own personal injury from it. I see now that I was mistaken when I conceded in my debate with my friend that ‘maybe’ legalisation would have made us physically safer.

I think I supposed that legality would have imposed some order on the prostitution experience. I supposed that the beatings would have come to an end, or been reduced, at least. I thought that legalisation may have led to a reduction in the general physical harm that was part of our daily lives.

But I now perceive, in light of having access to international research which has been conducted since I left prostitution, that my suppositions were not at all true; in fact the truth is the reverse.

To be prostituted is humiliating enough; to legalise prostitution is to condone that humiliation, and to absolve those who inflict it. It is an agonising insult.

International human rights organisation, Equality Now, has launched a campaign calling on the United Nations to listen to survivors and address the root causes of sex trafficking and exploitation. They listen to real accounts of those, like me, who have been involved in the industry:

“The demand should be criminalised. Women are in a position in society where circumstances push them into prostitution, but men have a choice. They don’t need to have sex available to them. By legalising prostitution men are being told by the Govt that it’s perfectly ok to purchase a woman. Women are not commodities to be bought and sold. Legalisation normalises something that is far from normal. The Swedish Model in focusing on the demand has also proven to be successful in reducing trafficking.

When entering the industry no one tells you about the possible impacts and it’s easy to get caught up in the money to be made and not realise the impact it is having both psychologically and physically. It find it difficult to believe that when it’s looked at logically, some people don’t get how damaging it is. If you do prostitution full time you would generally do five long shifts and on average have sex with between 20 and 40 total strangers, some of whom will treat you badly either verbally and or physically. How can anyone think that it is not going to do you harm?

I do not see the industry as a viable option for women, but understand due to the economy, unequal pay, and gender inequality in general why some women end up there. Past experience of abuse always plays a major role in women ending up in the sex industry”.

Anonymous Australian survivor of prostitution and sex trafficking


“I would like to wave a magic wand – and ‘kasham’ – all the prostituted in every country, in every street, in every brothel, in every flat, in every piece of porn on the net etc – they not just free but able to know their full humanity.

I would love to have my magic wand make all lawmakers in every country attack the demand for porn and prostitution without mercy or taking notice of the status of the man consuming the sex trade.

I would wave away any law that makes the prostituted into criminals, and make it clear they are crime victims, that most have been damage into being sub-human. I would want it to be seen that each and every prostituted women and girl has her right to full consent stolen and smashed to the ground, for money replaces her voice as consent.

I see it as major progress that the Nordic Approach is a reality – and that it changes attitudes for many governments that have considered there is little that can be done to help the prostituted.

We may be in a moment in history, where the prostituted may have access to real freedom and a route back to being fully human.

Please hold the lightning rod of giving the prostituted their full human rights – do not be afraid, for fear stops actions.

It is one of the biggest emergencies of our time – so doing nothing is to be on the side of the sex trade”.

Rebecca Mott, UK survivor of prostitution and sex trafficking and writer


To read more about the ListenToSurvivors campaign click here

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