Prostitution: how does the current law and society treat women who are prostitutes?

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Prostitution – how does the current law and society treat women who are prostitutes? Prostitution is apparently the oldest profession in the world but equally it is one of the most denigrated and disparaged professions in the world. The stereotype of a prostitute is a downtrodden woman, probably with a drug habit, who ran away from home as young girl, could not find another way to make a living and somehow became trapped in a world she can never get away from. This may be because she does not know anything else or because her pimp has terrified her into continuing to sell herself for small amounts of money, most of which she gives to him to keep her ‘safe’.

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To compound the stereotype, there is the idea that prostitution causes wider criminal behaviour and the spreading of sexually transmitted infections and so if prostitution were to cease to exist there would be less crime and fewer incidences of HIV. Though as a general rule, people, including professional’s[1], consider the health risks to the general pubic and the crimes perpetrated against the general public rather than the crimes perpetrated against sex workers. As it is, prostitution per se is not illegal but associated activities are, consenting adults are actually able to participate in a ‘cash for sex’ transaction if they chose. It is how that transaction is arranged that the legislation makes reference to. Soliciting, procurement and kerb crawling are all illegal and have been for a long time, but convictions for these offences have dropped dramatically in the last fifteen years[2]. There are now further offences of trafficking[3] but in that offence the prostitutes are generally seen as the victims and society tends to be more sympathetic towards the women who become involved in prostitution via organised crime rather than their own desperate circumstances and lack of choices. While it is accepted that the true figures for those involved in prostitution in can never be accurately established because much of the industry is hidden, the Home Office estimates that there are around 80,000 people involved in prostitution[4]. This figure comprises of those who work on the street, in brothels, via escort agencies and also those who profit from prostitution without being involved in the act itself. It is not made clear how this figure is divided into involvement and gender but it is probably fair to assume that the majority of the people involved in the actual act are women. Additionally, one paper quotes that there are 2000 young prostitutes working in the UK and a third of those are under 16[5],

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