There has been much debate in the twentieth century about what in 1889, Rudyard Kipling termed the most ancient profession in the world (Kipling). Prostitution is as old as human civilization, but with the exception of Nevada, who leaves legalization up to individual counties, the United States continues to be one of the few nations in the world in which prostitution is still forbidden by law (NRS Section 201.354). While it remains a crime in every other state in the U.S.
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to offer, agree to, or in engage in sexual acts for compensation, sex workers are often tax-paying members of sex worker unions in the many European nations and in other countries where prostitution is legal and regulated (Sexual). There are more than a few perspectives when it comes to this debate. Many advocate for decriminalization and regulation arguing that the legalization of prostitution, commonly defined by these advocates as a victimless crime, would not only eradicate all of the criminal aspects of the sex industry, but also directly lead to an overall safer environment for prostitutes as well as their clientele (Fuchs). On the other side of the debate is a social movement dominated by the religious right and feminist abolitionists who argue that prostitution, commonly defined by those that oppose it as an unqualified evil (Weitzer, Movement), leads to the moral degradation of society or solely benefits sex industry bosses, pimps and brothel owners rather than workers in the sex industry (Bindel, Why). With acknowledgment and consideration of the aforementioned noble perspectives, prostitution has been around for centuries and despite the efforts of many political motivations still remains relatively unchanged worldwide. The United States should look to countries like New Zealand as well as internally to Nevada and formally regulate and legalize indoor prostitution nationwide to provide protection from the law and under the law to protect the human rights of the women and men of the United States sex work industry.
People have been consensually exchanging monies or goods for sexual acts in every society for which there are written records, the earliest dating back to the Ancient Sumerians in 2400 B.C.E. (Frazer). Nevertheless, 4,418 years later prostitution is still an occupation that remains resolute. In countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Latvia, and Nevada (the only U.S. jurisdiction) prostitution is legal; in every other state prostitution is still considered criminal. Similar but contrary to legalization, Denmark in 1999 and New Zealand in 2003 have alternatively decriminalized sex work. Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties with regards to sex work; sex workers receive the same protection from the law, health and social welfare benefits otherwise afforded to the workers of every other industry (All Women, All Rights). The Bureau of Justice notes 215,461 prostitution and commercialized vice arrests from 2010- 2014 (the latest year the bureau reports)(Bureau).
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