Last updated on: 2/23/2018 | Author:

Is Legal Prostitution a Legitimate Business?

PRO (yes)


Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), in a 2017 policy brief titled “Sex Work as Work,” available from, wrote:

“Sex work is work. This simple yet powerful statement frames sex workers not as criminals, victims, vectors of disease, or sinners but as workers…

Sex work is first and foremost an income-generating activity. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that sex workers support between five and eight other people with their earnings. Sex workers also contribute to the economy. In four countries surveyed, ILO found that the sex industry provides between 2 and 14 percent of gross domestic product…

Exploitation and unsafe and unhealthy working conditions exist in many labour sectors. Work does not become something other than work in the presence of these conditions. Even when performed under exploitative, unsafe or unhealthy conditions, sex work is still work.”



United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in association with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in a 2012 report titled “Sex Work and the Law In Asia and the Pacific,” available from, wrote:

“Evidence from the jurisdictions in the region that have decriminalized sex work (New Zealand and New South Wales) indicates that the approach of defining sex work as legitimate labour empowers sex workers, increases their access to HIV and sexual health services and is associated with very high condom use rates…

Recognizing that sex work is legitimate work provides a framework within which sex workers can benefit from the same rights and protections as other workers, including access to services and freedom from discrimination and exploitation…

Labour laws and social security laws that do not recognize sex work as legitimate work contribute to stigma and marginalization of sex workers.”



Ana Lopes, PhD, President of Britain’s General Union (GMB) Sex Workers Branch, wrote “Stigmatising Sex Workers” in the Mar. 2006 Chartist which stated:

“Sex work is legitimate work and problems within the industry are not inherent in the work itself. It is vulnerability, not sex work, which creates victims. Sex workers should enjoy the same labour rights as other workers and the same human rights as other people. Sex workers can only gain the same rights as other workers when the debate is moved from a moral framework and placed in the framework of labour rights.”

Mar. 2006


Teela Sanders, DPhil, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leeds, in the article “Blinded by Morality? Prostitution Policy in the UK” in the Summer 2005 Capital & Class, wrote:

“There appears to be a legitimate place for commercial sex in conservative and religious parts of Europe–in Turkey, Portugal, Italy, for instance…

With the underlying assumption that women do not choose to work in prostitution but only use it as a ‘survival strategy,’ only the extreme ends of coercive prostitution are described…

This one dimensional approach reflects a wider political hypocrisy that accepts and promotes the idea that some parts of a woman’s sexuality can be legitimately used as employment, while other aspects are labelled as an immoral or inappropriate use of the body…

[I]t is accepted and encouraged that femininity should be expressed in a certain way…Sex work is not considered a service industry, because the idea of sexual services is viewed through a different lens due to the inherent Christian, middle-class morals attached to the act of sex, as something that is only rightly expressed in heterosexual, monogamous, reproductive relationships.”

Summer 2005


John Turley-Ewart, PhD, Deputy Comment Editor for the National Post, wrote the editorial “Lessons from a German Brothel” in the July 7, 2006 issue that stated:

“The assumption underlying much of the bad press Germany has received is that decriminalization is a boon to the underworld. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Prostitution is like any other industry. Make it illegal, and you give criminals a monopoly. Legalize it, and you give law-abiding enterprises a chance to compete…

Moreover, regulated brothels now are operated as legitimate businesses, and so attract professional managers — as opposed to underworld thugs.”

July 7, 2006

CON (no)


Kat Banyard, Founder and Co-Director of UK Feminista, in a July 7, 2016 article for titled “Guest Post: ‘The Sex Trade Can Never Be Made ‘Safe’,” wrote:

“[Prostitution] is not a regular consumer transaction… [it] is sexual abuse. The buyer’s disregard for mutuality, and ability to treat another person as a sexual object, are fundamental to the act. It is… ‘violence against women’. Responses to the sex trade which have attempted to skirt over this inherent harm, to sanction it as legitimate business in a bid to quash attendant harms, haven’t just failed – they’ve made it worse…

Demand for the sex trade is not inevitable. The sexist attitudes of entitlement that underpin it can be tackled. But that won’t be achieved by state sanctioning this exploitative practice in a hopeless bid to contain the dangers associated with it. Sexual consent is not a commodity; sexual abuse can never be made ‘safe’.”

July 7, 2016


Julie Bindel, journalist and cofounder of Justice for Women, in an Aug. 19, 2017 article for the Spectator titled “Most ‘Sex Workers’ Are Modern-Day Slaves,” wrote:

“We’ve become accustomed to thinking of prostitution as a legitimate way of earning a living, even ’empowering’ for women. We call it ‘sex work’ and look away. We should not.

For the last three years I’ve been investigating prostitution worldwide to test the conventional wisdom of it being a career choice, as valid as any other. I conducted 250 interviews in 40 countries, interviewed 50 survivors of the sex trade, and almost all of them told me the same story: don’t believe the ‘happy hooker’ myth you see on TV. In almost every case it’s actually slavery…

I discovered that whatever the lobbyists say, women and girls in prostitution are overwhelmingly from abusive backgrounds, living in poverty, and otherwise marginalised. They are not free or empowered: they are abused and trapped. Let’s not forget that this goes for boys too.”

Aug. 19, 2017


Demand Abolition, in the “Why Prostitution Shouldn’t Be Legal” section of its website, (accessed Jan. 3, 2018) wrote:

“Prostitution, regardless of whether it’s legal or not, involves so much harm and trauma it cannot be seen as a conventional business…

Evaluations have found that regulation of prostitution creates a fa├žade of legitimacy that hides sexual exploitation, and that brothels can ‘function as legalized outlets for victims of sex trafficking.'”

Jan. 3, 2018


Virada Somswasdi, JD, President of the Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development (FORWARD), said in a Mar. 9, 2004 speech at Cornell Law School that:

“One needs to completely rid oneself of the voracity for cash to see that prostitution, although legalized, can never be a legitimate business because it will always be associated with crime, corruption, class, mass sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

Mar. 9, 2004


Bodil Kornbek, former Chairperson of Denmark’s Christian Democrats, was quoted in the Feb. 20, 2004 Copenhagen Post as having said:

“It’s wrong to promote the fact that one person buying another is legitimate. To us, this is nothing more than human trafficking, and it’s completely unacceptable.”

Feb. 20, 2004


Gunilla S. Ekberg, Special Advisor on issues of prostitution and trafficking in women at the Swedish Division for Gender Equality, at the Nov. 2002 Seminar on the Effects of Legalisation of Prostitution Activities in Stockholm said:

“Some prostitution defenders argue that prostitution is an acceptable solution to poverty. They assert that prostitution is a legitimate and rational choice for poor, uneducated and unskilled women for whom other kinds of work alternatives are hard to come by.

What they mean, but do not say, is that prostitution is an acceptable solution for women living in poverty. Seldom do we see proposals that poor men should make their way out of poverty by welcoming the insertion of penises and other objects into them on a regular basis or dance naked on a stage in front of ogling and masturbating males.

The prostitution industry exploits to its advantage the fact that most women and children who are in prostitution come from the most oppressed and vulnerable groups in society.”

Nov. 2002