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Column: Legalize Prostitution For Safety's Sake

This story was written by Hannah Nelson, Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In the name of killing the sanctity of marriage, let's throw enemy number two - prostitution - in the ring. There is no such thing as the sanctity of marriage and there never really has been.

It's an ideology created to vilify anyone who doesn't fit into the mold of traditional family values. As such, new impending legal action will make it harder for UK prostitutes to maintain their existing, protective actions. It is already a criminal offense to run a brothel or agency for profit, and soon it will be even harder for the 80,000 prostitutes in the UK.

Nearly three years ago, the UK was discussing the legalization of small brothels, but now there's been a complete one-eighty. The old proposal had included the idea of creating safe houses for women who could opt to transition out of prostitution and to receive help for substance addictions rather than face fines.

The new criminalization proposals advocated by Minister for Women Harriet Harman and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith would mean fines and carrying a police record if convicted of selling sex. Only individuals working on their own would be exempt, an option considered the most unsafe way to go about it. Anyone found guilty of paying for consensual sex would be liable for rape charges, and if committed could mean a life sentence in prison.

After a survey in the UK, the popular opinion is that new criminalization will not get rid of prostitution and showed a consensus that many citizens would rather see legalization.

According to "Belle de Jour," the pen name of a high class London call girl who is also a frank blogger and author, it's always better for prostitutes to go through a third party like an agency because it provides a buffer between them and the client.

Belle's story isn't the norm next to most stories that come from the profession; she came from a stable family life, never suffered abuse, wasn't a drug addict and chose her lifestyle freely. While hers is a rarer case than the norm, it goes to show that protecting this lifestyle protects the women who have entered into the profession through less desirable circumstances.

Like it or not, prostitution is a business and efforts to make it harder for the business to exist will only create harsher conditions for the women who work in it.

In Nevada, where the only legal United States brothels exist, there are reports of human rights abuses where the lines between rape and consensual transactions blurred. This is not the form of legal prostitution I'm advocating, but it is evidence to what actions are necessary in order to fix what broken laws do exist and institute laws where they don't exist.

Some who advocate abolishment claim that there is no safe and legal way to go about this, but I believe it is possible. It starts with admitting that prostitution will continue to exist and that trying to sweep it under the rug will not solve anything or protect anyone.

About 4,000 UK prostitutes are trafficking victims, though the number is estimated to be larger. In 2003, New Zealand joined the likes of Amsterdam when decriminalization action was taken, and the action has helped uncover trafficking rings. Prostitutes now feel as though they have greater rights, and freedom of choice in choosing clients and how they wish to operate.

According to Belle on the UK's latest scheme: "The initial idea is to 'name and shame' curb crawlers, and to impose harsh sentences on men who use the services of trafficked women. As opposed to the more logical route of, say, imposing harsh sentences on those doing the trafficking, which would be difficult but worthwhile."

Generation Y has been put through the old song and dance about safe sex by his point in our lives more times than we can count.

As college students, we see the signs every day for Plan B, sexually transmitted disease and free condoms in our dorms. We are the best educated generation to date on sexual health, so it's only natural for us to be among the first willing to realize and recognize the necessity of safe working conditions for prostitution through appropriate legal measures.

In order to be in favor of legalized prostitution it is automatically assumed that as a female, you are a backward-thinking, anti-feminist and as a male, you're a womanizer.

Prostitution certainly isn't going anywhere, so why try to make it harder for the individuals who lead this lifestyle, whether it is by choice or circumstance?

Feminism is all about choice; the rights for women to choose how to live their own lives and make their own bodily decisions.

If a woman chooses to pursue a career in medicine, she can, pending she has the right socioeconomic background to pay for it. If a woman is a prostitute, let's face it: chances are she comes from the lower half of the spectrum, and that is exactly why it is important to ensure choice in both entering and/or leaving the profession legally.

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