Should Prostitution Be Legalised In All States?

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Should Prostitution Be Legalised In All States?


In every act of prostitution at least two parties, usually, but not always, of opposite sex, are concerned (Brown, 665-680). Now one, now the other, is either initially or more highly responsible. Not infrequently, however, these two individuals are so far from constituting the entire situation that they may be mere puppets in the hands of others: the man, the victim of shrewdly devised suggestion or excitement; the woman, the bait cunningly dangled by pimp, brothel-keeper, or publican. Under such circumstances it is plainly absurd to speak of prostitution as if it were only or even mainly the act of the woman (Djukanovic, 7-15); as if women took to prostitution simply because they were marked out for a vicious life by innate depravity or even forced into it by economic pressure. Inclination on the one hand, need on the other, are among the factors that will assist us to understand the problem; but a fundamental and antecedent condition is the existence of a market, clamouring for wares of a particular kind and furnishing an opportunity for the forced sale of such wares as do not themselves immediately find buyers. Instead, therefore, of explaining prostitution as if it were caused by certain conditions affecting solely or primarily the constitution or environment of women, I shall view it from the standpoint of legalisation.

Society and Law

Society has never, as a matter of fact, for any great length of time contentedly accepted prostitution as an unavoidable evil (Benjamin, Masters, 11-19). Periods of harsh and unintelligent repression have alternated with periods of comparative but never complete indifference, consequent upon previous failure. Recently much intelligent effort has been directed to the comprehension of the evil and of the phenomena contributing to and contingent upon it. An era of scientific study may be fairly said to have set in. Wholesale and traditional methods of attack have been discredited and are being discarded. Frank discussion of the subject as a social problem is common on the Continent and is beginning to take place in Great Britain, where it was long tabooed.

I have pointed out that prostitution appears as an almost uniform phenomenon in different European countries. The same uniformity in the main characterises public opinion in reference to it. I mean, not that every nation is a unit, but that the general trend of opinion is much the same and that the same shades of opinion exist in all countries. For the most part, the attitude is indulgent towards the man, severe towards the woman; on the other hand, the single moral standard has never been so vigorously advocated in Europe as it is to-day.

While public opinion in regard to prostitution is thus fairly uniform, laws differ considerably; but this is of less importance than might be supposed, because the general attitude of the authorities conforms to sentiment rather than to statute. Laws passed under strong but transient emotional excitement are simply not enforced, or are enforced so capriciously that they ...
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