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Prostitution means providing paid sexual services; it can engage both women and men, although it is mostly feminine occupation. A characteristic feature of prostitution is considered a receipt of payment for the professional service of a sexual nature. In the societies of Western civilization, prostitution is regarded almost as a necessary evil. In Eastern societies (the Far East, India, and the Middle East), attitude toward prostitution is more neutral, although it is usually not approved (Jeffreys, 2008).
Contradictory public attitude toward prostitution, i.e. paid professional sex is associated with ambivalence to sex itself. On the one hand, sex brings pleasure, so sexual services can be considered similar to any other services purchased. On the other hand, sex not coupled with childbirth is traditionally condemned. Therefore, public morals tabooed disordered sexual relationships and censored those who had sex outside the family. The more monogamous was the society, the stricter was this conviction. Only in the last third of the 20th century, Western countries began rehabilitation of sex as self-worth (Farley, 2003).
The negative attitude toward prostitution in the society is affected by the prevalence of venereal diseases, transmitted mainly due to frequent sexual encounters. Thus, even in Ancient Times, gonorrhea was well-known. In Western Europe, the negative attitude toward prostitution is affected by the extent of the epidemic of syphilis and AIDS (Jeffreys, 2008).
In the late 20th century, the idea of prostitution as a socially dangerous phenomenon gradually began to change due to progress in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases and a massive release of human consciousness from religious prohibitions. Nowadays, this type of behavior is referred to as the so-called victimless crime (along with drug use and gambling) because it usually (though not always) implies consent of both prostitute and client. Therefore, many people raise the question of legalization of prostitution as a form of activity in the service sector (Weitzer, 2012).
The most famous experience in legalization of prostitution was in the Netherlands (since 2000 opening brothels is legal), where officially registered prostitutes receive civil rights and social benefits just like any other workers. In the early years of the 21st century, revenue from the sex industry accounted for approximately 5% of the national economy of the country. Since 2002, prostitution is also legal in Germany for citizens of the European Union but is prohibited for citizens of other countries. Measures to legalize prostitution are also implemented in several other countries – Hungary, Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, and Australia (Weitzer, 2012).
The fight against prostitution as a social phenomenon has two aspects:
1. State struggles with illegal forms of prostitution (especially trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation) and monitors the conditions of activity of legal prostitution;
2. Public organizations are fighting for better working conditions in the sex industry as well as for the rehabilitation of prostitutes.
An attitude toward prostitution in modern states is different. In some countries, the sale of sexual services is totally prohibited by law, in other, prostitution itself is not prohibited but there are restrictions on the associated action. In the U.S., prostitution is illegal in all states except Nevada where it is practiced openly; however, the amount of licensed brothels is limited, and there is a strict control over the health of prostitutes (Ditmore, 2011).
Nowadays, governmental and non-governmental organizations are at sharp debate about which policy is more useful – the legalization of prostitution or its ban, but no matter the method, war against prostitution seems to be lost due to a simple principle of a market economy demand determines supply, i.e. while there is a demand for sexual services, prostitution will continue to exist. In this context, legalization of prostitution seems to be the best way of dealing with it.
Supporters of legalization suggest that if prostitution is out of the shadows, it becomes more cultural and it is easier for the society to control it, allowing participation of adults watching their health in this sphere and prohibiting violence against prostitutes and pedophilia. Opponents of legalization believe that the disappearance of the legal barriers will erode the social and ethical barriers to the use of women as a sexual commodity, increasing the prestige of the profession. Furthermore, since the offering of sex services usually exceeds the demand, women will start to compete with each other to meet the special inclinations of clients (anal sex, sex without condoms, bondage, etc.). Practice of the Netherlands where the sex industry is experiencing rapid growth, on the one hand is regarded as a proof of the dangers of legalization, and on the other hand – as temporary difficulties in the new situation (Weitzer, 2012).
With the legalization of prostitution, the state will get another very large taxpayer. The girls will receive protection and health services, and their customers – a guarantee of safety. Legalization will naturally remove more than a half of illegal brothels, disposing of sources of AIDS and HIV infection. In any case, the cause of the existence of prostitution in the modern society is the need for it. No matter how awful this may sound, a part of society needs prostitutes and it is a considerable one.