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Should Prostitution Be Legalised in the UK?

"It seems to be working fine in countries like Singapore."


Photo by Giorgio Viscardini.

It’s Friday. Let’s talk prostitution. Demonstrations protesting violence against sex workers took place over 36 cities around the world today in response to the death of two sex workers: Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine.

I wondered if making prostitution legal and above board would provide a safer working environment for anyone who found themselves in that line of work (it would), and thought I'd talk to some people about it. So I had a walk around and asked some strangers a question: Should prostitution be legalised in the UK?   

Jordan, 20, barman: If there are people who are willing to do it, and people are wiling to pay for it, then people are going to do what they want. Although I do understand why people would be against legalising it.

What issues might some people have with it?
Well, I don’t think it should be made legal so everyone can just go, “Hey mate, let’s go and get some prostitutes.”

But you would support it being decriminalised.
Yeah.

Do you think it will ever happen?
People are quite uptight. I think people would hear it and say, “Well, that’s horrible, we can’t have that happen.”

Interesting.

Anjali, 25, journalist: Yes, because women and men who are involved in prostitution usually fall through the cracks. If it was legal, they would have better rights and be treated with more respect.

So we're missing a trick here, basically.
It seems to be working fine in countries like Singapore.

Maybe it's just too far left-field for the UK.
Well, they just legalised gay marriage. Who would have thought that would have happened?

Not quite sure I see the link, but sure. Would legalisation cut down on exploitation within the industry?
Yeah. And there’d be better health care as well, and better security. Frankly, a lot less people would fall through the cracks.

Got it.

Valle, 33, PhD student: In my opinion, yes.

Why's that, then?
If it was legal, the sex workers would have the same rights as other workers.

So legality would encourage a more transparent market?
Yes. And it would be safer as well.

Vanessa, 36, marketing buyer: I think it should be legal.

What makes you say that?
Because it would stop the pimps and make everything above board. You hear horrible stories about women who are suffering abuse at the hands of pimps.

What do you think about prostitution in general?
They say it’s the oldest profession in the world.

So if it’s going to be around anyway, you might as well have rules that make it safer for all involved?
Exactly. I mean, you could take the moral high ground and say, “I don’t think this should be going on.” But the fact is that it exists.

I get you.

Veronique, 35, IT buyer: Well, you have some European countries where it’s pretty much legalised. If you go to Hamburg in Germany, there are streets that are filled with brothels.

And do you think it's ruined Germany forever?
No. It’s something that’s always been there, so you might as well regulate it.

Previously – What Should the UK Spend £25 Billion On?