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Posted: January 26th, 2024

Prostitution. Should prostitution be considered a crime?

Prostitution. Should prostitution be considered a crime? Should there be a minimum wage for prostitutes?
Prostitution is a controversial and complex topic that has been debated for centuries. Some argue that prostitution is a form of exploitation, violence, and human rights violation that should be criminalized and eradicated. Others contend that prostitution is a legitimate and voluntary choice of work that should be decriminalized and regulated to protect the rights and safety of sex workers. In this paper, I will examine the arguments for and against prostitution, and discuss the implications of legalizing or criminalizing it. I will also address the question of whether there should be a minimum wage for prostitutes, and what factors might influence such a decision.

One of the main arguments against prostitution is that it is inherently harmful and degrading to women, who are often coerced, trafficked, or forced into selling sex by poverty, abuse, or discrimination. According to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), prostitution is “a system of sexual exploitation that violates human dignity and human rights” (CATW 2019). Prostitution exposes women to physical, psychological, and social risks, such as violence, disease, stigma, and discrimination. Prostitution also reinforces gender inequality and patriarchal norms that view women as sexual objects and commodities. Therefore, prostitution should be considered a crime and abolished.

On the other hand, some argue that prostitution is a form of work that can be empowering and liberating for women, who have the right to control their own bodies and sexuality. According to the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), prostitution is “the consensual exchange of sexual services between adults for money or goods” (NSWP 2020). Prostitution can provide women with income, autonomy, and self-esteem. Prostitution can also challenge the dominant norms and values that restrict women’s sexual expression and agency. Therefore, prostitution should be considered a profession and respected.

The debate over prostitution also involves the question of whether it should be legalized or criminalized. Legalization means that prostitution is regulated by the state through laws, policies, and institutions that govern the conditions, rights, and obligations of sex workers and clients. Criminalization means that prostitution is prohibited by the state through laws that punish sex workers, clients, or third parties involved in the sex trade. There are different models of legalization and criminalization, such as the Swedish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex but not the sale; the Dutch model, which legalizes and regulates prostitution through licensing and zoning; and the New Zealand model, which decriminalizes prostitution and grants sex workers full labor rights (Weitzer 2012).

The advantages and disadvantages of legalization and criminalization depend on various factors, such as the goals, values, and assumptions of each approach; the empirical evidence on the effects of each approach on the well-being, health, and safety of sex workers and society; and the context-specific factors that shape the realities and experiences of sex workers in different countries and regions. Some of the benefits of legalization are that it can reduce violence, abuse, and exploitation of sex workers by providing them with legal protection, access to health services, and labor rights; it can also reduce stigma, discrimination, and marginalization of sex workers by recognizing their work as legitimate and valuable; it can also generate revenue for the state through taxation and regulation of the sex industry. Some of the drawbacks of legalization are that it can increase the demand for prostitution and create a dual system of legal and illegal prostitution; it can also create barriers for sex workers to access legal services due to bureaucratic requirements or fees; it can also reinforce the power imbalance between sex workers and clients or third parties who control or profit from their work.

Some of the benefits of criminalization are that it can deter people from engaging in prostitution by imposing legal sanctions; it can also reduce the supply of prostitution by rescuing or rehabilitating sex workers; it can also send a moral message that prostitution is unacceptable
and harmful to women and society. Some of the drawbacks of criminalization are that it can increase violence, abuse, and exploitation of sex workers by pushing them underground or into more dangerous situations; it can also increase stigma, discrimination, and marginalization of sex workers by treating them as criminals or victims; it can also create social costs for the state through law enforcement and incarceration.

Another question related to prostitution is whether there should be a minimum wage for prostitutes. A minimum wage is a legal or agreed-upon amount of money that an employer must pay to a worker for a certain amount of work or time. A minimum wage can have positive or negative effects on workers’ income, employment, productivity, quality of life, etc., depending on various factors such as the level, coverage, enforcement, compliance, etc., of the minimum wage (Belman et al. 2021).

In the case of prostitution, there are several arguments for and against establishing a minimum wage for prostitutes. Some arguments for a minimum wage are that it can increase the income and living standards of sex workers who are underpaid or exploited by clients or third parties; it can also increase the bargaining power and dignity of sex workers who can demand fair compensation for their work; it can also reduce the inequality and discrimination between sex workers and other workers who are entitled to a minimum wage. Some arguments against a minimum wage are that it can decrease the demand and employment of sex workers who are priced out of the market or replaced by cheaper alternatives; it can also decrease the autonomy and flexibility of sex workers who have to comply with fixed or standardized rates or conditions; it can also create a black market or informal sector of prostitution that operates outside the legal or regulated system.

The feasibility and desirability of a minimum wage for prostitutes depend on various factors, such as the legal status and regulation of prostitution in a given country or region; the structure and dynamics of the sex market, such as the supply and demand, competition, segmentation, etc., of sex workers and clients; the characteristics and preferences of sex workers and clients, such as their age, gender, ethnicity, education, skills, motivation, etc.; and the social and cultural norms and values that shape the perception and acceptance of prostitution and sex work.

In conclusion, prostitution is a complex and controversial topic that has no simple or definitive answer. There are different perspectives and arguments for and against prostitution, legalization, criminalization, and minimum wage. The best approach to address prostitution depends on the context-specific factors that affect the realities and experiences of sex workers and society.


Belman, Dale et al. 2021. “Minimum Wage Effects: New Evidence from a Pre-Registered Study.” Industrial Relations 60 (1): 131-156.

CATW. 2019. “What is Prostitution?” Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

NSWP. 2020. “What is Sex Work?” Global Network of Sex Work Projects.

Weitzer, Ronald. 2012. Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business. New York: NYU Press.


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