Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Prostitution, the BBC and the law

Today, as often I do, I listened to BBC Radio 4’s PM program whilst driving back from work.

The program is currently collecting suggestions for a “Listeners’ Opinion Poll”. People are being asked to suggest a question that could be included in an opinion poll.

Tonight a man was asking the question … “should prostitution in the UK be legalised?”

This made me think about the strange inconsistencies that exist within the law. About the things that are ok versus the things that are not ok versus the things that are maybe ok sometimes and maybe not ok at other times. About double standards and  double speak.

There is a perspective that says “all sex outside of marriage is wrong. People that are not married should not engage in any sexual activity”.

Once upon a time I subscribed to this view.

It is, I believe, a minority view in the UK and mostly associated with people that have religious convictions.

It follows naturally from this perspective that prostitution is wrong. It should be illegal.

But if sex outside of marriage is acceptable and legal, as it is, it seems to be illogical to brand all forms of prostitution as being illegal.

Of course, people use all kinds of non-religious arguments … sex slave trafficking, dehumanisation of women … and more.

But what of prostitutes that are not sex slaves and are not dehumanised?

To outlaw prostitution because, in some circumstances, it is used in a way that exploits people isn’t so different from saying that the sale of clothing should be outlawed because in some places the people that make clothing are exploited.

We could also ban the sale of coffee, tea, bananas, electrical goods … almost everything.

The difference is that to some people prostitution is  distasteful, it is  immoral and unethical. This is, I believe, the bottom line of the argument.

I guess a part of me wonders … what is it worse to do?

Manufacture cigarettes or work as a prostitute? Make nuclear weapons or work as a prostitute? Cheat on claiming parliamentary expenses or work as a prostitute? Tell lies or work as a prostitute? Lose billions of dollars of taxpayers money because of greed and financial malpractice or to work as a prostitute?

And the answer seems to boil down to initial perspectives. To some people prostitution is worse than all of the above because … well … because it is … because God says that it is.

As I have said before … almost anything is capable of being abused and misused.

I’m sure that prostitution is no different in this respect.

What I am pretty sure about is that outlawing prostitution isn’t the way to deal with sexual exploitation. The way to deal with it is to not tolerate sexual exploitation wherever it rears its head … within marriage .. outside of marriage … within prostitution … outside of it.

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