Last updated on: 6/4/2008 5:35:00 PM PST
Should Prostitution Be Decriminalized?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

For more information visit Prostitution ProCon.org that examines the question "Should prostitution be legal?".




PRO (yes)

The American Civil Liberties Union stated in Policy 211 of the organization, provided to ProCon.org by fax on Apr. 30, 2007, that:

"The ACLU reaffirms its policy favoring removal of criminal penalties for prostitution and in support of total sexual freedom among consenting adults in private."

Apr. 30, 2007 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 



The Lancet, a British peer-reviewed medical journal, in the Aug. 10, 1996 editorial titled "Buying Sex, Safely," wrote:

"Decriminalisation, rather than legalisation, offers a valuable opportunity both to lessen the unnecessary harrassment of prostitutes by police and to assist women in finding safer urban areas to work."

Aug. 10, 1996 - Lancet 



Carol Leigh, Founder of Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network (BAYSWAN) and former prostitute, said on "Justice Talking" on National Public Radio (NPR) on Mar. 4, 2002:

"Decriminalization is not at all a solution to every injustice that exists in the sex industry; it is a starting point. If prostitution were not an underground activity it would allow us to much more effectively address the serious problems of forced prostitution and juvenile prostitution and the other abuses which are part of an industry that operates completely in the shadows. ...[T]here are many who... want other options and they should be given alternatives and assistance. And then there are also those who organize for their rights and are not quitting at the moment and they should be afforded options, their rights, and self-determination as well. Whatever ills are attendant to prostitution, criminalization of prostitutes exacerbates the abuse."

Mar. 4, 2002 - Carol Leigh 



Joseph McNamara, PhD, Former Police Chief of Kansas City, Missouri and San Jose, California, in a Jan. 28, 2004 interview "Legalization of Prostitution," hosted by Sakura Saunders on the radio station KDVS in Davis, CA, said:

"My feeling is that it [prostitution] is not in the area of behavior that really can be controlled or should be controlled by criminal laws. It's consensual conduct between two or more people. It has been going on as long as recorded history. Trying to stop it by criminal law has proven to be an enormous failure that has led to corruption, it has led to violence, and it certainly has not lessened prostitution but probably made it much less profitable...

In terms of the philosophy of a free society of America its wrong on that basis and secondly when you look at the pragmatic parts of it, it is unenforceable. And thirdly its an enormous misuse of scarce police resources where we have women and children in danger from violent serial sex criminals and killers, that is what we should be concentrating on, not how many arrests we can make for prostitution."

Jan. 28, 2004 - Joseph McNamara, PhD 



Sherry F. Colb, JD, Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University Law School, wrote in a Dec. 17, 2006 e-mail to ProCon.org:

"Prostitution should not be a crime. Prostitutes are not committing an inherently harmful act. While the spread of disease and other detriments are possible in the practice of prostitution, criminalization is a sure way of exacerbating rather than addressing such effects. We saw this quite clearly in the time of alcohol prohibition in this country...

I would like the government to decriminalize prostitution but to regulate it in the way that other intimate service professions (such as massage therapists and doctors) are regulated on the basis of hygiene-related concerns."

Dec. 17, 2006 - Sherry F. Colb, JD 



CON (no)

Hillary Clinton, JD, US Secretary of State, said in an Apr. 29, 2007 interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, that:

"I do not approve of legalized prostitution or any kind of prostitution. It is something that I personally believe is demeaning to women. I have worked against it and I have certainly taken a very strong stand against what happens in many parts of the world where young girls and women are forced into prostitution against their wills. I understand Nevada has a regulated system and it is within the authority of the state. So that is not a federal issue that we will have any role to play in when I am president. But I would obviously speak out against prostitution and try to persuade women that it is not - even in a regulated system - necessarily a good way to try to make a living. Let's try to find other jobs that can be there for women who are looking for a good way to support themselves and their families."

Apr. 29, 2007 - Hillary Clinton, JD 



Janice Raymond, PhD, Co-Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), said in a May 28, 2004 speech in Budapest, Hungary that:

"Legalizing prostitution means legalization of sexual slavery for women and children. You have the chance to reject the old and failed policies of legalized prostitution that make inequality of women and men legal. You have the chance instead to promote equality by giving women in prostitution the chance for a real future - by assisting them to get out of prostitution. Legalization keeps women IN prostitution."

May 28, 2004 - Janice Raymond, PhD 



Norma Hotaling, Executive Director of the Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project and former prostitute, said in her Apr. 28, 2005 testimony to the US House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology:

"As long as we point the finger away from ourselves, away from the institutions that blame and criminalize women and children for their own rape, sexual abuse, trafficking and slavery, away from the men who we normalize as 'Johns,' and as long as we disconnect adult prostitution and the exploitation of children and disconnect prostitution and trafficking in human beings for the purposes of rape and sex slavery; then we are to blame and we have assisted in creating well-funded transnational criminal networks - dollar by dollar."

Apr. 28, 2005 - Norma Hotaling 



The US Department of State stated in the Nov. 24, 2004 report "The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking":

"State attempts to regulate prostitution by introducing medical check-ups or licenses don't address the core problem: the routine abuse and violence that form the prostitution experience and brutally victimize those caught in its netherworld. Prostitution leaves women and children physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually devastated. Recovery takes years, even decades - often, the damage can never be undone."

Nov. 24, 2004 - United States Department of State 



Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, said in a July 1975 interview in Reason Magazine:

"Prostitution has been listed as a nonvictim crime. Well, is anyone naive enough to believe that prostitution just depends on willing employees coming in and saying that's the occupation they want to practice? It doesn't...

Talk to law enforcement people about the seamy side of how the recruiting is done, including what in an earlier day was called the white slave traffic - and you will find that the recruiting for prostitution is not one of just taking an ad in the paper and saying come be a prostitute and letting someone walk in willingly."

July 1975 - Ronald Reagan