Edit 2: Some further reading and discussion suggests that some of my reasons for caution are not entirely well founded. I still think it needs careful consideration, but now suspect that once I’d done more study my stance would be more along the lines of “careful consideration on how to proceed towards full legalization”. I don’t feel I know enough to have a well thought out opinion at this point. I’m leaving this post here as a snapshot but, while I’m not rejecting it in its entirety, don’t take it as necessarily representative of my point of view.
The policy document I outlined for the department of dancing, getting high and fucking was pretty silent on the question of prostitution. This is partly because it’s a complicated question, partly I considered it contrary to our founding charter of promoting inexpensive social activities at the expense of consumer culture, so I considered it outside my remit. To which pozorvalk responded “dude, you’re the minister for Fucking. Of course prostitution’s within your remit :-)”. So, that’s me told. Here are my thoughts on the subject. They might be unpopular with people who liked my previous post.
What would I change about prostitution laws? Honestly… not much. I don’t think our current ones are that bad. To summarize: In the UK, prostitution is not illegal. There are a whole bunch of related activities which are, in particular running a brothel, but the basic act of exchanging sex for money is not a crime for either party.
I would be very cautious about changing that. The problem with legalizing e.g. brothel ownership is that it likely to increase the incidence of prostitution.
While I think prostitution is (in principle) an entirely ethically acceptable activity (one that makes me a little uncomfortable, but that’s not a good metric of ethics), I don’t like the secondary effects. In particular I’m concerned about the potential for an increase in human trafficking and the effects widespread prostitution may have on peoples’ attitudes.
So, that’s my default position. Do nothing. Possibly be slightly laxer about the enforcement of certain laws in cases where we were sure no harm was being done.
However I would form a team responsible for investigating questions around this. In particular:
- To what extent is human trafficking a real problem in our country and how can we fix that at an earlier stage in the pipeline?
- What is the life of people acting as prostitutes like and what can we do to improve it?
- Are there problems with prostitution that could be fixed by introducing a licensing and regulation scheme?
- What are the actual effects of allowing legal brothels? Initially we’d study other countries, but potentially a limited set of licenses could be issued for this on a trial basis
The goal here would be to determine a sensible set of reforms to the laws which increases the welfare of prostitutes (and their clients) but does not lead to a massive increase in it. I’m not entirely sure what these would look like.
Edit: It’s been pointed out that this appears to ignore the problem of violence towards street prostitutes. I didn’t intend that to be the case. I don’t know what the right solution to it is, and would definitely consider trying to figure out how to end that as part of the “Improve the lives of prostitutes” task. I just don’t want to end up in a scenario where although the lives of the current prostitutes have been significantly improved, the number of prostitutes has significantly increased and most of the new ones are in far worse conditions.