Prostitutes are commonly portrayed as seedy, drug-addled, dirty, disease ridden underworld denizens. Perhaps many are. But why are they this way? Because they are earning a living illegally. Like illegal immigrants they must fly below the radar to get by. They cannot go about their business in the light of day without hiding or being on constant lookout, fearing arrest. They are offered ‘protection’ from pimps, often abusive, violent thugs, also earning a living in an illegal activity. There are no unions, no OSHA protections, health insurance, paid sick leave, vacation, forty hour weeks, or even protection from the Fair Labor Standards Act, no minimum wage.
Prostitutes can be arrested and jailed for merely ‘soliciting’ even if they did not ever get around to the actual act they offered.
Prostitution, since it is illegal, is driven to seedier environs, the same places where drug dealers take their business. It is no wonder that prostitutes tend to also be or at least are considered to be consumers of illegal drugs, its part of the environment, part of the same underworld culture. Pimps and drug dealers are either closely related or one and the same.
Take away the prohibition, and you take away the criminal element.
To decriminalize prostitution, one merely needs to strike out the prohibitions. Once decriminalized, prostitution becomes as any other small business, taxed, licensed and subject to health inspection and zoning laws. Most states and municipalities regulate alcohol distribution as to hours of operation, proximity to homes, schools, etc. In return a great deal of revenue, once illegal as well, is available to public coffers.
Those prostitutes that choose to work collectively would fall under FLSA and OSHA protections, as well as being required to contribute, rather than avoid Social Security, Medicare, etc. They would have legal recourse in the cases of employer abuse, unfair wages and unsafe, unhealthy working conditions. They would even be protected against sexual harassment.
I’m not exactly sure what good making prostitution illegal under federal law would do. Prostitution is already illegal just about everywhere, would making it even more illegal cut down on the violations? Would we use the FBI to enforce the law or would we need a new federal law enforcement agency, like the DEA or ATF, to chase down the perps?
As for the morality of prostitution, that’s relative. Many people sell their physical attributes and activities for personal gain. We think nothing of a big muscular man using his strength to tote heavy objects, we think nothing of politicians shaking hands to raise money for elections, we think nothing of pretty people with bright, shiny teeth modeling clothes or selling cans of soup, and we think nothing of people that make tons of money using their voices to sing. They are all using a physical attribute and/or activity to cash in. The reality is that prostitution does and will take place and pushing it underground merely makes it dirty. Bring it to the light of day and the collateral criminal activity will virtually disappear.