Decriminalizing and Regulating Prostitution

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Decriminalization of sex work is the removal of criminal penalties for selling and buying sexual activity. The stigmatizing of sex workers harm and reinforce the endless cycle of criminalization. Activists over the world have been fighting for decriminalizing sex workers for decades. Up to now, there are some distinctive successes: New Zealand fully decriminalized prostitution in 2003, and France partially decriminalized sex work in April 2016. However, in Canada and most parts of US, sex work still remains criminalized.

This issue is controversial because opponents believe that prostitution is dangerous and thus, should be prohibited. However, this article is going to analyze the importance and potential advantages of decriminalizing prostitution and create regulations in several aspects. This paper explores three peer-reviewed articles that examines the impact of decriminalization and regulation policies of prostitution in different countries in regard to health, economy and society concerns. Prostitution should be decriminalized because it has positive impact on the lives and rights of sex workers.

Literature Review

In Sullivan (2010) research article, the author discusses the two regulatory regimes of sex work in two different Australian states – Queensland and New South Wales. In Queensland regime, brothel is legal with licensing and street work is illegal; while in New South Wales regime, sex work is fully decriminalized, and it is legal as all other business, and there is no license for brothel. Also, street work is legal in New South Wales regime. The author mainly argues that law reforms and policy have a positive impact on providing the sex workers with safety in working environment, protection and support for their civil and labor’s right. She then described the impact by comparing the history and development of the two regulatory regimes.

The Sullivan (2010) research article support the main argument of this paper by presenting existing examples of regimes that decriminalize prostitutions and take regulations for sex workers. It indeed serves as a functionally durable and persistent mode to keep the society stabilized and create relatively secure working environment for prostitutes. The author explains the shift in law enforcement, and long history of mandatory health examinations of sex workers which came along with the former, influenced by the Prostitution Act in Australia. The Prostitution Act catalyzed the foundation of Prostituting Licensing Authority, which manages, controls and restricts the brothels. This led to conformity of brothels operations that keeps sexual activity sellers safe.

Gruskina, Pierceb and Ferguson (2014) studied the connection and relation between law and HIV disease outcomes in Asia in order to present how sex work regulation linked with the outcomes in different countries. They argue that the laws and regulations are significant important to be associated with sex workers’ vulnerability of safety problem and expose to potential disease. They do not directly agree on a specific regulation type. Instead, they admit that law and regulation are not the only keys to protect the sex workers. They also state that these regulatory regimes still serve as main entries to health and safety and provide significant supportive systems.

Gruskina et al. (2014) research article fits into this paper by presenting reasonable discussion of sex workers’ condition under criminalization and decriminalization. Also, this article provides functional conceptual methodology and datasets to display how protective laws and obstructive laws influence sex workers.

In the Mgbako et al. (2013) research article, the authors demonstrate the negative impact of criminalization of prostitution in South Africa, along with positive impact of full decriminalization of prostitution in New Zealand as comparison. They argue that fully decriminalized prostitution is the only regulatory regime that could improve sex workers safety and protect their human rights as well as labor’s rights.

Mgbako et al. (2013) research article fulfill the need of evidence present to show the importance of decriminalization for sex workers, and discussion based on New Zealand regulation. Their discussion on the criminalized reality of sex workers in South Africa have some common with the reality of sex workers in US and other countries.


The criminalization severely harm sex workers in abusive policing, dangerous working environment, health problem. Policing treated sex workers with disgrace. Some police department post the full names and photos of sex workers, which led to large spread-out on social media and in the press in a humiliating way. Some workers, mostly black women and trans-gender people were put on the sex-offender registry. This resulted in exclusion from housing, social security, job opportunities and communities, deprivation of living with children, etc.

Also, there are illegal abuses of power. Police officers force sex workers to have sex with them to avoid getting arrested and get harsh penalties. It connects strongly with the vulnerability of sex workers and maintains the endless cycle of crime. Sex workers who fear of getting arrested because of carrying and using condom expose to danger to getting wanted pregnancy, access and get infected with HIV. These situations could be solved and improved by decriminalizing the prostitution in several aspects as supported by the following solutions provided by the research articles.

Decriminalization and regulation of prostitution provide support for health issues and concerns. As Gruskina et al. (2014) concludes, “As hypothesised, the trends of most government responses suggest that where obstructive laws/policies exist, sex workers have lower HIV-related knowledge and access to services and higher HIV prevalence. The findings relating to the indicators on condom use and HIV testing were not at first reading in line with our hypothesis.” This indicates that the state with a lack of legal protection of sex workers, and minimum capability and existence of law to regulate the sex industry, has barriers to offer effective and efficient supports and services to fulfill. This thus confirms that legal environment and endurable legislation would raise the importance and awareness of using condom, and further protect the workers.

In addition to Gruskina et al. (2014) research article, Sullivan (2010) research article also provides existing examples that “In both Queensland and NSW brothel workers are also subject oppressive and discriminatory regimes for health examination.” This suggests that under relative administration, in Australia’s case which is the Prostituting Licensing Authority, help regulates the requirement and qualification that control and maintain the numbers of sex workers as well as inspect the health condition and compulsory health examination.

Decriminalization and regulation of prostitution decreases abusive policing and create safe working environment. When the criminal penalties remove, the relationship between sex workers and police officers shift from potential crimes and polices to normal legal citizens and police. Sex workers will be freed from fear, anxiety, threat and any abusive acts. The change in identity transforms the role, and removes the power that forces and threatens them. As Mgbako et al. (2013) mention in their research article, “Increased police visibility in areas where sex workers operate in New Zealand further deters violence against sex as well as other criminal activity, and allows the police to respond more quickly if sex workers need assistance.” This positive influence of decriminalization of sex workers in New Zealand indicates a similarity that present in prostitution of other countries could also gain effect by removing the criminal penalties on prostitutes.


In conclusion, this paper examines three research articles that discuss the impact of decriminalization and regulation policies of prostitution in different countries in regard to health, economy and society concerns. Decriminalization and regulation of prostitution has positive impact on the lives and rights of sex workers.


  1. Sullivan, Barbara. (2010). When (some) prostitution is legal: The impact of law reform on sex work in Australia. Journal of Law and Society, 37(1), 85-104.
  2. Gruskin, S., Pierce, G., & Ferguson, L. (2014). Realigning government action with public health evidence: The legal and policy environment affecting sex work and HIV in Asia. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 16(1), 14-29.
  3. Mgbako, C., Bass, K., Bundra, E., Jamil, M., Keys, J., & Melkus, L. (2013). The case for decriminalization of sex work in South Africa. Georgetown Journal of International Law, 44(4), 1423.

Cite this paper

Decriminalizing and Regulating Prostitution. (2021, Nov 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/decriminalizing-and-regulating-prostitution/

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