There are some debate between pros and cons considering prostitution as a legal job in many countries. One thing that pros say is that it can decrease violence against all women from prostitutes and non prostitutes.

Is there any valid evidence to prove their claims about?


4 Answers 4


There is definitely evidence that legal prostitution decreases violence against the prostitutes. So even if it has zero effect on women who are not prostitutes, the net effect would be that violence against "all" women would therefore be lower. (And men too since there are male prostitutes as well.) I realize that isn't the angle you were aiming for, but it is mathematically sound.

Here is some of the evidence mentioned in the first sentence: The prostitutes in a legal brothel in Nevada have security, call buttons, they can request that managers keep the intercom throughout the session if they have a new customer or someone they deem suspicious, money is taken out of the room before the session begins, they are tested weekly, and the police are called to arrest abusive "johns": Info Here. Sometimes the prostitutes are allowed to make house calls, but most don't because it's too dangerous. A notable quote is on page 15:

As one prostitute said, “I don’t go out of this house with anybody I don’t know and I don’t book anybody outside of the house.” To do so is to lose one of the vital protections offered by legalized brothel prostitution: the security of the house and the people in it.

Here is some evidence that prostitution as a whole is a dangerous profession in the US, where over 99.9% is illegal prostitution. (See Point 2.)

As mentioned in a comment by PoloHoleSet, another obvious benefit of legalized prostitution (or at least decriminalization) is that prostitutes would no longer be afraid (due to fear of legal prosecution) to report crimes against them.

  • I am really shocked that none of the answers, including this one, mention a pretty key factor. If a crime is committed against a prostitute, the fact that they do not face a risk of criminal sanctions against them for being a prostitute makes it much more likely that they will be willing to report crimes to the police, give frank and honest accounting of events, and follow through in the process. Jan 3, 2019 at 16:35
  • @PoloHoleSet - Good point, though I think this answer strongly implies that with: "and the police are called to arrest abusive 'johns'". If you feel that it would be better to explicitly state it, feel free to edit, or I will consider editing later when I get more time.
    – TTT
    Jan 3, 2019 at 17:01
  • Ah, I took that more to a factor of legal management and establishments, vs individuals. I just seemed to feel it would be the main, or a main, factor in this. If I feel strongly about it, I can certainly formulate my own answer, as well. I certainly did not down-vote on it. Jan 3, 2019 at 17:14
  • While I agree with @PoloHoleSet I would like to see some statistics or data that support this idea. The answer does imply this concept, but it isn't directly mentioned and it is a pretty significant difference in threat level to the affected person. I would be very interested in knowing the effects of removing the legal threat has in reporting levels and general safety.
    – David S
    Jan 3, 2019 at 17:24
  • @PoloHoleSet - OK, you convinced me; that would certainly benefit individuals as well. I have updated the answer to incorporate your point. It's so obvious that it should be easy to site evidence of this. I'll look for some.
    – TTT
    Jan 3, 2019 at 17:26

It's hard to know but apparently -as far as we know it- it helps to prevent. Studies emphasize the need for make a more regulated market because in the end, the prostitution is a sex industry. Researchs made based in the experience of the Netherlands and publsihed in the American Economy Journal and the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (Sweden), regarding the legalization of prostitution gave positive results because:

  • Helps the sex workers to organize in groups: Sex workers manage their business by making something like a safe street called Tippelzone, where all workers come together and work in the same zone avoiding dangerous zone.
  • Regularization avoid human trafficking: Being recognized as (legal) workers helps to identify and fight human trafficking. It doesn't mean is going to end this, on the contrary, encourage new ways to insert sexual slaves in the street.

  • Enable to focus in other areas: Prostitution is not something you talk only because between this industry there are other issues such as violent crimes (not related to sex), drugs, assaults among others. The regularization helped to focus more in this issues.

  • Without regulation, human trafficking is on the rise: With political support and fewer unlicensed sex workers, is more likely to reduce human trafficking.

Does this mean the legalization prevents violence? Not sure, most times -the study concluded- the relation between crime registered (something that happened) and crime perceived (I think this is unsecure) does not match statistically. The media has some responsability over there confusing -what Nassim Talleb called- intensity with frequency. The main problem is not the prostitution but crime related drugs issues, which is not a problem in the tippelzone, according to the study. And the swedish research previolusly mentioned finished the study highlightning:

these predictions have not yet been tested

  • I think a fundamental problem with regulated prostitution is the eventuality that the prostitute will be held liable to fulfill her contractual obligation when she has decided that that's not what she really wanted to do. No quantity of consensual prostitution will ever convert this black menace into a consensual sex act. Sep 13, 2018 at 14:19
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    Re: My previous comment: regulations in New Zealand and Germany explicitly grant the right of the prostitute to withdraw consent at any time. But another menace is lurking under cover of this provision: suppose a client claims that the prostitute withdrew consent and refuses to pay! Sep 13, 2018 at 15:53

No, it is not clear that decriminalizing prostitution improves safety and public health, even though researchers have studied its simultaneous 2003 decriminalization in New Zealand and Rhode Island.

It's supposed by some researchers that "indoor prostitution" is safer for the prostitute than street prostitution (link) but other researchers oppose this claim (link).

It is not clear that the increased availability of "indoor prostitution" under decriminalization has any impact on street prostitution at all (link - see footnote). Unfortunately, the reduction in violence seen among all women in Rhode Island in 2003 was preceded by a rise in violence in 2001-2002, so the decriminalized state was still just as unsafe as its neighbors after the improvement.

Furthermore, it seems likely that decriminalization will enable other crimes against women, such as trafficking into the decriminalized area (link).

A 2014 study-of-studies determined that at a minimum, we observe that 3 in 10 prostitutes will become victims of violent crime. Some studies found that 3 in 4 prostitutes were victimized. (link) Nobody imagines that regulations will alleviate this insane risk, but merely that regulation could remove the black market's impenetrable firewall between perpetrators of violence and justice.

Also, decriminalized prostitution contracts will inevitably result in violence if a client changes his mind and refuses to pay, resulting in the poisonous legal quagmire of court proceedings to determine whether anything happened. If the court sides with the dishonest client, then it could become true that the prostitute had been raped.

  • Regarding that last paragraph: If read that way, isn't all enforcement of contracts violent? In the end, your money will be forcefully taken from you by the state and/or you'll be put in prison.
    – janh
    Sep 13, 2018 at 15:06
  • I don't think anybody goes to jail or has any form of physical punishment for failing to fulfill a contract: those kinds of punishments are only available in criminal court. A prostitution contract thus weasels violence into the civil courts. Sep 13, 2018 at 15:17
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    "the government is called upon to enforce prostitution contracts upon a woman who has changed her mind" - can you name any real-world prostitution laws where this is actually the case? Those I am aware of explicitly allow the prostitute to revoke the contract at any time.
    – Philipp
    Sep 13, 2018 at 15:23
  • @Philipp, thanks for that... you're right: NZ PRA(2003) section 17 makes that explicit, ( legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2003/0028/latest/DLM197867.html ) although it's still true that contested contracts may be referred to the Disputes Tribunal. What about Germany? Hmmm... Sep 13, 2018 at 15:31
  • The Prostitutionsgesetz (translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://…) also has a similar provision. But it comes with a nasty side-effect: suppose the client refuses to pay! The establishment that "services were rendered" becomes he-said she-said, and the prostitute is left in the lurch. Sep 13, 2018 at 15:43

One think to keep in mind is that prostitution can be considered as a degrading act that shames all women.

If a society were to then legalize such a profession, it may disgrace the status of all women in that particular society, and as a result, lead to far more violence upon them, due to the fostering of a general stigmatization of women, i.e. inhabitants of that society may perceive women in an inferior light from then on. That would not be an appropiate response of course, but it would happen.

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    So men wouldn't be stigmatized by male prostitutes?
    – Communisty
    Sep 12, 2018 at 11:48
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    Do you have any evidence that this actually does or did happen?
    – JJJ
    Sep 12, 2018 at 12:22
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    @Dhalsim I have lived in many countries with legal prostitution. The situation you described never seemed to be a problem. Please remember that answers should be backed up with sources so this sort of impasse can be avoided.
    – JJJ
    Sep 12, 2018 at 13:12

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