The Public Health Ramifications of Legalizing Prostitution


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG-13

The Sex Workers Project is fighting to make life safer for sex workers by legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution. Some Nevada counties allow legal prostitution, but police still threaten prostitutes who may or may not work at fantastic websites similar to with arrests in most of the USA. Even having condoms in one’s pocket can get an American arrested for prostitution, a policy that increases the health risks associated with being a sex worker. The underground nature of prostitution exposes American sex workers to assaults by civilians and police officers. A third of New York City street-based sex workers reported facing threats of violence from police.

An Israeli court ruling pushed the Justice Ministry to let prostitutes conduct their business in their own homes or rented spaces so that they don’t face the dangers that come with working on the street. This decision effectively decriminalizes freelance prostitution without a Knesset vote. The formal legalization of prostitution is a long way in the future, however politicians from Meretz and Jewish Home wrote a bill that would allow people to sell sex but not buy it.

Ancient Israeli lawmakers also struggled with the ethics of prostitution. Their views towards prostitution were not all fire and brimstone. They were a bit more nuanced. Rabbis throughout the ages have viewed Tamar as a righteous woman, indicating that not every act of prostitution deserves condemnation. Biblical Hebrew makes a distinction between cult prostitution, which is more forbidden, and regular prostitution. The story of Tamar challenges the notion that all prostitutes are either immoral or helpless.

Male prostitutes in Australia are tackling modern myths about sex workers with a new website. For example, compared to the general population, Australian male prostitutes have lower STD rates and are less likely to use every recreational drug except for tobacco. They are careful to protect their sexual health, because an illness means both physical suffering and unemployment to them. Decriminalization also helped them stay healthy. Research showed lower HIV rates among Australian male sex workers in the province that adopted decriminalization. This is one reason their website advocates for decriminalization.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the data shows that the risk of disease is higher when police go after sex workers. Sex workers are careful to protect their reproductive health when they have the freedom to work in their chosen profession. In areas that prohibit prostitution, sex workers have trouble protecting themselves from HIV. They also suffer physical violence as a result of living outside the law. Israel and Australia improved the lives of prostitutes with more humane policies. It is time for other countries to follow their lead by legalizing or decriminalizing the world’s oldest profession.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.