In 2018, debates on how sex work should be regulated continue to cause friction. Is prostitution the ‘oldest profession’ or the ‘oldest oppression’? Perhaps both. Different states have taken different approaches to the regulation of prostitution. In some places, the practice of prostitution is illegal – in 2010, Iceland even made lap dance clubs illegal. Other states such as the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, have all legalised prostitution. Alternatively, the “Nordic model” penalises those who buy sex, but not those who sell it.
Amnesty International is a world advocate in legalised prostitution. They argue that the abuse and discrimination that this marginalised group of – mainly – women, faces, is more adequately combatted when the practice is not illegal. This makes sense, after all, if prostitutes are hidden from the state, the state cannot ensure their wellbeing. On the other hand, in places where prostitution has been decriminalised, trafficking of women into brothels, and illegal brothels continue to facilitate abuses. The fact that it is mainly women selling sex to men arguably means that the practice perpetuates gendered ideas of sexuality in which women are passive, providers of sex, and men full of sexual desire that must be fulfilled.