I'm pretty proud of that one. Thanks.
Before Christmas (topical blog, this) we had Harriet Harman claiming that we need to make prostitution illegal in order to protect trafficked sex slaves. This week, Fiona McTaggart attempts to make a feminist case for making buying sex illegal (and is thoroughly thrashed in the comments for doing so).
What I don't really understand is the mindset that prostitution is bad per se and thus should be criminalized. Of course there is a lot of danger and misery surrounding prostitution in this country and most (if not all) others, but it is not the act of exchanging money for sexual favours which is at the root of the problem. The illegality of doing so is what has led to a lot of the problems associated with prostitution.
Harriet Harman is being utterly cretinous when she asks "can we really stop [the sex slavery] trade when we've still got a lawful sex trade going on?". Can you imagine how hard it would be for government outreach workers to even find native prostitutes if all prostitution became illegal?
Legalizing prostitution and licensing (aha, the penny drops!) brothels would allow us to solve many of the problems that prostitutes face, including slave trafficking. Prostitutes could have a shagging licence (sorry) that would require regular STD checks, and punters would be able to look up the licence number by text message, receiving a photo of the prostitute and STD safety report by return MMS. This also ensures that unlicenced sex workers were not working (hence eliminating trafficked sex slaves), providing that engaging the services of an unlicenced sex worker became illegal. Brothels themselves could be regulated by a similar system, featuring a licence number that could be checked up by punters that would give the address of the licenced premises and perhaps a picture of the outside of the building, too.
This way, everyone has an incentive to play things straight - sex workers get the security of legal premises and can report abuse to the police with no fear of legal action to themselves. They are also easier targets for eg. drug rehabilitation programs since their working locations would be known, and punters would know that they had less chance of contracting an STD. Of course, I expect that the average price of sex services would increase, since the increase in regulation would impose significant operating costs on a sex business, but I can't imagine many punters choosing to use an illegal, unlicenced sex worker when the legal option was available.
Finally, and something I hadn't even considered, Mark Wadsworth points out very astutely that once a prostitute has an offence relating to prostitution on hir criminal record, it becomes very difficult indeed to get other work.