In some countries, like Sweden, prostitution is now completely illegal.
Way back in the time of the Aztecs, a place called ‘Cihucalli’, which literally means House of Women, became a legalised place where women offered to service men.
Even the Babylonian’s were getting in on the action, having sex with foreigners as a sign of hospitality for a symbolic price.
But opinions towards prostitution are very much changing, with many countries either completely outlawing it or regulating it.
Here in the UK, it’s currently completely legal to be and to buy a prostitute. However the industry isn’t regulated like in other countries, such as the Netherlands. We do have some stringent laws in place, mainly to protect the people involved. So running a brothel or forcing a person into prostitution are both very much illegal.
Elsewhere in Europe it is now completely illegal. An example of which is Sweden.
The law in Sweden is a little more complicated than simply making prostitution illegal, with the Government penalising users of prostitutes, not the prostitutes themselves.
I headed to Sweden to find out how well the law was working in the country, which is often considered to have one of the highest standards of living in the world.
In Sweden I met with a member of the Government from the Moderate Party, who previously opposed the policy.
She said: “It’s been illegal for a while now and a report was commissioned which stated that the policy is working, and that’s great.”
“Prostitution is a major social issue and I believe it damages the social fabric of Sweden, and the Swedish people,” she added.
“There has been a switch from the typical street corner to the internet but it’s not happening anymore in Sweden than it is in other countries which have taken the same action.”
Many Swedes seem to support the law, with polls suggesting some 71% of the population in favour. That number is growing further amongst the young adult population.
While in Sweden I wanted to know what it was like to be a prostitute in a country where your job is a criminal offence.
It may have taken hours scouring the internet but I finally came across a person willing to talk, which was somewhat of a surprise given that it was a 16-year-old boy. He had resorted to prostitution as a way of financing his expensive habits, which include online gaming, consumer electronics and partying.
The boy, named Marcus, hadn’t seen a decrease in the amount of clients who wanted to see him, but admitted that it’s very rare that a Swedish national will utilise his services.
“I have slept with many men, all aged between 18 and 75, many tourists,” he said.
Marcus told me that he has a loving boyfriend but could never admit his illegal activity, in fear that he will leave him.
“I believe him to be the love of my life, it’ll be devastating,” he said.
Could this be a sign of the damaging consequences of prostitution?
Cherie Wilby, 43, from London, believes that the UK should follow the likes of Sweden and Norway in making prostitution illegal.
“I believe the Government is already on track to make this decision. With the Policing and Crime Act of 2009 they already made it illegal to pay for someone who is forced into prostitution,” she said.
“But I think it can go further, much further. I think no one chooses to do prostitution. Even the desperate need for money is forcing them into it. It’s damn right exploitation of women.”
Public opinion to prostitution is rather varied in the UK, with just over 50% agreeing that it should be criminalised. However that figure, like in Sweden, once again rises for people aged 18-24, with 65% believing it should be made illegal.
Many people may want prostitution to be outlawed here in the UK, but one person who doesn’t is Alice Camberwell who has long supported the legalisation of prostitution.
“Why should we persecute people who may be vulnerable,” she said. “That sounds absurd to me.”
She said that she believes that instead of persecuting these people the Government should try and help them do their profession safely.
“Having regulated prostitution is the way forward – it was for Amsterdam, it will be for this country and every other country,” she added.
She also had advice for people who may have taken up prostitution in the UK but do not quite understand the laws revolving around prostitution.
“The best thing you can do to avoid mixing yourself up in all kinds of trouble is to keep a low profile.
“The less people know about your activities the less likely someone is going to come sniffing around, and it has the added bonus that you won’t be judged.
“What you do with your body is your own business, not anyone else’s.”
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