prostitution: Movement toward Regulation

Current legislation both in the United States and elsewhere concerning prostitution has tended to concern itself less with the suppression of the practice of prostitution than with the removal of crimes thought to be connected with it, although in recent years the rise in incidence of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases has revived discussion in the United States of the regulation of prostitutes.

Outstanding in this field of legislation is a British parliamentary act of 1959 (based on the Wolfenden Report) that treats the entire problem of prostitution and other forms of sexual conduct between consenting adults. It forbids open solicitation by prostitutes, but it permits prostitutes to practice their trade in their own homes. For those wishing to give up prostitution, the teaching of commercial or technical skills at rehabilitation centers is provided. The act also removes voluntary sexual acts between adults from the category of a punishable crime.

Other countries, e.g., the Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand, have emphasized the hygienic aspect in their legislation by rigidly enforcing periodic medical examination of prostitutes and by providing free compulsory hospitalization for those found infected. This emphasis on regulation rather than suppression has resulted in a marked decline in the incidence of sexually transmitted disease and has removed an important cause of the bribery of law enforcement officers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Crime and Law Enforcement