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A Legal Guide to Prostitution


Prostitution is commonly known as the one of the oldest "professions" known to man. It seems that once civilization emerged after the neolithic agricultural revolution of the eighth millennium before the common era, there were archaeological and written records of prostitution. The background and history of prostitution is long with shifting attitudes towards the profession throughout all recorded history. Political and social attitudes towards sexuality, women, and infectious disease shaped societies responses to prostitution. Laws on prostitution are almost as old as the profession itself.

Even in young civilizations, like the United States, social and political attitudes towards prostitution have gone through dramatic changes. In the United States, prostitution has always been illegal but it has gone through periods of tolerance and intolerance over the last 230 some odd years of American independence. Wars, technology, and science have been factors that shifted the public attitude towards prostitution. Prostitution's background in the United States is a bipolar story of how law does not always fit the public perception of a human activity.

Prostitution laws exist at the local, state, and federal levels of jurisdiction and governance. Prostitution laws, at each level, apply according to the general rules of jurisdiction as enumerated in the Constitution of the United States and the state law of each state of the Union.

Prostitution is illegal in every state in the country with the exception of a few counties in the State of Nevada. These states have legalized and regulated the commercial sex industry to gain revenues and conduct an experiment in social libertarianism. These 9 counties in the state of Nevada have strict regulations on the commercial sex trade and prostitution can only be legally done within the confines of brothels. Brothels are an institution in which prostitution services are offered.

The federal level of prostitution law controls cases that cross international and state boundaries. Federal law prohibits the importation of persons for the purpose of prostitution. Federal law sees this practice as a form of human trafficking. Human trafficking is the forceful enslavement of people from one territory to another for the purposes of involuntary labor.

The connection between illegal prostitution and human trafficking is clear as most human trafficking cases involve the forced importation of people for the purpose of prostitution. Federal anti-human trafficking laws apply to involuntary servitude in other industries as well. Other common industries in which people are forced to work are factories, restaurants, and agriculture.

The prostitution of children is a widespread problem in the United States and abroad. Child prostitution is the unlawful practice of selling children, under 18, for the sexual gratification of customers. National statistical trends indicate an increased occurrence of this heinous crime because of its connection to human trafficking and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Human trafficking victims are not only adults, they are children as well. Child prostitution mostly occurs indoors, off the streets, where prostitution is less visible.

Organized crime syndicates and human trafficking networks operate child prostitution rings out of businesses that appear to be legitimate. Typically, these front-businesses are massage parlors and sex entertainment businesses. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the leading law enforcement agency in the fight against child prostitution and human trafficking due to the international scope of these crimes. Local and State police departments are also capable of conducting investigation into this crime against children.

Child prostitution does not have to occur forcefully. Approximately, the average age at which a prostitute begins walking the streets is 15 years old in the United States. That means that many prostitutes who are now adults, began their work when they were underage. The increased incidence of child prostitution can also be explained as an unfortunate by-product of the AIDS epidemic. Some men falsely believe that they would be safer from HIV/AIDS infection if they solicited the sexual services of younger prostitutes.
Persons who are charged with prostitution face a variety of sentences. Prostitution related charges vary based on who is involved in the illegal commercial sex industry is being prosecuted as well as what services were agreed upon. The initiation of charges for prostitution only occurs after a transaction of money is made or agreed upon.

Generally, being a prostitute or soliciting an adult prostitute is considered a misdemeanor offense. Prostitutes are often given lesser charges and judges try to provide services for the prostitute to reform his or her ways. Solicitors of prostitutes are also given a lighter sentence and fines provided that they do not solicit prostitution from a minor. Child prostitutes, who are caught, are placed into the custody of the state's department of child protective services.

The law reserves the harshest sentencing and punishments for pimps and human traffickers. These people are notorious for their ruthless capacity to use violence and immoral methods of controlling their employees. Pimps use physical, sexual violence, and drug dependence as a means of controlling their prostitutes.

They are individuals who are only interested in taking most of the money that prostitutes earn. Pimps are a product of the effects of prostitution on society. They are the quintessence of society's indifference and hostility towards prostitutes who are the victims of countless cycles of abuse. Pimps and prostitutes are a symbol of the urban decay that plagues the landscape of the largest cities in the United States.

Statistics on prostitution show how widespread of a social problem that illegal prostitution is. Statistics; however, cannot account for the true extent of the problem due to the secretive nature of what goes on the red light districts of large American cities across the United States.

Nevertheless, they can point out; in an empirical sense, the repercussions of failed public and law enforcement policies. Statistics can serve to improve the government's policies on prostitution to eradicate the social effects of prostitution on prostitutes and communities across the country.

NEXT: How Can Prostitution Be Charged In Court?

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