prostitution | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual acts for money or other forms of compensation, and it is generally considered a criminal offense in most jurisdictions worldwide.

Prostitution is a form of sex work that has existed in various forms throughout history and across cultures. It involves exchanging sexual services for money or other forms of compensation and is typically carried out in brothels, on the streets, or through escort services. The legality of prostitution varies widely around the world, with some countries legalizing and regulating the practice while others criminalize it.

The specific laws and penalties associated with prostitution can vary depending on the jurisdiction.  Prostitution may also be subject to additional penalties if other criminal activities, such as drug use or trafficking, accompany it.

One of the main reasons why prostitution is illegal in many jurisdictions is because of concerns about exploitation and coercion. Proponents of criminalizing prostitution argue that it is inherently exploitative, particularly of women, and that it often involves physical and emotional abuse. They also argue that it contributes to other criminal activities, such as human trafficking and organized crime.

Opponents of criminalizing prostitution, on the other hand, argue that it is a consensual activity between adults and that criminalizing it only serves to drive it underground and make it more dangerous. They also argue that it stigmatizes and criminalizes sex workers, who are often victims of social and economic inequalities.

In recent years, some jurisdictions have begun to explore alternatives to criminalizing prostitution, such as decriminalization or legalization with regulation. These approaches are intended to address some of the negative consequences of prostitution while protecting the rights and safety of sex workers.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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